Open letter to President Obama from the Renewable Fuels Association:

Dear Mr. President,

The American ethanol industry stands with you in extending our thoughts and prayers to the families of those lost during the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil platform. We also share your concern for the thousands of people along the Gulf coast, and potentially the eastern seaboard, who have seen or may see their very way of life altered indefinitely.

In your remarks to the nation, you appropriately outlined the need to immediately stop the oil from gushing into the Gulf and to mitigate the environmental damage that will be done. Equally important, you also put forth a vision to permanently move America in a new, renewable energy direction and eliminate the need to drill down for oil in miles of ocean water. America's ethanol producers stand ready to play their part.

There is no other renewable fuel technology that can match the domestic ethanol industry's ability to replace oil in American gas tanks. Wind, solar, and other renewable energies all must play a critical role. But theirs is to replace those fossil fuels from which we generate power and electricity. America uses precious little oil to generate electricity. Rather, oil is primarily used to create liquid transportation fuels. As such, America's producers of renewable fuel are uniquely equipped to reduce and ultimately eliminate America's need for oil in the tank.

Currently, the nation is producing in excess of 12 billion gallons a year of renewable fuel, primarily ethanol. The production of 10.75 billion gallons of ethanol last year alone reduced America's need for imported oil by 364 million barrels. Based on new estimates of the oil spill, that would be nearly three times the amount of oil already spilled by BP in the Gulf.

While transitioning the nation away from oil and to sustainable, renewable fuel technologies will take time, there are concrete steps your administration and Congress can take to set America on that path.

First, Congress needs to act on extending tax incentives critical to the renewable fuels industry. Namely, it must work to extend key tax incentives for the production and use of ethanol from all feedstocks. Legislation to achieve this goal has already been introduced.

Second, the Environmental Protection Agency must increase the amount of ethanol allowed in a gallon of gasoline. Immediately, the EPA could approve the use of 12 percent blends that would provide much needed relief in the market and displace additional barrels of oil. Ultimately, EPA must approve the use of higher blends such as 15 percent and more to allow renewable fuels to fully contribute to America's energy security. Artificially limiting the ability of ethanol and other renewable fuels to play their part, as current fuel regulations are designed, is shortsighted and short circuits the full benefit of a domestic renewable fuel industry.

Third, the nation must expand the infrastructure needed to dispense and use a growing supply of homegrown renewable fuels. That includes installation of blender pumps capable of dispensing a wide variety of ethanol fuel blends. It also means mandating that all internal combustion engine vehicles sold in the U.S. be flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs), designed to use higher percentages of ethanol.

Mr. President, in your address you also committed to rebuilding the Gulf coast economy. In that effort, too, America's renewable fuels industry can help. Currently, technologies are being commercialized and biorefineries built that can take America's vast abundance of biomass material and convert it to renewable fuels. In Jennings, Louisiana, for example, cellulosic ethanol producer Verenium has a demonstration facility that is turning sugar cane waste into ethanol. The company together with many others have plans to build multi-million gallon per year biorefineries all along the Gulf coast.

That is why it is imperative that your Department of Energy refine its current renewable energy loan guarantee programs to make them more accessible to next generation ethanol technologies. Access to capital, not a limit on ingenuity, is the chief barrier to the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol and other technologies. Loan guarantees like those at the Department of Energy and those being drafted at the Department of Agriculture can help. Together with EPA approval of more ethanol use, loan guarantees would go a long way to bringing these technologies to fruition.

Throughout its brief history, American ethanol production has always risen to answer the call. Together with American farmers who provide the feedstocks from which we make ethanol, we stand at the ready yet again. It will take the full range of American know-how, including that which we have yet to discover, to tackle the challenges posed by our addiction to fossil fuels. Still, renewable fuels such as ethanol and more efficient technologies to convert plants to fuel exist today and can be deployed to begin the process of securing our energy, economic, and environmental future.

Mr. President, when the phone rings, American farmers and ethanol producers will be there to answer.

SOURCE: Renewable Fuels Association.