Comment: Biofuel industry is working to meet Americans’ energy needs

Source: By Tom Buis, The Hill • Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2015

Which policy did Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy characterize as “a crucial part of a broad, Administration-wide strategy to act on climate change and propel us even faster toward a clean energy future?”

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Why did she say that President Obama knows the RFS “is a tool we need to bring to the table” to address the challenge of climate change? Because the RFS is the most significant, ambitious carbon reduction policy the United States currently has in place. Not only does it improve the environment, the RFS also creates good jobs that cannot be outsourced, enhances our energy security and saves consumers money at the pump by dismantling the oil industry’s monopoly over the transportation fuels market.

With the help of the many front groups it funds, such as Smarter Fuel Future, the oil industry has made a habit of killing the climate in the pursuit of profit and paying for special interest studies to protect its pocketbooks. One such study was featured in a recent Congress Blog post at The Hill, “A decade late: Corn ethanol’s broken promises” (Oct. 22). The authors’ argument is misleading, inaccurate and runs counter to a large body of expert research. They slapped a new title on previously discredited research and claimed that gasoline is better for the environment than biofuels, which doesn’t pass the laugh test, much less a fact check.

When it comes to environmental benefits, can anyone seriously believe that oil is better than biodegradable ethanol that burns cleaner, is renewable and improves air quality? We didn’t think so. Ecologically devastating spills such as Deepwater Horizon, which dumped more than 200 million gallons of oil and polluted an area in the Gulf of Mexico the size of Oklahoma, cannot be easily forgotten. Neither can the 7,662 spills, oils leaks and blowouts that occurred in 2013 alone.

According to Argonne National Laboratory, an objective national laboratory, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by an average of 34 percent compared to gasoline, even when the highly controversial and disputed theory on Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) is factored into the modeling. Furthermore, Argonne has found that without ILUC included, ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 57 percent compared to gasoline. Ethanol producers are also developing new and innovative ways to produce biofuels from farm waste and woody biomass, ushering in the next generation of renewable fuels that promise even greater reductions in GHG emissions. Argonne National Laboratory estimates that cellulosic and other advanced biofuels will reduce GHG emissions by 100 percent or more compared to gasoline.

The renewable fuels industry is a win-win for America. We are creating jobs and revitalizing rural economies, as well as improving our environment and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, all while providing consumers with a choice and savings at the pump. Biofuel producers are working to meet the energy needs of America, while Big Oil is working to protect its bottom line.

From Tom Buis, Growth Energy co-chairman, Washington, D.C.