February 20, 2006

President Discusses Advanced Energy Initiative

President Bush today began a new campaign to use the "power of the pulpit" to educate Americans about his new Advanced Energy Initiative.

Speaking in Wisconsin, a state that is currently considering legislation (AB 15) to increase the ethanol content of their gasoline to 10%, the President gave a broad overview of the promise offered by a mix of developing technology.

The puzzling aspect of his speech is the funding that will be made available. Considering the important benefits he outlines, one would expect a more aggressive budget to support R&D. Michigan is considering spending $2 Billion to develop an alternative energy research hub within the state. But the federal government is going to double its current budget to $150 MILLION?

His comments about ethanol and biomass-to-ethanol conversion, the impact for the MidWest and more localized production of renewable fuel are listed below:


President Discusses Advanced Energy Initiative In Milwaukee
Johnson Controls Building Efficiency Business
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

We're also supporting the development of advanced fuels that can replace regular gasoline. Here again I'm talking to folks who know what I'm talking about -- I'm talking about ethanol. You've got a lot of it here in Wisconsin because you've got corn. Ethanol is produced -- primarily produced from corn; it's blended with gasoline to produce clean and efficient fuel. And blends with that ethanol concentration of less than 10 percent, ethanol can be used in any vehicle. With minor modifications -- I emphasize "minor modifications" -- cars and trucks can become what we call flex-fuel vehicles that run on a fuel blend called E85, which is a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. That's a positive development.

Ethanol, by the way, can be used in hybrid vehicles. So the more ethanol we use, the less crude oil we consume. And using ethanol has the added benefit of supporting our farmers. I like to kind of tease in a way, but beneath the tease is serious -- it will be good one day when the President is given the crop report. (Laughter.) It says, "Mr. President, corn is up." (Laughter.) And we're less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

America produced a record 3.9 billion gallons of ethanol in 2005, was the record levels. That's twice the level produced when I got sworn in first time. There are five ethanol that plants up and running here in Wisconsin, and more are coming. We offer a tax credit to ethanol blenders of 51 cents per gallon. We're committed to ethanol. It makes sense. Ethanol benefits a lot of folks, but, most importantly, it benefits those who are driving cars.

Now, we're on the edge of advancing additional ethanol production. New technology is going to make it possible to produce ethanol from wood chips and stalks and switch grass, and other natural materials. Researchers at the Energy Department tell me we're five or six years away from breakthroughs in being able to produce fuels from those waste products. In other words, we're beginning to -- we're coming up with a way to make something out of nothing. And this is important because it's -- economics are such that it's important to have your ethanol-producing factories or plants close to where the product is grown.

That's why E85 has spread throughout the Midwest, that's where you're growing the corn. Pretty soon, you know, if you're able to grow switch grass and convert that into ethanol, then you're going to have availability for ethanol in other parts of the country. I mean, there's a lot of stuff that gets thrown away that may be converted into fuel, but it's not just located in one part of the country -- it's located around the country. And one of the goals is to make sure that ethanol is widespread. If we want to affect our consumption of oil, we want ethanol to be readily available for consumers outside certain parts of the -- certain regions of the country.

And so we proposed spending $150 million for government and private research into these homegrown fuels. It's an important initiative. We want to provide our consumers with reasonable, cost-effective ways to help us become less dependent on foreign sources of oil.

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