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Science IS Driving the RFS

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The author of this entry is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or
March 6, 2016 | 1,221 views | Post a comment

This column was submitted in response to a March 3 post, "RFS should be based on science, not politics," written by Michael James Barton.

By Tom Buis

A recent opinion piece entitled, "RFS Should be Based on Science, Not Politics," makes some dubious assumptions and perpetuates long dispelled myths about biofuels. Even more astoundingly, the argument the author makes fails to live up to the title he gave his piece, as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is indeed based on science.

The RFS continues to be a win-win for the American people. It reduces toxic emissions, cleans the air we all breathe and improves our environment. How can anyone truly believe that oil is more environmentally friendly than a clean burning fuel that is biodegradable? Apparently instances like the Deepwater Horizon spill and thousands of others, resulting in hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spilled each year, seem of little consequence to those invested in keeping us addicted to foreign oil.

Here are just a few examples of the science that the RFS is based on, and why it is the most successful energy policy enacted in the last 40 years:

An independent analysis by the Argonne National Laboratory found that ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 34 percent compared to gasoline when you factor in the highly controversial indirect land use change calculations.

When land use change is removed, they found that ethanol reduced greenhouse gas emissions by an average 44 percent.

When the RFS was enacted in 2005, America imported 60 percent of its fuel and today we import only 24 percent? The fact that ethanol makes up 10 percent of our nation's fuel supply and independent retailers across the nation are adopting higher blends, such as E15 is clear proof that biofuels, such as ethanol are reducing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

Every gallon of clean-burning ethanol that we produce in this country decreases the demand for foreign oil and keeps our money here at home where it can create American jobs. The production of more than 14.7 billion gallons of ethanol in 2015 displaced the need for 527 million barrels of oil.

In 2015, we spent nearly $180 billion -- about $500 for every man, woman and child in this country -- on crude oil imports.

The RFS has cut annual consumer expenditure globally between $700 billion to $2.6 trillion. That is $0.50 to $1.50 per gallon less for gasoline, according to recent analysis by energy economist, Dr. Philip K. Verleger.

A 2013 World Bank study outlines how crude oil prices are responsible for at least 50 percent of the increase in food prices since 2004. The real costs of putting food on the shelf are transportation, processing and packaging -- all costs driven by oil.

The U.S. ethanol industry uses less than 3 percent of the global grain supply on a net basis. Nearly one-third of every bushel of corn used in ethanol production is returned to the food chain in the form of distiller's grains, a competitively-priced, nutritious animal feed.

Since only the corn starch is used and distiller's grain production displaces both corn and soybean meal production in livestock feed, meaning less than 25 percent of U.S. corn acreage is used for ethanol production. Over the next decade that is projected to decrease by an additional 24- 56 percent.

Cellulosic ethanol is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent or more. Furthermore, the U.S. is home to more than one billion tons of available biomass that can be converted to 80-100 billion gallons of ethanol. This is a 50-state solution.

As for the claim that Iowans have rejected the RFS, nothing could be further from the truth. A new poll conducted by Selzer and Company and released by Mediacom and the Des Moines Register on February 29, 2016, showed that 71 percent of Iowans support ethanol and the RFS.

Furthermore, the Des Moines Register highlighted overwhelming support for the RFS, regardless of political party affiliation, noting that 66 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents are in favor of the RFS. Additionally, the Des Moines Register noted that, "Iowans who consider themselves tea party supporters also like it, with 64 percent in favor." In fact, the relevancy of the issue is why an overwhelming 83 percent of Iowans caucused for pro-RFS candidates in 2016, a higher percentage than in 2012.

Indeed, science and data should be the determining factor in how to move forward with a sound energy policy that improves our environment, creates jobs, provides consumers with choices at the pump and reduces our dependence on foreign oil. The facts behind the science are indisputable and they show that biofuels and the policies that support them are helping make our nation more secure when it comes to our economic, energy and environmental policy.

Tom Buis is Co-Chair, Growth Energy, the nation’s largest ethanol trade association, based in Washington, DC. The organization represents 83 ethanol producers, 82 associate members and 50K plus grassroots supporters.
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