Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin introduced legislation in the Senate this week that would ban MTBE, the chief rival to ethanol. The bill also would tighten clean air standards that make the corn-based fuel additive more attractive. Federal clean air rules require the use of oxygenates like ethanol in some regions to help reduce air pollution.
The future of ethanol holds keen interest in farm country, especially in light of the Bush administration energy policy revealed this week. The president told an Iowa crowd he'd like to replace oil from Iraq with farm products from their state. But critics charge the details of the new energy strategy don't back the rhetoric.
President Bush spent the end of the week on a whistle stop tour to unveil his new energy policy. Simultaneously, the administration released a 170-page report making its case for the future of energy in the United States.
The measure proposes:
-A streamlining of the permitting process for refinery and power plant construction,
-Incentives for development of clean coal technology,
-A reduction in restrictions on drilling for oil and gas on public lands, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,
-And an easing of licensing requirements for nuclear energy plants.
Though it appears to focus on established forms of energy, the policy also includes an allocation of 10-billion dollars for the development of alternative energy sources over the next 10 years, including corn-based ethanol.
Critics were quick to condemn the strategy claiming, it did everything to promote the use of pollution-causing fuels and little to bolster or increase research and development of other energy sources.
They also claim half of the items contained in the 10-billion dollar allocation for alternative fuel research are already in place. They also note that $5 billion of the program is in the form of tax incentives for the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles.
The ink wasn't dry on the Bush energy plan before congressmen from both sides of the aisle hit the streets with complaints. House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri said the strategy reads like the annual report from Exxon Oil. And while Republican leaders promised to quickly convert the plan into legislation, some Western GOP lawmakers had trouble with a proposal to give the government the right to take property for power lines. The first hearings on the plan are scheduled for next week.