U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   09/06/2006
Statement of Senator Johnny Isakson
Oversight on Federal Renewable Fuels Programs

Thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing. As I traveled my State during the recess listening to my constituents, one of the things they told me was that we've got good news on the economic front, the economy of our state is growing, but we risk losing all that with the high price of energy.

And the recent high prices, although they have come down some in Georgia, that people are paying at the gas pumps reflect our dependence on oil. Today we get about 60 percent of our oil from foreign countries whereas 20 years ago about 25 percent of our oil came from foreign countries.

Some of the nations we rely on for oil have unstable governments, or agendas that are in opposition to the United States which puts our nation in a bind because these unstable countries know we need their oil.

And so I have always viewed energy supply as a matter of national security and also a matter of economic security.

What people are seeing at their gasoline pumps reflects the global economy in which we live. When demand for oil goes up in China or India or other fast growing economies it affects the price of oil worldwide.

And when the price of crude oil goes up, because it's such an important part of the price of gasoline, the average citizen sees the price of gasoline go up at the pump. Gasoline price increases are a burden on our farmers, small businesses, and all the American people.

Which leads us to why we are meeting today. We need to ask ourselves, what can we do?

I believe we need to encourage conservation, to expand domestic production, and to develop alternative sources of energy like bio fuels.

And the truth of the matter is our nation’s long-term strategy should be to commit to power our automobiles with some energy source other than gasoline, which is derived from oil.

Investment in biofuels like ethanol and other renewables are starting to pay off and become a reality for American consumers. In my State of Georgia, in Mitchell County, $67 million in equity to finance an ethanol plant has been obtained. The facility will be on 268 acres between the cities of Camilla and Pelham. Construction is expected to begin in October, with production of ethanol slated for spring 2008. The facility will produce 100 million gallons a year of fuel-grade ethanol. The plant will also be able to produce 320,000 tons of dry distillers grains, which are a high protein feed that can enhance livestock, dairy and poultry production. Additionally, the plant can capture 160,000 tons of raw carbon dioxide gas annually that will be converted to dry ice and other products.

Another company in my State has a process which provides power generators with a cost-effective and efficient method to meet renewable energy requirements. This high-efficiency biomass gasification process converts biomass waste and renewables into clean energy by producing a fuel capable of directly replacing natural gas.

The president has set an ambitious goal in reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, and I believe the best way and the fastest way to do so is to expand the use of ethanol and other comparable biofuels.

In his State of the Union, The President announced his Advanced Energy Initiative which is focused on three promising ways to reduce gasoline consumption.

One is increasing the use of biofuels.

The second is improving hybrid vehicles.

Third is developing hydrogen technology.

All three go hand-in-hand; all three are an important part of a strategy to help us diversify.

And while ethanol may have the largest potential for immediate growth, we shouldn’t limit our research to ethanol alone.

It is vitally important that we explore all potential biofuels.

We need to invest in researching the potential use of alternative feed-stocks such as wood byproducts, grasses, and byproducts from peanut, cotton, and municipal wastes to generate energy.

I also support biodiesel fuel, which is a viable alternative to regular diesel in cars, trucks, buses and farm equipment.

I have seen technology which uses waste products like recycled cooking oil and grease to manufacture biodiesel.

This is one of many examples of how we can address our energy security needs on a variety of fronts. The goal of the United States should be to have a comprehensive strategy to help us diversify away from oil.

We owe it to not only to ourselves but our future generations to promote alternative ways to drive their car so as to make us less dependent on foreign sources of energy, as well as using technology so we can diversify away from the hydrocarbon society.