Saying gasoline prices have nearly doubled since President Bush took office, Iowa Democrat Senator Tom Harkin today (Thursday) proposed legislation he says will help wean American drivers off foreign oil and boost market for corn-based ethanol. Harkin says the first of three parts to the bill focuses on putting much more ethanol on the market.

Harkin says his bill would dramatically raise the renewable fuels standard, requiring the nation to blend ten-billion gallons of ethanol annually by the year 2010, 30-billion gallons by 2020 and 60-billion gallons a year by 2030. By comparison, the U.S. currently has the capacity to blend about four-and-a-half billion gallons a year. Harkin says his bill also calls for raising the number of gas stations across the U.S. that can pump E-85, a blend of 85-percent ethanol and 15-percent gasoline.

Harkin says major oil companies would be required to increase the number of stations with E-85 pumps by five-percent every year, meaning, half of all stations branded by the big oil companies would have to pump E-85 within a decade. The bill proposes a series of tax breaks for independent gas stations that put in E-85 pumps too.

Only certain vehicles can run on E-85 and Harkin’s bill would see that more of those vehicles are produced and available for consumers to buy. He say automakers would be required to increase production of flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on gas or E-85, raising production ten-percent a year until nearly all vehicles sold in the U.S. are flex-fuel-capable.

Harkin says “Americans now know all too well how painful our dangerous and costly addiction to foreign oil is. With soaring fuel prices, we must take a much more aggressive approach to boosting home grown biofuels.”