U.S. biofuel makers, struggling to make a profit at a time of tumbling oil and gasoline prices, look upon President-elect Barack Obama as a staunch ally for growth.
(Editor’s note: The CropLife eNews Chatterbox poll of Sept. 23 asked "Under which U.S. presidential candidate do you feel alternative energy will be a higher priority?" An overwhelming 60 percent of those who responded chose Sen. John McCain, while 31 percent selected Obama. Also receiving votes were Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party, 6 percent, and Ralph Nader, independent candidate, 2 percent.)
Obama — who is from Illinois, the No. 3 U.S. ethanol producer — has pledged to expand federal mandates requiring the blending of biofuels into gasoline to 60 billion gallons annually by 2030, up from the current requirement of 36 billion gallons per year by 2022. He would also accelerate the development of cellulosic ethanol, to be made from switchgrass and poplar trees, to 2 billion gallons by 2013, according to a Reuters report.
Time will tell if those goals are achievable, with fears of an ethanol supply glut already helping to batter shares in producers, says Reuters.
But, Reuters notes, it is a show of support in the face of recent opposition from foodmakers and livestock producers. They tried earlier this year to scale back the mandates, claiming ethanol, which is mainly made from corn in the U.S., was helping to spike food prices.
"I think Obama sees this as an industry that is evolving and he wants to assure that the evolution can continue," Bob Dineen, the president of a Washington-based ethanol industry group, the Renewable Fuels Association, said in an interview. "That means that you don’t walk away from the existing industry."
Biofuels makers also take heart in Obama’s overall alternative energy plan to create a $150 billion fund for investments over the next 10 years and create 5 million jobs, which could eventually benefit ethanol companies that are struggling.