WASHINGTON Citing delays in reconciling energy legislation passed by both chambers of Congress earlier this year, two Democratic senators on Thursday unveiled a stand-alone bill to require 18 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended with U.S. gasoline supply by 2016.
Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat and 2008 presidential candidate, and Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, offered a bill that would raise the U.S. renewable fuel standard to 18 billion gallons by 2016, including 3 billion gallons from advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol.
Corn prices are at record levels mostly due to stellar growth in demand for ethanol. Iowa and Illinois lead the nation in corn production.
The ethanol measure could be tacked on to a farm bill that the Senate is preparing to debate in coming weeks.
An energy bill the Senate passed in June would mandate a four-fold increase in ethanol use in motor gasoline, to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
However, attempts to reconcile the Senate bill with the version passed by the House of Representatives have stalled. The House bill contains no ethanol mandates.
U.S. ethanol plants are forecast to produce about 6.5 billion gallons in 2007, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.
"If we are serious about creating clean, renewable sources of energy, we need to support the creation of a domestic biofuels industry that will take us from corn ethanol to cellulosic ethanol," Obama said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, asked Senate leaders to revive formal talks with the House to reconcile energy legislation.
Domenici's call comes a week after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi all but ruled out a formal bargaining session, citing opposition from Senate lawmakers.
"We regret the Speaker's decision to do this and we are deeply concerned about the integrity of long-standing procedures in the Congress if the Speaker's decision is allowed to stand," Domenici said to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.