Op-Ed: Making America Great Again Starts with the States

Source: By Dave VanderGriend, Urban Air Initiative • Posted: Thursday, September 6, 2018

With the clock ticking on the Renewable Fuel Standard and demand being destroyed through bureaucratic action, the ethanol industry seems to once again be at a crossroads. Do we accept being under the thumb of big oil and the U.S. EPA or do we demand that Washington, D.C., allow rural America to do what it does: help feed and fuel the world in an environmentally responsible way and leave behind a better opportunity for the next generation?

Reports of nearly 300,000 comments filed on EPA’s annual volume obligation proposal illustrate how we are captive to a government program that would be obsolete and unnecessary if we had true competition on the fuel market. How much taxpayer money is spent to simply read those 300,000 comments, never mind take any action? How much time, effort and resources went into preparing comments to ask for the bread crumbs of the gasoline market that we should have access to?

Cronyism in Washington, D.C., has resulted in consumers, taxpayers, and all of rural America being held hostage. In 2016, our industry supported 360,000 jobs, contributed $44 billion toward the U.S. gross domestic product, and another $23 billion in household income, all without being free to compete. The rural economy has been slower than any other sector to recover from the last recession. With looming trade wars and depressed commodity prices, it is only getting worse. Ethanol offers us a chance to change our destiny.

The 15.8 billion gallons of ethanol we produce and the economic benefits it provides represent a lifeline to rural America. Imagine a doubling of the ethanol industry by moving from 10 percent blends to an average of 20 percent, contributing nearly $90 billion annually with more than 717,000 jobs. We ran the numbers in Iowa as an example, a state that produces 4 billion gallons of ethanol and only keeps 3.5 percent of that amount in the state, while importing 1.5 billion gallons of gasoline. Doubling the state average would keep $100 million in Iowa. A similar scenario for prosperity exists in Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois and Kansas.

But EPA is stalling progress. Artificial fuels, misleading test procedures and oil-influenced data produce inaccurate results and paint a distorted and false picture of ethanol.

At the Urban Air Initiative, we have used Freedom of Information Requests to access thousands of emails and internal EPA documents that clearly show collusion between the oil industry and EPA. The result has been a nearly 30-year history of unfair treatment of ethanol and a failure to recognize its ability to protect public health while meeting a range of public policy objectives.

Every Midwest state has a governor elected by the people. Why aren’t these elected leaders demanding their people have the choice to use their products? They have spent the past 10 years passively waiting for permission, when they could have been demonstrating leadership. If they prefer to be glad-handing politicians, states should replace them with leaders.

Our Midwest states should demand the right to market their own fuel blends in their states without federal roadblocks. We have identified those roadblocks and offered practical, common sense solutions: Fix the emission and carbon models, allow higher blends year-round, stop any limits on ethanol volumes, support a new certification fuel for higher blends, and enforce toxics controls.

Let the free market work for the producer, the retailer and the consumer. Let us prove to the American consumer we really are cheaper, better and cleaner.

Dave VanderGriend is the President of the Urban Air Initiative