Letter: State lawmakers must back biofuels

Source: By Steve Pittman, Kokomo Tribune • Posted: Wednesday, August 9, 2017

For more than a decade, Indiana’s economy has been powered by homegrown biofuels, grown by Indiana farmers and produced in 14 ethanol plants across the state.

The biofuels industry in Indiana supports thousands of jobs while creating a market for Indiana farmers. Biofuels, like ethanol made from corn found across the highways and byways of Indiana, have the dual benefit of reducing America’s dependence on foreign sources of oil and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. As a cleaner burning, renewable fuel, shouldn’t ethanol be considered a vital part of our nation’s long-term, comprehensive energy strategy?

Unfortunately, some billionaire oil executives see an opportunity to roll back consumer access to biofuels by eliminating the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). And they’re working hard on members of Congress to do just that.

The bipartisan RFS was enacted 11 years ago to ensure farmers in Indiana have access to a free market. It’s working. In recent years, the United States has replaced hundreds of millions of barrels of oil with biofuels. Biofuels are commonplace, included in 97 percent of U.S. fuel blends, not only enhancing local economies in farm states like Indiana, but reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

The RFS, our ethanol plants and Indiana farmers have directly contributed to reducing U.S. oil imports by 50 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates biofuels have helped reduce carbon emissions by more than 40 percent.

Ethanol plants bring direct economic advantage to our state and to many rural communities that are struggling. Those 14 facilities in Indiana produce more than 1 billion gallons of ethanol each year. That results in $1.5 billion in direct capital investment, more than 600 full-time jobs and almost $3 billion in sales. Furthermore, the state’s ethanol industry adds more than $250 million to the Gross State Product.

We’re also proud of the environmental benefits of ethanol. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent compared to conventional gasoline. Higher blends of ethanol are also helping to reduce the need for toxic additives known to cause groundwater contamination, smog, asthma and cancer. Ethanol has afforded farmers the opportunity to produce more food and energy than ever before, and they are doing it on existing cropland. In fact, the EPA estimates the acres of total cropland in the United States has dropped from 402 million acres in 2007 to 379 million in 2015. Historically, farmers today grow five times as much corn as they did in the 1930s while using 20 percent less land.

Despite the obvious benefits, particularly here in Indiana, the RFS is under attack in Congress by the fossil fuel industry that prefers monopolistic control of the market.

That’s why it’s a critical time for Hoosiers lawmakers in Washington to stand up for Indiana farmers and the biofuels industry by supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard.

It’s important for Sens. Joe Donnelly and Todd Young and our entire congressional delegation in Washington to understand the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard to Indiana’s economy, the environment, and to reducing our dependence on foreign sources of oil.

Steve Pittman, Indiana Ethanol Producers Association