Make America stronger and more independent, support the Renewable Fuel Standard
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After serving eight years on active duty in the United States Army and attaining the rank of Captain, I recently transitioned into the private sector and serve as the director of operations for a corn ethanol plant in Nebraska. As a veteran with multiple combat deployments, I am proud to say I have found a home in the ethanol industry making a product that I truly believe in.

Earlier this year, the Department of Energy published a report examining the workforce demographics of the U.S. energy sector. Among the report’s most compelling revelations was that nearly one in five workers (19 percent) in the American ethanol industry is a veteran of the U.S. armed services. By comparison, veterans make up 10 percent of the oil and gas industry workforce and just 7 percent of the total U.S. labor force.

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While the ethanol industry’s unusual penchant for hiring veterans might come as a surprise to many, it doesn’t surprise me at all. I completely understand why so many former servicemen and women are drawn to employment in the biofuels industry. It’s a natural fit for us.

Producing homegrown renewable fuel from crops grown on American family farms allows us to continue honoring a commitment to make our nation stronger and more independent. Veterans working in the ethanol industry take great pride in knowing we are improving our nation’s energy security, economic vitality and environmental quality each and every day.

Together with the American oil and gas industry, we have made great strides in reducing petroleum imports and boosting domestic energy supplies. The ethanol industry alone has added nearly 3.6 billion barrels of low-cost, high-octane liquid fuel to domestic supplies since Congress adopted the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2005. Thanks to the RFS—a law requiring that annually increasing volumes of biofuels be blended into our nation’s fuel supply—ethanol now accounts for more than 10 percent of  our nation’s gasoline supply. As a result of growth in U.S. ethanol and oil production, net imports of crude oil and petroleum products have fallen by 60 percent since 2005.

However, true energy independence has remained elusive and the United States still imports significant volumes of crude oil from OPEC and countries hostile to our national interests and values. Saudi Arabia was the second-leading supplier of U.S. oil imports, and shipments from Iraq nearly doubled.

As a veteran, I would prefer to invest in the energy resources of the Midwest, not the Middle East. That’s why I, along with scores of other veterans who work in the ethanol industry, sent a letter to President Trump after his inauguration encouraging him to stand by his campaign promise to support ethanol and protect the RFS.

President Trump has indeed kept his promise. He has continually reaffirmed his support for American farmers, ethanol producers, and the thousands of veterans working in the renewable fuels industry.

With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scheduled to publish its final 2018 RFS biofuel blending requirements later this month, President Trump’s support has never been more important. In a move that seemed contradictory to the president’s stated commitments on the RFS, the EPA in July proposed to cut the 2018 blending requirements to levels below the 2017 requirements.

On this Veterans Day, I join former servicemen and women from across the country in respectfully encouraging President Trump to remain resolute in his support for the RFS and the U.S. ethanol industry. We look forward to EPA publishing a final rule for 2018 RFS volumes that provides a pathway for further growth, and continues to support the thousands of veterans like me working in the industry.

Leiding is Director of Operations at Trenton Agri Products LLC. Leiding served eight years on active duty in the U.S. Army, primarily as a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot performing medical evacuation missions. Mr. Leiding, who attained the rank of Captain, was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.