A Publication of WTVP

Those of us in central Illinois know the importance of ethanol. It’s not only a clean burning fuel for our cars; it’s an important economic component for America’s farmers. Ethanol, though, isn’t the only alternative energy source that’s being discussed in Washington. Highlighted by the recent spike of gas prices above the $1.75 level, there’s growing interest on Capitol Hill with respect to alternative energy sources.

Establishing a national energy policy has stalled over the past few years, but I’m hopeful an energy bill will become law by the end of the year. Programs that provide for expansion of alternative energy such as biodiesel, wind farms, and hydrogen fuel cells will be contained in this bill and serve as a basis for improving our domestic energy security.

In his State of the Union address, President Bush announced a $1.2 billion hydrogen fuel initiative to reverse America’s growing dependence on foreign oil by developing the technology for commercially viable hydrogen-powered fuel cells to power cars, trucks, homes, and businesses with no pollution or greenhouse gases. Combined with the FreedomCAR (Cooperative Automotive Research) initiative, President Bush is proposing a total of $1.7 billion over the next five years to develop hydrogen-powered fuel cells, hydrogen infrastructure, and advanced automotive technologies. Through partnerships with the private sector, the hydrogen fuel initiative and FreedomCAR will make it practical and cost-effective for large numbers of Americans to choose to use clean, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

In Illinois, we’ve seen the recent emergence of wind farms as an alternative source of energy. In my Congressional District, there are plans to create wind farms in Bureau and Pike counties to help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels in the creation of electricity. While these wind farms can be controversial with citizens who live in their vicinity, I believe it’s a positive step that energy companies are looking at ways to provide cleaner energy sources.

The energy bill that passed the House last year places a real emphasis on alternative energy sources, including items such as ethanol and wind energy. Unfortunately, the Senate stalled this legislation. It’s my hope the new Congress will pass a comprehensive energy bill this session that will combine with the initiatives detailed by the President.

With a new energy policy for a new millennium, we’ll be able to take advantage of cutting-edge technology that will allow us to rely less on fossil fuels and more on cleaner, renewable energy. IBI