OP-Ed — Biofuels are not the problem

Source: By Jeff Lautt, CEO, POET - 04/12/13 10:15 AM ET, The Hill's Congress Blog • Posted: Monday, April 15, 2013

You’re paying more for gasoline. The oil industry’s pocketing the profits. And they don’t want you to know it.

Complaints about biofuels this year are the latest shiny ball for the oil industry, meant to distract the public from what’s really biting into their household budgets. Refining margins this year have been at record levels. Oil companies are making more money, even as gas prices for February and March were the highest in history. If you want to know why you’re paying more at the pump, look no further than oil executives’ pockets. How they keep a straight face while espousing concern for American drivers is beyond me.

I have no problem with an industry making money. Oil is a business, and they have every right to profits. What I object to is them pretending their substantial profits don’t exist while they point the finger at renewable fuel as the cause of higher prices. They need to own up to where our extra money spent at the pump is going.

Expect to see more of the same misdirection from the oil industry through the rest of 2013. This year is pivotal for that industry because starting in 2014, they will have to begin offering consumers the option of ethanol blends such as E15 (15 percent ethanol) in order to meet the country’s renewable fuel targets. Rather than help America make a transition, they have spent their money on lobbying, press conferences, lawsuits, “research” and similar tactics to block consumer choice.

In much of America, drivers can choose between 90 percent gasoline or 100 percent gasoline. And that’s how the oil industry wants to keep it. E15 offers an additional option, one that threatens to further erode oil companies’ gasoline market share as it ushers in a new kind of biofuel from sources such as crop residue, grasses and wood waste. Those opposed to E15 do not have to use it. But those who want to use it should be allowed to do so. This is the most tested fuel component in history, approved by the EPA for use in vehicles 2001 or newer. The time to start offering it has come.

This transition to making higher biofuel blends available is important. In 2005 our nation imported 60 percent of its oil. By 2011, that was down to 45 percent. And while new oil production gets the headlines, the truth is biofuel growth led the way toward that reduction.

Our country’s farmers now provide energy for America. Their work – along with new and improving biorefinery technology – will lead the way toward an even better future. To get there, we need to see through the smokescreens and distractions.

Biofuels are not the problem. An over-reliance on petroleum is the problem, one that that leaves us vulnerable to escalating prices at the pump. The solution is diversity of fuel and consumer choice. And that is exactly what biofuel provides.