The media is at it once again: accusing biofuels of harming our nation’s natural resources. it surprises me that a clean burning, renewable product is such a target. After all, if the alternative is increased amounts of oil imported from the Middle East, I will choose the product that is produced in rural America, is more environmentally friendly, and supports the rural economy.
Unfortunately, the attacks against biofuels are perpetuated by Big Oil. Given the recent success of the renewable fuels industry, Big Oil has finally realized that its market share is under threat. The oil industry refuses to give consumers a choice at the pump, and will not tolerate the expansion of the environmentally sustainable alternative to its product.
The truth is that biofuels remain the only viable, environmentally friendly alternative to oil. In fact, if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, let’s not demonize the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), America’s only real climate change policy. A recent study by Argonne National Laboratory found that corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 34 percent compared to gasoline.
Some argue that because biofuels incentivize farmers to plant corn, this increased corn production leads to decreased enrollment in conservation programs and the resulting environmental destruction. The truth of the matter is that two main factors drive the proliferation of corn acres: improved seed technology and climate change.
First, new technologies in the agriculture space are allowing farmers to produce corn where they were unable to only a few years ago. Hybrid seeds and drought-resistant traits have spread corn acreage into arid regions further west.
Second, climate change has pushed corn into the northern United States. Corn, a crop best suited to warmer climates, can now be planted in all the way up in Canada thanks to longer growing seasons and warmer average temperatures.
Critics love to beat up on biofuels for taking acres out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). What is not often mentioned is that Congress has continued to lower the total acreage cap for CRP, so by law fewer acres will be enrolled.
I am disappointed in those who spread misinformation about renewable fuels. Farmers, ranchers and the ethanol industry help clean up the environment and provide good-paying jobs in rural communities.