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Don’t Let Foreign Interests Prevent US Biofuels Future

  • Wednesday, 19 October 2016 10:10

The Hill

October 18, 2016

By Retired Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton

Ninety-seven percent America’s motor fuel is blended with homegrown ethanol. From an energy security perspective, this is major progress that should be celebrated and encouraged. 

Energy is not a luxury; it’s a necessity that has shaped conflicts across the globe and plunged U.S. warfighters into countless battles to protect U.S. interests, allies, and access to scarce resources. Renewable fuels like ethanol represent the best tools available to reduce our dependence on oil and minimize the risks associated with conflicts over fossil fuels.

Under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), America has been steadily increasing its capacity to grow, blend and utilize homegrown biofuels made from plants. We’ve cut oil imports in half since 2005. In 2015 alone, biofuels displaced more oil than the U.S. imported from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined. And making these biofuels now supports more than 852,000 American jobs across manufacturing, engineering, science, research and development.

Yet, some lawmakers are proposing legislation that would roll back our progress, capping consumption of homegrown ethanol at 9.7 percent — essentially mandating U.S. reliance on oil for over 92 percent of our fuel. It could accurately be labeled the Oil Monopoly Protection Act. They claim that any fuel containing less than 90 percent petroleum will break the so-called “blend wall” — a well-financed myth based on the refusal of some oil companies to offer consumers blends of ethanol beyond the standard 10 percent.

There was a time when some cars weren’t designed to run on higher ethanol blends, but that hasn’t been true for most conventional vehicles since 2001, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

As a result, many retailers are responding to consumer demand by offering higher ethanol blends like E15 and E85. Consumers appreciate that ethanol saves money at the pump, increases octane for better performance and slashes carbon emissions.

As a result, the so-called “blend wall” was broken years ago in some states where ethanol contributes as much as 12 percent or more of the total fuel consumed. A 9.7 percent cap wouldn’t just stall America’s progress toward energy security, it would reverse it.

The goal of blocking competition is shared by major oil exporters like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Their current strategy is to temporarily flood oil markets, curtailing the growth of alternatives and forcing massive layoffs in the U.S. oil and gas sector. It’s working. Last month, Saudi Arabia retook its lead as the world’s largest oil producer, according to the International Energy Agency. We’ve seen this cycle before, and it always ends with U.S. drivers sending massive sums of money overseas and greater U.S. vulnerability to supply interruptions by hostile nations.  

Now a vocal group, dominated by the same climate-change deniers who exist to promote the oil industry, are attacking biofuels in an effort to cap the growth of homegrown alternatives. In their own time-honored fashion, they even cite oil-funded studies that seek to cast doubt on the accepted climate science behind biofuels.

Yet the Department of Energy’s own Argonne National Laboratory found that corn-based ethanol cuts carbon emission by an average of 34 percent compared to gasoline, with cellulosic varieties yielding a carbon savings of 100 percent or more.

In short, the whole campaign is fueled by misinformation, and the only real winners are Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other foreign powers that still supply a quarter of all U.S. oil. If we are to achieve true energy security, we cannot allow entrenched fossil fuel interests to set a legal cap on their only real competition. Public policy should protect consumers, not monopolies, especially those that threaten global stability.

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