U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman said he will soon introduce a package of alternative fuels legislation that could help decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil. The Democrat from Connecticut outlined the proposed bill during his delivery of the Loewy Memorial Lecture in Science, Technology, and International Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., on October 7.
Lieberman said the package will include two goals and two mandates. The goals he set forth call for the United States to save 5 million barrels of oil a day within ten years and eventually 10 million barrels a day within twenty years. The first mandate is that within two years, 10 percent of all new cars sold in the United States be hybrids, hybrid-electric plug-ins, or alternative fuel vehicles. The second requires that within seven years, 50 percent of all new cars sold in the United States consist of those combinations.
While acknowledging the potential of hydrogen fuel cells and calling for support of further research and development of them, Lieberman said his legislation will focus more on hybrid technology because it can make more of an immediate impact.
The senator promised he would also push for production and commercialization of biomass-based fuels. Lieberman reasoned that by issuing a mandate for the mass production of alternative fuel vehicles, a great demand will be created for the fuels, thus ensuring that investments are made in facilities producing and marketing them. He added that the bill would create a program to guarantee that filling stations had pumps to provide alternative fuels.
Lieberman pointed to Brazil as a model of a country whose government coupled technology mandates and subsidies to curtail its reliance on foreign oil and to require use of a domestic alternative fuel source. During the 1970s, Brazil took advantage of its large sugar cane industry by devising a plan to integrate sugar cane ethanol into its fuel supply. Its initial mandate required that all fuel sold in the country contain 25 percent alcohol, and it has since increased the requirement to 40 percent. Brazil also offered loan-interest loans and tax breaks for building distilleries and subsidized a fuel distribution network. Lieberman said the United States has potential to develop a biofuel supply using its own domestic resources such as corn, crop waste, switch grass, sugarcane, and fast-growing trees and shrubs like hybrid poplars and willows.
According to Lieberman, he has invested a lot of time talking about these proposals with Republican senators as well as Democrats, and claims his proposed package has received bipartisan support. “It’s time to kick start our entire infrastructure, from the refinery to the tailpipe, and build this new era of energy independence” he said.