Letters: America relies on, and will continue to rely on, biofuels

Source: By Monte Shaw, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association • Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2022

One theme in American history is the perpetual search for “the next big thing.” Those things do come along and change the world. Penicillin or smartphones come to mind. But history teaches us that many of the so-called next big things are just flashes in the pan or can’t deliver on the hype. Think of the 2001 call for a hydrogen economy or New Coke.

So, we were disappointed when a recent Des Moines Register editorial characterized Iowa biofuels as a “Band-Aid” solution for reducing emissions and urged Iowa to “pivot” away from them as a solution. It characterized efforts by leaders in both parties to expand consumer access to higher blends as myopic. But on the contrary, what could be more myopic than snubbing our noses as the lowest-cost, most readily-available resource we have to reduce carbon emission that also supports our economy?

Biofuels are the only way to meaningfully decarbonize the transportation sector within the next decade. But biofuels are far more than a transition fuel until electric vehicles arrive. Between increased efficiencies at the biofuel plant and farm level combined with carbon sequestration technology, Iowa biofuels are well on their way to becoming net-carbon negative. Not just carbon neutral, but negative — literally taking carbon out of the air and putting it back under ground.

The Register sees electric vehicles as the “next big thing.” But rosy electric vehicle projections are coming under increasing scrutiny regarding both their production realities and their actual environmental footprint.

While more electric vehicles are coming, there is absolutely no doubt liquid fuels will be needed for decades and decades to come. And not just for cars on the road, but for marine vessels and the planes in the skies. Those fuels should be primarily low-carbon biofuels.

It’s always fun to seek the next big thing. But it would be a huge mistake for Iowans not to realize the “big thing” powering our rural economy today is still going to be a “big thing” for decades.

— Monte Shaw, executive director, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association