Opinion: Why I’ve fought for biofuels through Congress’ infrastructure debate

Source: By Cindy Axne, Agri-Pulse • Posted: Sunday, September 26, 2021

Over the past few months, my colleagues and I in Congress have engaged in discussions about the kinds of investments we can make at the federal level to support our local economies and meet the challenges facing our country in the coming decades.

One provision that I’ve successfully worked to include in the legislation is a $1 billion investment in a homegrown energy solution that supports thousands of rural American jobs and help us meet our carbon emissions goals: biofuels.

By investing in biofuels infrastructure, the Build Back Better Act will not only directly support rural America’s economic success but also tackle the threat of climate change head-on; two goals that have been at the top of my agenda since coming to Congress in 2019.

But this funding was by no means a guarantee, and early on I took on the fight to see it included because it was clear to me that biofuels was not as much of a priority for folks who don’t keep rural America in mind in Washington.

I represent more than a dozen rural counties across central and southwest Iowa, just one of a few Democrats whose district sent a Democrat to Congress while voting for Republicans at the ‘top of the ticket.’ And I’m in the House on their behalf because I’ve made it clear to them that I’m willing to work as hard as 10 Representatives, and that I will not be shouted down by the folks on the coasts or in oil-rich states that have more folks in Congress.

I’ve raised my voice when Iowa was devastated by flooding and other natural disasters, and when my own party wanted to give our farmers the short end of the stick in government funding agreements. And now, I’ve turned my commitment to the rural communities I represent into a push for these renewable fuel investments.

Starting this spring, I made it my mission to help members of the Biden Administration, the Senate, and my own colleagues in the House understand the key advantages of biofuels – from the fact that it’s been proven to be more than twice as clean as fossil fuels to how much it can help our farmers and the biodiesel and ethanol producers here in Iowa.

I sat down with members from the coasts who’ve never seen an ear of corn still on its stalk, let alone visited a renewable fuel plant, to explain how effective these fuels can be at lowering emissions quickly, how sustainable the production of these fuels has become, and how much cleaner these products really are.

To curb the effects of the climate crisis, I told them, we need to drastically reduce our reliance on fossil fuels quickly. And to do that, we can’t just rely on energy technologies that are still years away from being widely available. Biofuels needs to be part of the climate solution – now.

And from where the bill stands now, it’s clear that my colleagues listened.

Over the past few weeks, portions of the Build Back Better Act have been approved at the committee level with numerous provisions that I fought for that will support renewable fuels and biofuels for years to come.

We approved $1 billion in funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide grants over the next 8 years to expand biofuel pump infrastructure, upgrade existing tanks and pumps, and increase usage of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel.

That funding alone is projected to not only help us reduce carbon emissions, but also put an extra $400 million in the pockets of Iowa farmers through higher demand for our corn alone.

We also passed an extension of the biodiesel tax credit, another key priority of mine that I’ve fought for since coming to Congress in 2019.

Biodiesel, while supporting 13 percent of the value of bushels of soybeans, is nearly 75% cleaner than diesel and has reduced over 140 million tons of carbon in the last decade.

And we’re also looking at additional tax credits that will support the conversion of renewable fuels in other parts of our transportation sector, like aviation fuel, and how we can ensure that agriculture producers can be a part of that new market.

With infrastructure investments and tax incentives like these, we can quickly expand the availability of this low carbon fuel across the U.S.

And when it comes to supporting jobs in our rural areas and economic prosperity for communities across the Midwest and beyond, the innovation and growth of our renewable fuels sector will create an incredible return on this investment from the Build Back Better Act.

That’s the message I took to my colleagues, and that’s why I wouldn’t let up.

And while I know this work is not over until these investments are signed into law, and there are plenty of other priorities that will need to be ironed out before we reach that point, I’m as committed as every to getting these important provisions across the finish line.

The future of rural America, our farmers, and our planet all depend on it.

Cindy Axne is a fifth-generation Iowan, a small business owner, mother of two, and U.S. Representative from Iowa’s Third Congressional District. First elected in 2018, she serves on the U.S. House Committees on Agriculture and Financial Services, the Rural Broadband Task Force, and is the Midwest Regional Whip for the House Democratic Caucus.

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