Biofuels advance economy, society

Source: By GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD, POLITICO • Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2013

Un-harvested corn in a field near Council Bluffs, Iowa. | AP Photo

Crop residue can be used to make renewable fuel called cellulosic biofuel, the author writes. | AP Photo

While Washington debates the future of the Renewable Fuels Standard, it is often overlooked that advanced biofuels are quickly becoming viable and that higher blends of ethanol, like E15, can help achieve worthy public policy goals and improve consumer choices. A growing number of vehicles traveling Iowa’s roads utilize high ethanol blends, which help reduce our dependence on overseas oil, diversify our nation’s energy portfolio, reduce the environmental and health impacts of transportation fuels, increase fuel performance, reduce fuel prices and maximize value-add opportunities for agricultural products.

This higher blend is just taking root at gas stations in three states (Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska). There is great potential benefit from growing higher ethanol blend usage. During these times of high gas prices, E15 costs 5 to 10 cents less per gallon of gas. If all Iowa drivers had utilized E15 last year, they could have collectively saved approximately $69 million.

Cars run well on higher blends of renewable fuel. Iowa’s state trooper fleet runs on E85. Ethanol is higher octane and thus a more powerful fuel. That extra octane provides an advantage to our law enforcement ranks and the high-performing vehicles they rely on daily.

While corn ethanol has helped grow rural economies and driven prices down at the pump, policies like the RFS are leading to large investments in the next generation of biofuels.

Most Americans know that Iowa produces a lot of corn. That means a lot of residue left over from the harvest, such as leaves, stalks and cobs. That crop residue can be used to make renewable fuel called cellulosic biofuel. DuPont’s new $200 million commercial-scale facility in Nevada, Iowa, will produce 27.5 million gallons of biofuel annually when it opens next year.

That plant will join a $250 million facility in Iowa, run by POET-DSM, that will start operating this year at a capacity of 25 million gallons per year. Our nation will soon reap the benefits of this increased cellulosic ethanol production.

We are also excited about the advancements in the area of bio-butanol, a drop-in biofuel that enables more gasoline to be refined from crude oil, which helps to further reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. Bio-butanol could also assist the industry with the challenge of overcoming the blend wall and in meeting the renewable fuels standard.

With the advancements of biofuels, our nation should stand ready to support the evolving industry. As governor, I wholeheartedly support the economic growth of the biofuels industry, which can help achieve very worthy public policy goals and give consumers a choice for lower cost and better performing fuels.

We must not forget that most successful industries and innovations do not mature overnight. Cellphones were around since the 1970s but not widely adopted until the 2000s. And automobiles did not replace horse-drawn carriages in just a few years.

The RFS has been a key driver in this industry’s progress. We should not, and cannot, turn back that progress now.

Terry Branstad is the governor of Iowa.




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