Guest opinion: Oil, ethanol build cleaner economy

Source: By Doug Durante, Billings Gazette    • Posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The May 27 guest opinion from David Tyler on ethanol is a display of ignorance and part of an orchestrated attempt by special interests to twist and distort the facts to paint a completely false picture.

For starters, there is no such thing as an ethanol mandate. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) , passed on two separate occasions through both a Republican and Democratic Congress requires refiners and importers to augment their slate of products with a small percentage of renewable fuels, of which ethanol is one. They choose ethanol to comply with the law because they make money off it and many own ethanol facilities.

Tyler’s assertion that we have achieved energy independence and biofuels had nothing to do with that is preposterous. At the time of the creation of the RFS, U.S. petroleum imports were surpassing 60 percent and climbing. Ten percent ethanol blends, supplemented by E85 and biodiesel, reversed that trend long before the resurgence of domestic oil production. And we are hardly energy independent. We may be a net exporter of oil but still subject to the whims of foreign countries and global events.

Next he goes to an old favorite — that we use 40 percent of the corn crop for ethanol production. The corn that is used is feed-grain corn, and after extracting the starch content, the bulk is returned to the feed chain as a higher protein and higher value animal feed. So the net corn usage for ethanol production is less than half that amount. That is like saying something cost a dollar when it is in fact 50 cents, you just forgot to count the change.

As for the cost of corn, it is simply irresponsible to tell your readers the price of corn has doubled. Corn today at approximately $3.50 per bushel is less than it was a when the RFS was established more than a decade ago. It is the demand created by the RFS for corn that has ushered in a new era of efficiency and productivity that allows American corn farmers to produce plenty of feed, food and fuel. To suggest our use of corn is in any way contributing to hunger and famine is shameful. Tyler should hire some barges and I’ll meet him at any port in the United States and give him all the grain he can handle.

He references “a number of studies” challenging the environmental benefits of ethanol. Show me those studies and for every one I’ll show five that say the opposite. Ethanol reduces every criteria pollutant for ozone and smog while reducing CO2 emissions by 30-50 percent, including counting the energy inputs. It replaces the benzene and other carcinogens in gasoline and even adjusting for a lower energy content, is less expensive than gasoline and provides more benefits. It is a multi-billion dollar domestic industry employing hundreds of thousands of people and lowering the cost of fuel and food.

Tyler would like to see all those ethanol jobs transferred to the oil industry when, in fact, the two can work together and provide us with a cleaner, domestic fuel that creates jobs in both sectors and makes us truly energy independent. But first we have to deal with the facts and his article fails in that regard.

Douglas A. Durante is executive director of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition in Bethesda, Maryland.