Pro: Increasing ethanol use is key to attaining goal of a cleaner planet

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Bob Stallman
Saturday, October 31, 2009
EDITORíS NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, Should the EPA increase the ethanol content of gasoline?

America is increasingly committed to being a nation fueled by clean, renewable, domestic energy.

And with good reason! This undertaking bolsters our nationís security, shields our economy from dependence on foreign energy sources, achieves long-term economic growth and creates a cleaner environment. Raising the fuel blend rate for home-grown ethanol from 10 percent to 15 percent is a positive step toward achieving these goals.

Greater energy independence is a critical component of Americaís national security. According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States imported nearly 60 percent of the oil used in our country in 2007.

Much of that was for fuel imported from nations that do not share our same societal, political or humanitarian views. It has been estimated that we could have avoided the use of 7 billion gallons of foreign-sourced oil if the ethanol blend level had been raised from E10 to E15. It makes no sense for Americans to subsidize foreign regimes when we are blessed with the ability to produce home-grown, renewable fuel.

While energy prices have decreased somewhat from last year, there is no guarantee they will remain where they are now or that the high fuel prices we experienced a year ago wonít return.

As personal vehicle use and industrialization increase in the developing world, competition for oil will inevitably result in higher fuel prices for Americans.

All of us have experienced the terrible impact high fuel prices have on our nationís economy and our familyís financial well-being. Yet, gasoline would have cost five to 10 cents more per gallon if it had not been blended with ethanol. Increased ethanol blend rates can further reduce the price of gasoline and ensure the availability of fuel to keep America moving.

Expanding ethanol production also will create new jobs and grow our economy. U.S. ethanol production already accounts for 250,000 domestic jobs, and that number is increasing. But it does not stop there.

There are tremendous opportunities to expand the types of biomass feedstocks that can be used to produce ethanol. To do so, however, investors must feel confident in the future of renewable fuels before they put their money into researching and developing new technologies and building ethanol plants.

Moving to an E15 mandate builds a solid foundation for grain-derived ethanol to continue growing while encouraging significant new investment in second-generation biofuels. Raising the blend rate shows our nationís resolve toward replacing foreign oil with domestically produced renewable energy.

There is widespread agreement in the scientific and research communities that biofuels produced from American farms have significant benefits over petroleum and other fossil fuels.

Ethanol is nontoxic and biodegradable. Several studies, including one conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy on the effects of E15 on motor vehicles and small nonroad engines, have concluded that when compared to traditional gasoline, E15 caused no significant changes in vehicle tailpipe emissions or drivability.

In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which mandated that 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels be used by 2022. In order to meet this goal, the blend rate will have to be raised to 20 percent by 2022.

It is important that we begin the process of increasing blend rates so farmers and ranchers, ethanol producers, gasoline refiners and gasoline-powered engine manufacturers have time to make the appropriate business and technological adjustments to meet this requirement.

It is certain that long-term energy demand will require production from all sources, including renewable fuels. Focusing on clean, green, renewable energy not only provides jobs for more Americans but also greater degrees of national security and energy independence. We need E15 now.

Bob Stallman is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. Readers may write him at AFBF, 600 Maryland Ave. SW, Suite 1000W, Washington, D.C., 20024; Web site: www.fb.org.

Last updated: 11:37 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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