Making Sense for America

Investing in ethanol makes sense for America.

During one of our very first campaign trips to Iowa in 1999, reporters asked me about then-Texas Governor and presidential candidate George W. Bush’s position on ethanol. I remember it clearly, because coming from Texas, questions about energy policy almost always involved oil and gas, not biofuels. I was unsure where my boss stood; fortunately, he was much better prepared than I was.

His support was unequivocal: “I support ethanol because it’s good for our air… It also reduces our dependency upon foreign oil. If I become the President, I’m going to spend money on research and development, to find additional uses for agricultural products. It’s a fantastic renewable resource.”

His comments sparked my initial interest in ethanol and other biofuels, an interest which has only grown stronger. During my service at the White House, President Bush often teasingly called me a “lima green bean,” because I believed strongly that our country — and my political party — needed to care more and do more to improve our environment.

I also believe our nation must aggressively work to develop more domestic sources of energy. My home state of Texas was a pioneer in developing our nation’s oil and gas supply, and today, Texans are exploring a new frontier of alternative energy sources, from wind to solar to geothermal and biofuels. Yet ethanol remains today the only commercially viable alternative to gasoline to power our nation’s automobiles, and I believe we should be making greater use of it.

Ethanol is a winner on many fronts: it is a domestic source of fuel, which strengthens our energy and national security. It is renewable, and far better for the environment than gasoline, achieving a 59 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as compared to gas. And it supports American jobs and our American economy. During 2008, as our economy began sliding into recession, the ethanol industry created and supported nearly 400,000 new jobs across America. These jobs cannot be exported or outsourced — and many of them are quality, high-paying, high-tech jobs that are part of our 21st century knowledge based economy.

I’m proud that the research, development and deployment of biofuels was a critical part of the Bush Administration’s strategy to address the challenges of energy security and climate change. President Bush, in his 2006 State of the Union, famously decried America’s addiction to foreign oil, and he more than kept his initial campaign promises in Iowa, with dramatic increases in research funding for biofuels. The success of these efforts is being realized today in groundbreaking projects including POET’s Scotland and Project Liberty facilities.

In 2007, President Bush also launched the “Twenty-in-Ten” initiative with the goal of reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent in 10 years. This led to the landmark Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires our nation’s fuel supply include 36 billion gallons a year of biofuels by 2022.

Investing in ethanol makes sense for America. Ethanol is clean, green, home-grown and high-tech. I’m convinced this exciting industry is on the cusp of new discoveries, which will make it even more a part of our America’s energy future. As President Bush said in Iowa more than 10 years ago, “Who knows, maybe someday we’ll be driving automobiles with a 100 percent corn product, and guess what? We can grow it right here.”

Karen is a Senior Strategist at Burson-Marsteller, based out of Austin, Texas. Previously, she served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Counselor to President George W. Bush. She is a past Executive Director of the Republican Party of Texas and a former television news reporter for the NBC affiliate in Dallas/Fort Worth.



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