Comment: Renewable fuels standard spurred ethanol breakthroughs

Source: Bu DELAYNE JOHNSON, Quad County Corn Processors, Des Moines Register • Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2014

This month, our company, Quad County Corn Processors, will debut an innovative new technology that promises to make one of Iowa’s signature agricultural products — corn — go even further.

Over a four-year period, Quad County Corn Processors’ research and development team developed a patented process for converting corn kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol. The new “bolt on” bio-refinery at our plant in Galva, Ia., is one of the first facilities in the United States to begin commercialized cellulosic ethanol production.

The new addition will produce two million gallons of cellulosic ethanol from the same kernel used to create conventional ethanol, corn oil and livestock feed. We will add four additional workers to the 36 already staffing our facility 24/7 and increase our ethanol yields — already 35 million gallons annually — by 6 percent.

Our yearly corn oil production, now 750,000 gallons, will multiply three times, and we will be able to offer livestock feed that is much higher in protein and lower in fiber than what we’ve been able to generate with previous technology.

The bottom line is that this breakthrough technology will create more value out of the more than 12 million bushels of corn that our cooperative’s 350 shareholder farmers bring to us each year and help Quad County Corn Processors remain a leader in America’s burgeoning ethanol industry.

That industry has grown by leaps and bounds in large part because Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standard requiring motor vehicle fuel to include renewable elements such as ethanol. The Renewable Fuel Standard developed the infrastructure and industrial process to generate conventional ethanol, which gave us a base on which to build our new cellulosic ethanol technology.

For the owners of America’s tens of millions of cars and trucks, ethanol has numerous benefits, such as reducing exhaust emissions, stretching our oil supplies to make us less dependent on foreign petroleum and lowering the price of gasoline at the pump. Energy economist Philip Verleger concluded that the Renewable Fuel Standard saves U.S. consumers an average of $1 on each gallon of gasoline.

A typical U.S. ethanol plant supports nearly 3,000 jobs — not just at the production point itself, but also in transportation, equipment production and maintenance, and other sectors. All in all, the Renewable Fuel Standard supports nearly 400,000 jobs.

But special interests, including the petroleum industry, are pressuring Congress to jettison the Renewable Fuel Standard. Ethanol’s opponents have fashioned all manner of misleading arguments against ethanol and the fuel standard. So far, Congress has resisted the pressure. But in today’s Washington, even a great, proven idea like ethanol is never safe from political maneuvering and twisted messages.

Now is the time to intensify our commitment to domestic renewable fuels, ensuring that Americans can continue to enjoy their freedom to hit the road, while paying a reasonable price for fuel. Ethanol has proven its value as an integral part of national energy policy. It’s also an important part of Iowa’s economy now, and must remain so for years to come.