President Bush Energizes Ethanol

State of the Union speech addresses oil addiction, need for alternatives

Published in CSP Daily News

WASHINGTON -- Asserting that America is addicted to oil, and that the best way to break this addiction is through technology, President Bush announced in his State of the Union address on Tuesday the Advanced Energy Initiativea 22% increase in clean-energy research.

He added, We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We'll also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass. [image-nocss] Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years. Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75% of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.

To read the full text or to view video of President Bush's State of the Union address, click here.

Politicians from the Midwestthe Corn Beltsupport the initiative. For example, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) said the proposal will greatly benefit South Dakota's corn growers and ethanol producers. "Tonight, the president affirmed our confidence in the ethanol industry and brought ethanol's potential to the forefront of the national energy debate," he told the Associated Press.

Representative Stephanie Herseth (D-S.D.) said she is pleased Bush is taking "concrete steps" to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. "I hope that he, and leaders across the country, will continue to discover what we in South Dakota already knowrenewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel are absolutely vital to energy independence, economic stability and national security.

But retail petroleum/convenience store industry executives were a more guarded.

The president's Advanced Energy Initiative represents an aggressive push to move into the next generation of both vehicle technology and fuel supply, John Eichberger, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), told CSP Daily News. To that extent, we applaud the president for seeking advancements that will satisfy consumer demands in the future.

But he added, Of course, we know that any significant change to the transportation system will affect the petroleum business of the convenience store industry. NACS has been and will continue to work with the administration and members of Congress to ensure that such changes recognize the unique ability of the convenience store industry to most efficiently provide consumers with the essential products and services necessary to sustain a mobile economy. At the same time, we must not forget that transportation demands in the near future will continue to be satisfied by petroleum products, and it is critical that we work on policies that will result in expanded domestic refining capacity and greater efficiencies within the product distribution system.

Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) president Dan Gilligan said, Clearly the president's message on energy was designed not for Congress nor for the energy policy specialists inD.C. His target audience was thegeneral public and his message was that there is a painless method to reduce energy coststechnology.

Gilligan said that there are three ways to reduce energy costs: 1.) increase production, 2.) increase conservation and 3.) increase innovation. The president passed over No. 1. and No. 2 for political reasons, but everyone in Washington knows they are the most important. It is a nice thought to think there is a noncontroversial and painless way to solve energy supply problems. We need more crude oil supplies, we need more refineries and we need targeted conservation. Congress refuses to permit more crude production in Alaska or natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico.State and local governments do not want refineries in their states. Engine manufacturers do not want new efficiency mandates.

Gilligan concluded, If we truly want to improve our energy future, everybody has to give a little ground, and that is what the President should be demanding.

And Jim Smith, president of the Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, told CSP Daily News that the FPMA supports the need for alternative sources of energy. We understand the need to reduce our dependence on foreign sources to meet this country's energy needs.

He added, I do believe that we should consider opening ANWR [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska] along with those other proposals. There will be a significant amount of time needed for development of new fuels so oil from that area will ease the oil supply needs from outside sources.

But Smith also voiced some optimism: Bottom line is that there will be a need for a delivery network for any type of fuel offered, and this membership still controls most of the street corners in this state.