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OPINION:Rep. Cramer’s anti-biofuel spin falls flat

In a recent column published on Capitol Hill, North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer (R) acknowledged that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) "has helped make America the world's largest biofuel producer and created thousands of jobs in the heartla...

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In a recent  column published on Capitol Hill, North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer (R) acknowledged that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) “has helped make America the world’s largest biofuel producer and created thousands of jobs in the heartland.” He then called for its elimination.

North Dakota’s farmers, scientists, renewable energy producers, and consumers can be forgiven for their confusion. Mr. Cramer’s mixed message reflects the latest strategy by some lobbyists to eliminate competition at U.S. gas stations and slow the production of homegrown biofuels in rural communities across the country.

The RFS requires refineries to blend renewable biofuels into new options for consumers at the pump. As a result, the standard offering at U.S. fueling stations is currently a 10 percent ethanol mix (E10), which helps insulate consumers against spikes in the price of oil, saving them anywhere from 50 cents to $1.50 per gallon. It also reduces carbon emissions and curbs our dependence on foreign oil. More recently, many retailers began offering E15, a higher ethanol blend that yields greater savings with an even smaller environmental footprint.

To slow the competition, oil companies are trying to convince policymakers to eliminate the program. They claim the RFS falls apart in 2022, when the law gives EPA discretion over targets for U.S. biofuels. For the preceding years, Congress had provided some specific targets.

In reality, nothing changes in 2022, because the EPA already sets the targets on renewable fuels, with only limited regard for the numbers Congress laid out in 2005 and 2007. It’s a decision made each year, with input from oil companies, biofuel producers, consumers, farmers, policymakers, and the like.

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The idea that the EPA could completely ignore the law in 2022, setting outlandish targets, is a good argument for congressional oversight, but it’s far from a justification for eliminating America’s most successful strategy for achieving energy security.

Mr. Cramer’s other argument in favor of eliminating the RFS is that we no longer need biofuels because gasoline consumption is down.Oddly, he cites the Department of Energy’s U.S. Energy Information Administration, which recently reported that motor fuel consumption this year may be the “highest annual average gasoline consumption on record, surpassing the previous record set in 2007.” More importantly, America still imports about a fourth of its petroleum, often lining the pockets of unfriendly regimes around the world.

In truth, there is absolutely no justification for rewriting or eliminating the RFS. Conventional ethanol consumption is already near the final 15-billion-gallon target set by Congress in 2007, which means that repealing the law will only hurt rural communities, end development of advanced biofuels, and allow fossil fuels to regain their monopoly over our choices at the pump.

That’s why it is so important for 852,000 Americans who have jobs supported by a robust biofuel sector to stay vigilant against poorly-disguised attempts to gut the RFS. We can’t forfeit America’s best opportunity to lead the world in homegrown, low-carbon energy. Unchecked lies in Washington, DC have a way of gaining traction, and Mr. Cramer’s latest salvo against rural America is proof. He obviously understands how much biofuels have meant to our community – jobs, cleaner air, lower costs – but his plan for the future would cast all those benefits aside based on false assumptions planted by a few DC insiders. 

Editor's note: Jorgensen is a marketing professional in Fargo, N.D. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, a former farmhand, and a member of VoteVets.org, which represents over 400,000 veterans, military family members, and supporters.

 

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