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Guest Column

Ethanol is wise solution to nation's fuel crunch

Published April 2, 2007


The United States of America is in the midst of its worst oil crisis since the 1970s. The supply of crude oil is tightening just as demand skyrockets, particularly in the developing world where nations like China are increasing their oil consumption by 10 percent a year. In 2005, global oil consumption increased by an incredible 1.2-million barrels a day.

Yet while demand grows, new supplies are harder and harder to find. Nations like Venezuela are closing off their fields to foreign companies. Turbulence in the Middle East, most recently caused when Iranians kidnapped 15 British service members in Iraqi territorial waters, has caused jarring fluctuations in the price of oil. Just two months ago, gasoline prices were at $2.18 per gallon in Florida. Prices now stand at $2.57 per gallon. Such wild price fluctuations need to end so that average American citizens can properly plan for their financial future.

As a member of the House Renewable Energy and Efficiency Caucus, I look for new and emerging technologies that have the potential to reduce our nation's reliance on oil. In my first four years in Congress, I have supported wind, solar, thermal and nuclear energy.

However, the most promising renewable resource to emerge in recent decades is ethanol. Although scientists discovered that ethanol is a suitable source of fuel around the turn of 20th century, it has not been until recently that it has become a viable alternative to gasoline. At the moment, most of the U.S. ethanol supply comes from corn. However, the demand for ethanol has become so strong that it is rapidly pushing up corn prices.

Corn-derived ethanol has one more shortcoming: It is barely energy efficient. That is, you can get only 30 percent more energy out of it than what goes into making it. By comparison, you can obtain 830 percent more energy out of ethanol derived from sugarcane and citrus waste.

That is in part what makes a proposed ethanol plant in northeastern Pasco County so attractive. Proposed by local community leaders, the plant would derive its ethanol from locally grown sugarcane. The plant could be located in either Lacoochee or Trilby, about 2 miles south of the Hernando County line, and would be easily accessible to all forms of transportation. Additionally, the plant would be located in a Small Business Administration HUBZone, which I secured two years ago. SBA HUBZones are historically underutilized business zones as defined by the Small Business Administration. Being located in a SBA HUBZone entitles a company to federal contracting preferences.

As a strong ethanol supporter, I urge Pasco County leaders to review the proposal. I trust they will come to find that an ethanol plant in northeastern Pasco will not only generate economic growth for the region, but also put Florida at the forefront of the ethanol debate. It is important for all of us to remember that the best solutions come not from Washington, D.C., but from local communities.

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite's 5th Congressional District includes all of central and east Pasco county, portions of western Pasco and all of Hernando County.

[Last modified April 2, 2007, 06:30:53]

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