Harkin pushes hard for biofuels in electric, natural gas vehicle bill

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), in a floor speech Monday, called for expanding electric and natural gas vehicles legislation slated to come up for a procedural vote during the lame-duck session to encourage the use of ethanol. While he said he would vote for cloture on the bill, he warned that he would oppose the bill on a final vote if provisions to encourage biofuels are not added.

Harkin’s comments are certain to rankle environmentalists and many in the oil industry, who have criticized a recent decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to allow higher blends of ethanol in newer vehicles, citing greenhouse gas concerns and ethanol’s impact on engines.

“What’s missing from this bill is any mention of biofuels and what biofuels can contribute to our energy independence in this country,” Harkin, one of the most outspoken proponents of biofuels, said on the Senate floor Monday.

He continued:

So, while I most certainly will vote for a motion to proceed because I think we should proceed to it, I’ll say at the outset that major changes will need to be made to this bill before it can earn my support on final passage.

Harkin also argued that expanding ethanol use would be cheaper than encouraging natural gas vehicles because it would require fewer infrastructure investments.

But natural gas, every station would have to put in a big compressed tank under a lot of pressure. That would then have to be transferred to a compressed tank, a very strong tank in your car. There would have to be some sort of nozzle to do that. It wouldn’t just be having to put gasoline in an engine. So a whole new infrastructure would have to be built to accomplish this. No new infrastructure would have to be built to put biofuels in your car.

Harkin specifically called for provisions in the bill that would increase the number of flex-fuel vehicles and expand the number of biofuels fueling stations and pipelines.