Talent urges moving toward renewable fuel sources

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Senator backs production of fuel from agricultural products like corn or soybeans.

U.S. Sen. Jim Talent was in Jackson on Tuesday to address voters on a new energy bill recently passed in the Senate, aimed at reducing American dependence on foreign oil.

Talent spoke to about 30 area farmers and employees of MFA Oil on Tuesday afternoon at the MFA Oil Co. in Jackson. Talent specifically addressed an amendment he introduced to the energy bill that would eventually require manufacturers to produce 8 billion gallons per year of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, which are made from agricultural products like corn or soybeans.

The bill requires that 4 billion gallons of renewables be phased into the market by 2006 and the remaining 4 billion by the year 2012. Talent's office estimated that more than 230,000 jobs could be created from the increased production of renewable fuel.

"I look forward to a time when we're no longer dependent on Saudi oil, but on our American corn and bean growers," Talent said in his address.

The Senate's massive energy bill also would extend a $1 per gallon tax credit to biodiesel producers until the year 2010 and expand another tax credit for small ethanol producers.

Bill in committee

The Senate passed its energy bill June 28 by a margin of 85-12, and it now awaits scrutiny in Senate-House Conference Committee. Another version of the bill was passed in the House of Representatives in April.

The House energy bill differs largely from the Senate version on environmental issues. The House version protects some oil companies from environmental lawsuits surrounding the fuel additive MTBE, which has contaminated drinking water in some communities. It also calls for drilling at the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Talent said he would "not rule out a compromise" while the bill is in House-Senate Conference Committee, but vowed to help protect the renewable fuel amendment.

"We need to come out with that or at least close to it," he said.

MFA Oil, a farmer-owned fuel cooperative, already sells about 130 million gallons per year of 10 percent ethanol fuel and 20 million gallons per year of blended biodiesel, said David Dunlap, east regional sales manager. He said the company also has five pumps in the state that sell 85 percent ethanol, which costs about 25 cents less per gallon than regular gasoline.

MFA Oil gets much of its business from farmers, but Dunlap said anyone in any type of vehicle can purchase 10 percent ethanol fuel at one of their PetroCard24 pumps. Currently, 85 percent ethanol is only recommended for special, flex-fuel vehicles, he said.

wmcferron@semissourian.com

335-6611 extension 127

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