In just 10 months in Congress, I’ve seen my fair share of shattered promises and absurd policies in Washington. But the aggressive and unfounded attacks on the biofuel industry stand out as one of the worst — especially when our country desperately needs clean, stable energy solutions.
America is facing an energy crisis. MidAmerican Energy, a utility that serves hundreds of thousands of Iowa families and businesses, just announced that customers should expect their monthly bills to increase anywhere from 42 to 96 percent this winter. Gas prices are at their highest point in seven years, at an average $3.30 a gallon. The Biden Administration should turn to Iowa’s biofuel industry and embrace higher ethanol blends, to reduce carbon emissions, help bring down energy costs, create well-paying jobs in rural America, and bolster our national security. Biofuels are the readily available solution that check every box, and the Administration should increase the blending of biofuels in our supply of transportation fuel.
At the bare minimum, the administration should respect current law and uphold the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), as they have promised. However, the Administration continues to play games with the RFS and leave Iowa producers in limbo. Additionally, we are anticipating an announcement from the EPA that will retroactively reduce the Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) from 2020. This move will remove the last shred of stability or confidence for those involved in ethanol and corn production in the US. The only thing worse than a retroactive RVO reduction would be if the EPA continues to kick the can down the road and withhold the 2022 RVO announcement. These deadlines exist to provide certainty for the market — the EPA disregarding this timetable is hurting Iowa producers more with each passing day.
At a growing number of gas stations across Iowa, you have the option to fill your tank with E15, a fuel composed of 15 percent ethanol, which is safe to use in almost all cars made after 2001. When I am in Washington, it is nearly impossible to find any gas stations that offer gas blended over the federal minimum blend of E10. I’m lucky enough to drive a flex-fuel minivan, meaning that my car takes E85 gas — fuel blended with 85 percent ethanol. Every time I fill up my tank, not only am I paying less, but I’m supporting corn growers in the heartland and making a better choice for the environment.
Ethanol cuts carbon emissions by 46 percent compared to gasoline alone — that means ethanol has half the carbon footprint of traditional gasoline. If we switched our nation’s fuel standard from E10 to E15, we would begin cutting carbon emissions at a level equivalent to taking almost 4 million vehicles off the road each year.
In addition to the clear and immediate environmental benefits, switching to E15 would save consumers $12.2 billion on fuel costs annually. With gas prices steadily increasing and showing no signs of reprieve, the Administration should be pursuing common sense solutions to reduce the price and pain Americans are facing at the pump.
But President Joe Biden recently asked foreign nations to increase oil production rather than using domestic energy solutions — like biofuels — to meet our current fuel challenges and bring down gas prices. This is especially concerning in the wake of the devastating chaos in Afghanistan, Russian cyberattacks on our fuel supply, and the looming threat of the Chinese Communist Party — we should be reinforcing our American energy independence, not risking our national security by increasing our reliance on adversaries for fuel. Biofuels are the American-made solution to our current, and future, energy and economic challenges.
On the campaign trail, President Biden looked Iowans in the eye and said they could count on him for a new era of biofuels, stating that “lip service won’t make up for nearly four years of retroactive damage that has decimated our trade economy and forced ethanol plants to shutter.” So far, this is just another hollow promise made by a politician to rural Americans. President Biden should keep his word — supporting biofuels is the key to unleashing America’s full clean energy potential and boosting our rural economy.
This piece originally appeared in The Gazette on 11/20/21.