Can a new industry effort reinvigorate support for the Renewable Fuel Standard – by highlighting biofuels’ role in energy independence, emissions, economic development?
By Brent Erickson, Executive VP, BIO – head, Industrial & Environmental section
Last Thursday, a coalition of leaders from the biofuels industry, national security, and agriculture launched Fuels America, a campaign to promote the numerous benefits of renewable fuel and protect America’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The diverse members of this group came together to reset the national conversation on renewable fuel and protect the progress the industry has made to improve our national energy security, spurring investment in innovative technology, and creating jobs, particularly in rural communities. This campaign is not about one industry, one fuel molecule, one crop or one priority. It is about how we fuel our economy and America’s energy future.
Drought and opportunism
This year’s drought has placed significant pressure on rural communities and several industries. Long-standing opponents of the RFS are seizing upon this disaster and using it to further their efforts to eliminate the RFS. It should be made clear that halting the progress made under the RFS will not repair the damage done by the drought. It will only create additional harm for the communities already struggling as a result of the drought. In addition, an RFS waiver will spread the pain felt by those communities to the technology innovators, scientists, investors and engineers engaged in building the advanced biofuel industry. To understand why this issue is so important, one must understand the tremendous benefits that renewable fuels have delivered for Americans.
This fight affects not only members of the Fuels America coalition, but also hundreds of thousands of Americans. Renewable fuel produced to meet RFS goals is driving economic growth and job creation across the country. More than 400,000 people nationwide are employed because of the biofuels industry, including equipment manufacturers, farmers, transportation companies, rural co‐ops, clean tech innovators, chemical engineers and construction firms. As the advanced biofuel industry grows, good employment opportunities will be within reach for many more Americans. In this economy, we should not put good employment opportunities at risk.
Based in science and innovation
American research institutions and start-up companies lead the world in renewable fuel innovation. The RFS – by opening the U.S. transportation fuel market to renewable alternatives to petroleum – has encouraged these innovators to invest billions of dollars in bringing new technology for advanced and conventional renewable fuel to the market. Moreover, this research has opened new opportunities for renewable chemicals and biobased products. Rolling back the RFS requirements would be detrimental to the industry—and given the tremendous progress it has recently made in a tough economy such a drastic option should not be on the table. We cannot afford to let the United States throw away its lead in innovation and sacrifice the gains we’ve made.
Powered by private investment
Private companies have invested billions more to begin construction of the first commercial-scale biorefineries to produce advanced biofuels. A few are already in the process of starting up. These facilities are located across the country in Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. They are on the cusp of beginning to fulfill the promise of competitively priced, domestically produced fuel alternatives that end our reliance on foreign oil. And they’ve made this progress despite a multi-year drought in investment capital.
Homegrown energy now exceeds Saudi imports
Renewable fuel and the RFS are essential to America’s national and energy security. Renewable fuel currently provides 10 percent of America’s fuel needs – and that proportion is growing. That’s 10 percent of all our transportation fuel consumption that’s homegrown, no longer coming from countries like Saudi Arabia or Venezuela. Companies have worked with the U.S. military to produce fuels that meet the high expectations for supply, readiness and affordability demanded by our armed forces. Reducing the military’s direct dependence on foreign oil removes a significant strategic vulnerability for our men and women in uniform. Renewable fuel and the RFS represent the most viable solution to moving our nation away from foreign oil and toward a domestic fuel future. We cannot afford to let that solution slip away.
Holding down fuel prices
The best part is that renewable fuels are already saving consumers money in many ways. One of the most obvious is savings at the gas pump. In 2011, gas prices could have been $1.09 per gallon higher. At home, the average American household would have had to pay $1,200 on their gasoline bill if renewable fuels were not available. Putting that money back in the pockets of American citizens strengthens our rural and urban communities. Furthermore, the RFS has worked to drive growth where it is most needed: since 2007, it has driven a $500 billion increase in America’s farm assets. Renewable fuel is an indispensable part of our economy.
The RFS is behind it all
Let’s face it. Biotech and biofuels companies want to succeed in business. But beyond that we have a duty and a responsibility to keep our economy growing, foster innovation, expand the job market, and decrease our reliance on foreign oil. The Renewable Fuel Standard is the most successful effort to achieve all of those goals we have ever undertaken as a nation. The progress we’ve made is visible, and it signals the industry’s intention to keep marching forward.
The Fuels America coalition – which includes 25x’25, Abengoa Bioenergy, ACORE, Advanced Ethanol Council, American Coalition for Ethanol, American Security Project, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), DuPont, Growth Energy, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Sorghum Producers, Novozymes, POET-DSM, and Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) – has come together at a critical time to protect that progress and defend the RFS. The launch of the last week was just the beginning and we invite all interested parties to join in this effort and also to voice their support at FuelsAmerica.org.
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