Makers and users of various alternative, home-grown fuels are anxiously awaiting passage of a proposed energy bill channeling its way through Congress.

In late May, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved a comprehensive energy bill — legislation that Senate leaders say could be brought before the full Senate in the very near future.

Also in May, the Senate adopted a measure in the version of its bill that calls for an 8-billion gallon renewable fuels standard by 2012.

That amount is significantly higher than the 5-billion gallon fuel standard called for in the House version of the bill, which passed last month.

But two senators, Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Republican Jim Talent of Missouri, both on the Energy Committee, expressed confidence that a final bill would outline standards closer to the Senate's version.

Johnson noted that the production of ethanol, which currently amounts to the largest percent of renewable domestic energy, peaked in 2004 at 3.45 billion gallons.

“I do expect an energy bill to pass in the Senate this time around,” Johnson said.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation said the standard “raises the bar.”

“If enacted, an 8-billion-gallon renewable fuels standard would not only benefit the environment, but also provide substantial market growth opportunities for traditional ethanol, cellulosic ethanol technology and biodiesel,” he said.

A comprehensive energy bill has been delayed in the Senate because of debate over the cost of the legislation, in addition to the provision that permits oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Final legislation is expected to cost more than $8 billion.

The recent spike in gasoline prices has enhanced the national interest in becoming more dependent on energy sources other than traditional crude oil, as well as depending less on fuel from overseas countries.

Of the 20 million barrels of crude oil the United States consumes daily — one-quarter of global consumption — 65 percent is imported.


e-mail: abell@primediabusiness.com