General Wesley Clark Ethanol's Answer to T. Boone Pickens

In case you hadn’t noticed, ethanol is getting its lunch eaten by natural gas in the ongoing debate over what alternative energy sources to oil are going to take the lead as federal government gets more active in structuring actual energy policy.

The natural gas cause has bene led for several months now by oil-man T. Boone Pickens and the promotion of his website and position, www.pickensplan. Pickens has put $60 million of his own money into promoting the idea of advancing natural gas as a fuel for cars and trucks, as well as 18-wheelers.

Ethanol, meantime, has been hammered by the falling price and demand for gasoline in the Recession, and ethanol producers are going bankrupt and selling out to oil companies.

Read John Carey’s excellent article this week in Businessweek, The Biofuel Bubble.

Ethanol’s new point-man is General Wesley Clark, former NATO commander and presidential hopeful in 2004. Clark was a Hillary Clinton supporter in 2008, but threw his support behind Barack Obama the same time Hillary Clinton did.

No question Clark has political pull. Co-chairman of Growth Energy, a lobby formed in the days after Obama’s election to try and advance the Federal investment in ethanol and influence government policy. It is funded by ethanol producers. Clark was named co-chairman last February.

The group and Clark’s big focus right now is to get the EPA to raise the cap on the percentage of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline from 10% to 15%. That bump, claims Clark, will create over 130,000 jobs and be a boon to the now suffering industry.

Clark was the keynote lunch speaker at the Alternative Fuels & Vehicles National Conference today. Clark carries a credible voice, of course, talking about the impact of ethanol long term in reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

He was perhaps over-shadowed by the breakfast speaker Pickens, who held forth for almost an hour while being interviewed on stage rather than reading from a prepared text. He even got the group’s “Green Giant” award.

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