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From the "Yes, Congress is Listening" File

November 18, 2010


Coming off an election in which many voters took to the polls to send Congress a message, it is refreshing to be reminded that there are other ways to voice your opinion as well.  And, it is even more encouraging to know that members of Congress are listening. Recently, RFA VP of Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper took advantage of the democratic process by writing to Missori Senator Claire McCaskill to encourage her to continue supporting domestic biofuels - and ethanol in particular.  Not only did Senator McCaskill respond, but she did so in detail.  It just goes to show you that participation in our government and the liberties provided by the First Amendment remain a vital part of our democracy. Here is Senator McCaskill's response in its entirety:

November 17, 2010

Dear Mr. Cooper,

Thank you for contacting me about the use of ethanol as an alternative fuel.  I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.

Fluctuating oil prices and the environmental costs of the production and burning of fossil fuels underscore our nation's need to develop and incorporate renewable energy sources.  By diversifying our energy portfolio, America can reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, promoting lower prices, new job opportunities in rural areas, and a cleaner environment for future generations.

Congress is focused on the continued development of several alternative fuels, including corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen.  Currently, corn-based ethanol is the most widely produced and consumed alternative fuel.  As a leading corn-producing state, Missouri is in a unique position to benefit from this production.  I am proud to have been a supporter of several policies that will help grow the renewable fuels industry in Missouri.

Along with a bi-partisan group of my colleagues, I have urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve an intermediate blend of ethanol for use in vehicles other than "flex fuel" vehicles (automobiles that run on gasoline with an 85 percent ethanol concentration (E85)).  In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, my colleagues and I requested that the agency grant a waiver that would allow blends of ethanol between the current limit of E10 (10 percent ethanol) and E15 (15 percent ethanol) in traditional vehicles.

I was pleased to see that on October 13, 2010, EPA granted the waiver for model year 2007 and newer vehicles.  This is an important step towards the sale and distribution of fuels with higher ethanol concentrations.  EPA has also announced that testing on the effects of E15 on model year 2001-2006 vehicles, along with a decision on the waiver regarding the use of E15 in these vehicles, should be completed by the end of the year.

Congress may address the issue of ethanol tax credits in the near future.  Currently, ethanol producers benefit from a federal tax credit of $0.45 per gallon.  This tax credit, the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), has played a valuable role in helping to close the price gap between ethanol and cheaper petroleum fuels, enabling a rapid expansion of ethanol production in recent years.  This tax credit is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2010.

As you may know, our nation currently imports over 70 percent of our oil from foreign countries, many of whom are politically unstable or hostile to the United States.  Federal initiatives to support ethanol production have set us on the path to drastically reducing this reliance.  I will continue to work with my colleagues and Missouri producers to ensure that this vision becomes a reality in a fiscally-responsible manner, creating rural jobs and preserving our environment in the process.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.


Claire McCaskill United States Senator