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Bad time to kill E15, retired Navy leader says

On a day when Libya teeters on the brink of civil war and
cuts oil production, Retired Vice Admiral Denny McGinn takes little comfort
from an announcement by the remaining members of OPEC that it will increase oil
supplies if needed.

“We’re not in charge of our energy future. OPEC is in charge
of a huge portion of our economy,” McGinn told Agriculture.com Monday.

His concern about America’s dependence on oil from unstable
regions of the world is one reason the former commander of the Navy’s Third
Fleet recently signed on as a member of the steering committee of the 25 x ’25 Alliance,
a coalition of almost 1,000 groups that favor getting 25% of the nation’s
energy from renewable sources by 2025. The California-based Third Fleet works
with ships headed to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, protecting the
fragile supply line of much of the world’s petroleum.

McGinn and other leaders of 25 x ’25 criticized a vote in
the House last week that would kill, at least for this year, any implementation
of a 15% blend of ethanol in gasoline (E15) by the EPA.

Among scores of amendments to the House’s 2011 spending
bill that cuts more than $60 billion from last year’s level were two that shore
up the so-called blend wall that currently limits ethanol to 10% of the market.

One, sponsored by Representative John Sullivan (R-OK) stops
the EPA from spending money to implement E15, which the agency has already
approved for cars built in the last decade. The other, sponsored by
Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) prevents the USDA from spending funds to help
retailers install blender pumps, which would allow consumers to choose the
level of ethanol in their gasoline. Early Saturday morning the House voted
285-136 to block E15 and 261-158 in favor of Flake’s amendment.

"This
is a wrong-headed vote because any concerns about any impact of higher ethanol
blends have been answered," said the Alliance’s co-chair, Read Smith, who
is also a former President of the National Association of Conservation
Districts.

"The
vote also negatively impact's the nation's economy, our balance of payments and
public health by further increasing our dependence on oil and exposure to toxic
emissions associated with gasoline production and use," Smith said in a
statement.

McGinn,
and the group’s project director, Ernie Shea, are hoping cooler heads will
prevail as the House negotiates with the Senate and the Obama Administration
over a bill which is certain to cut federal spending as leaders from both parties
tackle the federal deficit. The current stopgap spending bill, or continuing
resolution, expires on March 4.

“I
think the Senate is going to be much more deliberative in examining this
issue,” Shea told Agriculture.com After that, the House and Senate will have to
agree on a final bill in a conference committee. “Once they go back and rethink
what they did, they’ll strip that amendment out. It’s really a job killer,” Shea
said.

McGinn
says he has no experience as a lobbyist, but he, too,  believes it’s a mistake to overturn
EPA’s approval of E15 for cars and light trucks made for the 2001 model year
and later. The process, he says, was slow, deliberate and scientific.

“I
think it’s a good policy and it doesn’t make any sense to back off of it now,”
he said.

“Our
energy policy today, especially our over-reliance on foreign oil, constitutes a
threat to our national security,” McGinn said.

“Make
no mistake about it,” he added, “oil is the life blood of the world’s economy
right now.”

“Long
term, this is not a good situation, unless we start doing more on farms to
substitute some of our dependence on foreign oil with home-grown solutions,” he
said.

Before
joining forces with 25 x ’25, McGinn was involved in reports on national
security and clean energy as a member of the military advisory board for CNA, a
nonprofit based in Alexandria, Virginia that runs the Center for Naval
Analysis.

The
25 x ’25 Alliance has more than 900 partner organizations, including major commodity
organizations and farm groups, conservation organizations and some
environmental groups, including Environmental Defense and the Izaak Walton
League of America.

 

 

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