THE Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Biofuels is set to investigate the biofuel industry over price increases in molasses when the 18th Congress opens its first regular session.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chair of the energy committee, said the inquiry will also look into the sugarcane industry’s production of molasses, to help reduce bioethanol prices.

“We plan to convene the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Biofuels to look into the feedstock and pricing problem, and, in the end, come up with long-term solutions to this perennial problem,” Mr. Gatchalian said in a statement Sunday.

The Senate probe will be conducted with Department of Agriculture as well as other government agencies that are members of the National Biofuels Board. The 18th Congress will be opening its first regular session on July 22.

The Senator reported that the current price of molasses is P11,500 per metric ton, which in turn helps bring the price of bioethanol to around P59 per liter or higher.

“They say that they might soon be left without a choice but to stop the production of bioethanol since oil companies no longer buy from local ethanol plants if the price of bioethanol is too high,” he said.

“In fact, they are saying that there’s already a plant that is no longer producing bioethanol because of the high price of molasses.”

The joint committee will also tackle solutions to increase feedstock provided to ethanol plants as well as to intensify research and development for long-term solutions.

Citing data from the Department of Energy (DoE), Mr. Gatchalian said existing bioethanol plants produce 270 million liters of bioethanol, well under their capacity of 365 million liters. The DoE also noted a shortfall in molasses production, prompting the government to import 50.91% of the bioethanol requirement. — Charmaine A. Tadalan