Comment: Renewable Fuel Standard crucial to a prosperous farm economy

Source: By Bob Dinneen, The Hill • Posted: Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tom Pyle has spent his entire professional life working for petroleum. As a consequence, his viewpoint regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires oil companies to use an increasing amount of renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel to replace petroleum, is understandably skewed (“Ethanol mandate hurts corn farmers,” Jan. 25). But his meme that the RFS somehow hurts farmers is so divorced from reality that a response is obligatory.

The RFS has revitalized rural America. It has stimulated unprecedented investment in the farm economy, provided jobs and value-added markets for America’s farmers, and allowed dramatic reductions in federal farm program costs. Ignoring for a moment the fact that renewable cellulosic feedstocks will be produced by the same farmers growing corn today, Pyle’s argument — that going forward any increased ethanol use will come at the expense of existing production from corn — is simply wrong, and biased by the oil company narrative that the RFS must be limited to no more than 10 percent of the nation’s motor fuel. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency has determined that more than 90 percent of the vehicle fleet today can use blends of ethanol up to 15 percent, and growing numbers of flexible-fuel vehicles capable of using as much as 85 percent ethanol further belie the notion that there’s a 10 percent blend wall. Into the future, there’s a very good chance that in order to meet more stringent fuel economy standards, auto companies will have to produce lower compression ratio engines that will require higher octane fuels (such as 25 percent ethanol blends). Thus, there is a growing market for renewable fuels, not a stagnant one, and there will be plenty of demand for cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels to grow without cannibalizing existing renewable fuels. Indeed, that was the point of the RFS — for renewable fuels to displace petroleum, not other renewable fuels — much to the chagrin of oil companies and their hired guns.

When it comes to agriculture, rather than relying upon the opinion of an oil company apologist, one might be wise to listen to any of the strong voices for farmers today, including the National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers’ Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation, all of whom strongly support the RFS because they know it is the key to continued prosperity and opportunity for America’s farmers.

From Bob Dinneen, president and CEO, ­Renewable Fuels Association, Washington, D.C.