Sunday, September 24, 2006

Is Gutknecht confronting the political reality of his legislative agenda?

Ah, it must be the election season, when the failure to enact legislation is masked by heralding of a House Resolution to address America’s addiction to foreign oil.

The subject of this week’s eline from Congressman Gutknecht is renewable fuels.
One might have thought that this would be just another plug for Gutknecht’s 10/10 plan which would require a 10 percent blend of renewable fuels in all gasoline sold in the United States by 2010. But since that legislation has just languished in the Republican controlled House, Gutknecht trumpets that “House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing to discuss the future of renewable fuels in America. We examined and passed a resolution (H. Con. Res. 424) that sets a goal for the United States to provide at least 25% of the total U.S. energy consumption from renewable agricultural resources by the year 2025.”

WOW. From a Law to a Resolution and from 2010 to 2025 – that’s must be what Gutknecht considers progress. I considered it to be insulting and illustrative of his non-performance and ineffectiveness.

Facing reality that this DoNothing Congress has squandered the time required to achieve a goal by 2010, why move it out to 2025?

I contacted Congressman Gutknecht earlier this year when I noticed that H.R. 4409 The Fuel Choices for American Security Act of 2005 seemed to be a better bill than his 10/10 Act. Included in H.R. 4409 was a 10 % ethanol requirement with a deadline of 2015, but also many more provisions; such as vehicle efficiency improvement, promoting hybrid technology, and requiring a 20% petroleum reduction by 2015 for vehicles used by federal agencies. H.R. 4409 has a broad group of 83 co-sponsors including Mike Pence (who is Chairman of the Republican Study Committee – a group that promotes fiscal discipline), and fellow Republican fiscal hawks John Hayworth and Tom Tancredo; and Democratic US Senate candidates Sherrod Brown and Harold Ford. Gutknecht wrote me that he has concerns with H.R. 4409 since it would repeal the tariff on imported ethanol. Gutknecht is embracing protectionism while not acknowledging that the industry is not in place to process what we grow. The Star-Tribune reported on September 7th, of a “plan to plow under 10 percent of the crop was drafted recently, in case the processing plants are unable to handle”.

Gutknecht seems to indicate an Isolationist Worldview and that is troubling in a global economy. This concern was addressed in President Bush's State of the Union Speech
America rejects the false comfort of isolationism.
Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies, it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need.
In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors, like China and India, and this creates uncertainty, which makes it easier to feed people's fears. So we're seeing some old temptations return. Protectionists want to escape competition, pretending that we can keep our high standard of living while walling off our economy. … We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy -- even though this economy could not function without them. (Applause.) All these are forms of economic retreat, and they lead in the same direction -- toward a stagnant and second-rate economy.

Also, our gas stations do not have the pumps and fuel storage tanks to handle the demand. Minnesota has North America's largest network of E-85 gas stations, with approximately 260 stations now operating. Some states such as Tennessee have only two stations.

In Gutknecht’s eline, he trumpets that gas prices are down to $2.22 per gallon. Well, since my tractor runs on diesel which is at $2.59 per gallon, it’s got a ways to go. But since most people use unleaded gas, let’s look at gasoline prices. When Gutknecht was campaigning for re-election in September 2004, I was paying $1.799 per gallon. One year later, it was $2.499 and topped in August of 2006 over $3.00. Although the price is down today, Gutknecht is ignoring the overall trend of higher prices. That’s akin to being happy that you lost those five pounds that you put on since Christmas and not acknowledging that you’ve put on ten over the previous year.

He closes his eline with “If Brazil can become independent of OPEC, so can we.”
Brazil may have done that because had the political strength to confront reality. Cars in Brazil have been retrofitted to run on E85-type products. Currently, only specifically built Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) can use E-85, and Gutknecht has failed to lead efforts to work with Environmental Protection Agency to affect a change. This is despite Minnesota Center for Automotive Research at Minnesota State Mankato is currently working on conversion equipment. Additionally, Brazil with extra capacity in sugar beet production is actually in a position to help America with current ethanol, but Gutknecht would rather support tariffs than lower consumer prices.

Gutknecht eline

H. Con. Res. 424
Expressing the sense of Congress that it is the goal of the United States that, not later than January 1, 2025, the agricultural, forestry, and working land of the United States should provide from renewable resources not less than 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States and continue to produce safe, abundant, and affordable food, feed, and fiber.

H.R. 4409 The Fuel Choices for American Security Act of 2005

Bush State of the Union

Star-Tribune story


Vox Verax said...

Good stuff, McPherson. Might I suggest you and other readers check out the October ish of WIRED (my favorite read): Vinod Khosla article, "My Big Biofuels Bet". Unfortunately, it's not available on the web yet, but you can get Khosla's thoughts from his venture capital company website, Khosla ventures.

Max Hailperin said...

It is also worth noting that all Gutknecht took credit for is one committee moving this nonbinding "sense of the Congress" resolution along -- but meanwhile it still remains untouched in two other House committees and one Senate committee.