WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) on Jan. 25 led a group of senators in introducing legislation aimed at expanding markets for biofuels. The bill would increase the number of flex-fuel vehicles on the road, increase the number of blender pumps dispensing biofuels, and authorize loan guarantees for the construction of renewable fuel pipelines. 

"Because we import 60 percent of the petroleum we consume, our country is vulnerable to disruptions in the supply of petroleum and our economy faces a constant threat from volatile oil prices. With more than two-thirds of our petroleum supply consumed by our transportation sector, there is a tremendous opportunity to expand the production and use of biofuels, which is good for our American security and for our economy," said Harkin. "Biofuels displace close to 10 percent of our gasoline supplies, and they have the potential to make significantly larger contributions."

Co-sponsors of the bill are senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN).

A copy of the bill can be found here. A summary of the bill follows:

  • Mandates that increasing fractions of vehicles manufactured for sale in the U.S. be flex-fuel-capable. Those fractions would be 50 percent in 2014 and 2015; 90 percent in 2016 and beyond. The mandate wouldn't include vehicles that operate only on electricity
  • Defines the term "major fuel distributor" and would require major fuel distributors to install at least one blender pump at an increasing number of the refueling stations that they own or through which they market, according to the following schedule:

-- 10 percent by 2014
-- 20 percent by 2016
-- 35 percent by 2018
-- 50 percent by 2020 and thereafter.

  • Allows trading of credits for excess blender pump installations to major fuel distributors with less than the required number.
  • Authorizes grants for installation of retail ethanol blend fueling infrastructure including blender pumps, tanks, and associated equipment. Grants would be up to 50 percent of project costs. These would not be available to major fuel distributors. Authorizes these amounts for appropriations:

-- $50,000,000 in 2012
-- $100,000,000 in 2013
-- $200,000,000 in 2014
-- $300,000,000 in 2015
-- $350,000,000 in 2016

  • Authorizes loan guarantees under the DOE Loan Guarantee Program for guarantees for loans covering 80 percent of project costs for renewable fuel pipelines.