Big business and ethanol, sitting in a tree, C-o-n-g-r-e-s-s-i-n-g

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, led by Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) and Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico), held a "biofuels conference" yesterday and heard from about three dozen industry and business representatives about ethanol and corn and more. The speakers list was defined by invitation only, and while there were a some names we've heard about often on AutoblogGreen, like John Plaza of Imperium, the speakers' list seemed weighted to favor ethanol production (big surprise). Senators heard from the Governors Ethanol Coalition, the American Corn Growers Association, Monsanto, DuPont, ConocoPhillips and Ford Motor Company (you can read Ford director of vehicle environmental engineering Robert Brown's very pro-ethanol comments after the jump).

According to the Senate committee, "The limitation is necessary to manage the meeting and permit a useful exchange of ideas. All efforts will be made to ensure that a variety of stakeholders and recommendations are represented." The Western Petroleum Marketers Association, not at all happy with Congress discussing E85 (PDF), was not invited, for example.

[Source: U.S. Senate, Ford, WPMA]

Ford Motor Company today participated in a panel discussion before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on "Transportation Biofuels." The Ford comments below were presented as part of a panel on "National Infrastructure Integration" for ethanol and other biofuels. The following statement is from Robert D. Brown, director vehicle environmental engineering, Ford Motor Company:

WASHINGTON DC, Feb 1 - "Diversifying our transportation energy supplies and, in particular, expanding America's use of biofuels is an important issue to Ford and the American people. The instability of the world's oil supply, growing worldwide demand for oil, the fragility of our domestic infrastructure, and increasing political pressure on climate change are all leading to renewed interest in finding alternatives to oil and in finding more efficient ways to use the oil we have.

At Ford, we recognize that we have a responsibility to do something to help address America's energy security needs, and we are accelerating our efforts to develop innovative solutions. We are bringing to the marketplace a range of advanced vehicle technologies that are increasing fuel efficiency and diversifying our vehicle fuels away from petroleum. Ford Motor Company has been building flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) for over a decade and we are an industry leader in this technology. During this time, Ford has placed more than 2 million E85 FFVs on America's roads. FFVs are a great alternative for our customers because they provide an option to choose between E85 and gasoline as desired.

Last summer, Ford, along with GM and DaimlerChrysler, voluntarily committed to double the production of FFVs by 2010. In November 2006, we expanded that commitment to include half of our vehicles produced each year, beginning in 2012, provided there are sufficient amounts of fuel and retail facilities for to support consumers.

But there is a limit to what we can achieve on our own. We believe that our nation's energy challenges can only be properly addressed by an Integrated Approach: a partnership of all stakeholders which includes the automotive industry, the fuel industry, government, and consumers.

There is no silver bullet that will diversify our transportation fuels, and this is not a short term problem. Six million flexible fuel vehicles are on the roads today; however, there are only about 1,000 E85 pumps out of 170,000 retail gasoline stations nationwide. One key near-term goal is to increase the number of E85 retail stations in the Midwest to at least 10% of the existing gasoline stations or about 6,000 stations. To help support this goal, last summer Ford announced its participation in developing and supporting the Midwest Ethanol Corridor. This initiative expanded the availability of ethanol in Illinois and Missouri by about one-third.

Longer term, Ford has endorsed the "25 x '25" campaign which sets a goal of getting 25 percent of U.S. energy needs from renewable sources by 2025. To achieve this level of biofuels in transportation, we need policies that expand ethanol feedstock diversity, increase ethanol production and accelerate infrastructure development on a national scale – critical building blocks that will lead to competitive E85 pricing and customer convenience.

The challenges are considerable but not insurmountable, and there is an enormous amount we can achieve, at a lower cost and in a shorter timeframe if we act together in an integrated manner. All of us have the opportunity to do something about energy diversity and independence."

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