Lawmakers push for replacing gasoline with ethanol

By Armando Duke

Houston, TX - As lawmakers push for replacing gasoline with ethanol, US stocks of gasoline continue to decline with inventory levels now down at 193.1 million barrels from February levels of 210.2 million barrels during the same week with prices at the pump up sharply.

According to the latest government report, US stocks of gasoline fell 1.1 million barrels during the week ending April 27 to 193.1 million barrels from the prior week. Comparing those gasoline inventories to February 23, 2007, gasoline stocks have declined 17.1 million barrels. So just how bad is that?

The EIA reported Wednesday that last week's gasoline inventory level was 9.6 million barrels lower than year-ago supplies, yet gasoline prices are only 7 cents a gallon higher than last year at this time.

AAA reports that the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline at the pump is now $2.99, compared to $2.69 a month ago.

Wednesday, a Senate panel voted overwhelmingly to replace one-quarter of the nation's gasoline with ethanol and set a goal of cutting gasoline consumption nearly in half by 2030, which is a noble move but tell that to consumers this summer, when gasoline prices could surpass last year's record levels.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in a 20-to-3 vote moved toward legislation to increase ethanol production to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022 and offer more incentives through the form of loan guarantees for research and plant construction to see that those production levels could be achieved.

The Senate panel also agreed that gasoline production levels should be reduced another 45 percent over 2030 target levels, which indirectly puts the weight on the backs of automakers to come with more fuel efficient vehicles, yet no mention of loan guarantees or research incentives for the auto industry were tabled.

The Committee said that other energy reducing measures were also in order, such as setting efficiency levels for appliances and light bulbs that would require less energy to operate. Electric hybrid vehicles were also recommended, though the offset of energy savings from more efficient light bulbs and low energy appliances won't measurably lower the use of fossil fuels. Still, its a start.

Alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power were also tabled as lawmakers move to press for a greener environment and less dependence on foreign oil.

Discussion over an amendment that would require liquefied coal failed on a 12-11 party-line vote after a long debate on global warming.

The Senate Committee consists of 11 Republicans and 12 Democrats, yet the measures agreed to in a wide bipartisan vote reflects strong support for lowering the nation's dependence on foreign oil and for developing more alternative fuels.

Gasoline futures for June delivery closed down 1 cent at $2.23 per gallon in New York Wednesday.

Crude oil futures for June delivery fell 72 cents to $63.68 per barrel at the close of trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.