Iowa has been on the leading edge of ethanol production, so it’s no surprise that recent ethanol criticisms have ruffled some feathers here.
A recent Associated Press report claimed that increased ethanol production and higher corn prices have led to existing grasslands being turned into farms -- with fewer acres being enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. It also cites an impact on some food and animal feed prices.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Nov. 15 recommended reducing the amount of ethanol required to be added to the gasoline supply. A coalition of oil companies, environmental groups and food companies are pushing the EPA to reconsider the ethanol program.
We believe that would be a mistake. One of the goals of creating the standard was to reduce our reliance on foreign oil -- and it’s been working. In the long run, we believe that is still the No. 1 priority of establishing and maintaining our own fuel supply, through a variety of strategies. Renewable fuels can and should be a large part of our fuel security mix.
Rep. Bruce Braley said the increased use of biofuels is a win-win for Iowa and the rest of the nation.
“We reduce our nation’s dependence on Middle Eastern sources of oil and lower prices at the pumps by creating jobs and economic innovation in the Midwest that boosts our agriculture and economy,” he said.
“One of the things that we have to continually evaluate is what the environmental impact is of all those fuel sources,” Braley continued. “One of the things we know is that the production of biofuels typically requires less in the way of greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline. We need to educate consumers about those tradeoffs.”
Sen. Charles Grassley disputes the CRP argument, saying that fewer acres enrolled in the CRP has more to do with federal belt-tightening than land stewardship decisions by America’s corn farmers.
The federally-mandated Renewable Fuel Standard increases the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
The criticism comes at a time when the ethanol industry is gaining traction in developing infrastructure and knitting networks together to get its products to market. It’s a momentum we should encourage instead of thwart. We should be tailoring future usage strategies to the increased production, such as working to develop engines that can use increased ethanol blends.
While the recent concerns may have some legitimacy, it’s also important to keep our eyes on the biggest prize.
The road to increased energy independence is not going to be smooth sailing all the time. There will be growing pains. The ultimate goals are still important, and as developing industries evolve, efficiencies are created and oversights are added.
The less dependence we have on Middle East energy, the more secure we are as a nation. Renewable fuels are the future, and we need to continue to adapt to that reality.