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National Energy Legislation Should Boost Renewable Fuels

by Frank Priestley, Guest Comment
Guest Comment, Capital Press, August 27, 2004

Although unfortunate, itís an accepted reality that not much gets done in Washington, D.C., during an election year. At a time when most politicians are putting their energy into campaigning, Americans could use some effort directed at an energy policy.

With crude prices setting new records and our dependency on foreign oil increasing, itís past time for Congress to get behind meaningful energy legislation that encourages development of alternative resources like wind, ethanol, geothermal, biodiesel and methane and biomass digesters. These new technologies would not only create jobs and commerce in rural America, theyíll reduce energy costs for American families.

Some people might ask why the government should get involved. Why not let the market dictate alternative energy development?

Many entrepreneurs are developing alternative energy resources. In Idaho we have limited wind, geothermal and methane digester energy being developed. Wind power is gaining momentum all around the country and the Midwest is leading the way in ethanol and biodiesel development. However, among the hurdles these entrepreneurs face are government subsidies given to traditional energy development. Without government involvement alternative energy development will continue to be slow in coming to states like Idaho.

U.S. agriculture has a tremendous potential to produce energy. Ethanol and biodiesel made from corn, soybeans and many other crops are the most visible alternative energy sources that use renewable feedstocks. Ethanol use reduces the U.S. trade deficit by $2 billion annually now and has the potential to increase net farm income by $4.5 billion per year. The amount of corn grown for ethanol production in the United States has grown from just over 100 million bushels in 1986 to over 1 billion bushels in 2003.

Congress should encourage investment in alternative energy sources by passing a comprehensive energy bill that includes the Renewable Fuel Standard agreed upon earlier this year. The standard calls for an increase in ethanol and biodiesel production to five billion gallons per year over 10 years. The legislation should also include funding of basic research for new uses of agricultural products in energy production, requirements to use alternative fuels in federal vehicle fleets and continued tax incentives that encourage development of alternative energy sources and uses.

Frank Priestley is president of the Idaho Farm Bureau.
National Energy Legislation Should Boost Renewable Fuels
Capital Press, August 27, 2004

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