Fuel standard good for US’s economic engine

Imagine a future where America controls its own energy destiny — a future in which we stop spending $1 billion per day on foreign oil and start investing those funds to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and help pay down the debt, all while creating well-paying American jobs and growing our economy at home.

While this might seem like a faraway dream, there are measures already in place that will help wean us off foreign oil. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is one such measure, and we must oppose attempts to reduce or eliminate this job-creating initiative that reduces our dependence on foreign oil.

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The RFS, first introduced in 2005 and reauthorized in 2007, could be the most significant program ever established toward achieving energy independence. It garnered overwhelming support in both the House and Senate as well as the signature of President George W. Bush, a former oilman from Texas. The RFS has helped employers create thousands of jobs and jump-started local economies throughout the country.

In the ethanol industry alone, the RFS contributed to nearly 400,000 American jobs, bringing in more than $44 billion in economic activity. Today there are at least 212 ethanol bio-refineries across the country and new biofuel production facilities are in the works that will create even more jobs.

The economic benefits of the RFS are significant; even more noteworthy is that we have managed to achieve these benefits while at the same time lessening our dependence on foreign oil. Instead of sending our hard-earned dollars out of the country to buy fossil fuels, we are drawing in investments from countries across the globe interested in supporting a renewable economic success story. In fact, since the creation of the RFS in 2005, America’s dependence on foreign oil has dropped by about 50 percent.

Opponents of the RFS would like you to believe that the program was crafted by narrow special interests, designed to increase food prices and corrode your car engine. These claims are false, and I would like to set the record straight.

Opposition to the RFS is led by the same interests that have a bottom line impacted by decreased fossil fuel consumption. The opposition likes to argue that the RFS is responsible for increases in livestock feed prices, corn prices and food prices. This is a blatantly false claim. Regardless of the fact that only 17.5 percent of the corn crop actually goes toward creating biofuels, a 2013 World Bank study found that the main cause of increased global food prices is rising energy costs, not the use of corn to produce ethanol. Furthermore, only the starch of the corn is required for biofuel production and, once it is acquired, the protein, fiber and oil of the corn are all returned and made into animal feed supply.

Lastly, the price of corn is dropping, not rising. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting the average 2014/2015 price of corn at $3.50 per bushel, a 21 percent drop from 2013/2014 and a 49 percent drop from 2012/2013. So while the cost of corn drops exponentially, opponents of the RFS still blame the standard for increasing the cost of corn. It makes no sense.

Another claim that you will hear from the opposition is that ethanol, as a result of the RFS volume requirements, is a danger to your car’s engine. Again, this is patently false. Ethanol in cars is not a new development. In fact, it’s been around for more than 100 years. In 1908 Henry Ford designed the

Model-T to run on ethanol. Since 2010 virtually all fuel pumped in the U.S. is 10 percent ethanol (E-10), and cars have been running just fine.

But don’t just take my word for it, take that of automotive professionals. NASCAR switched to E-15 (15 percent ethanol-blended fuel) almost five years ago. Its drivers have driven millions of miles in the most punishing automotive conditions since that time. Rather than breakdowns, they have reported performance increases; 20 percent fewer emissions with a 9 to 12 horsepower increase. In fact, Dale Earnhardt Jr. called the transition “seamless.”

The RFS is working to create jobs, reinvigorate local economies and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We need to be sure to keep it that way. That is why I oppose any short-sighted attempts to reduce or eliminate this important, all-American energy promoting program.

Walz has represented Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District since 2007. He sits on the Agriculture; the Transportation and Infrastructure; and the Veterans Affairs committees.