The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 29, 2013

Ethanol offers choice, lower gas prices

By Harold Wolle
The Mankato Free Press

---- — By Harold Wolle

If given the choice, would you rather have your fuel come from the Alberta Tar Sands, a Middle Eastern country that doesn’t like the U.S. or a Minnesota corn field?

I understand that not everyone is going to choose a Minnesota corn field like I would. But without the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a Minnesota corn field might not even be an option.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed slashing the RFS — legislation that sets targets for how much ethanol we blend in our gasoline — by more than 1 billion gallons in 2014. The EPA is proposing this despite the fact that the RFS has given consumers choices at the pump, while lowering gas prices, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and boosting the rural economy.

In other words, the EPA is trying to fix something that is anything but broken.

A cut to the RFS would allow the oil industry to limit consumer choice and strengthen its monopoly on the transportation fuels market. This would hurt all Americans. It would also be a giant step forward in the oil industry’s ultimate goal: Complete repeal of the RFS and total control over consumers’ pocket books when they pull up to fuel their cars.

According to a recent study from Iowa State University, ethanol saves Americans as much as $1.37 per gallon every time they fill up. Foreign oil imports are also down 20 percent since the RFS was finalized in 2007 and greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 33.4 million tons in 2012 thanks to ethanol.

Only in Washington D.C. would they attempt to scale back a piece of legislation that is working so well.

In 2001, a barrel of oil cost $23. Today, oil is around $100 per barrel — a 335 percent increase despite the fact that gasoline demand is down and we’re drilling for more oil domestically in places like North Dakota.

America simply cannot afford to rely so heavily on oil that is expensive and unsustainable.

Here in Minnesota, we have no fossil fuel sources of our own. All of our gasoline is imported and the majority comes from the Alberta Tar Sands. Producing a barrel of oil from the Tar Sands releases three times the amount of greenhouse gas compared to a traditional barrel.

And let’s not forget about the RFS’s impact on the rural economy. According to the latest figures from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, ethanol is responsible for $5 billion in total economic development and over 12,000 jobs in Minnesota, most of them in rural areas.

By proposing to slash the RFS, the EPA is saying that America is no longer committed to developing a viable alternative to foreign oil. That’s welcome news to the oil industry and their corporate allies. It’s bad news for the rest of us.

As a 5th generation family corn farmer in St. James, I’m proud to grow the food, fiber and fuel that helps meet the needs of a growing world population. Renewable fuels detractors will tell you that farmers cannot grow all three, but they are wrong.

For every 56-pound bushel of corn that is converted to ethanol, 17 pounds — about one-third — is returned as a high-protein livestock feed. We grow enough corn –— American farmers are currently harvesting a record crop projected at 14 billion bushels — to feed the world and fuel our cars.

Americans have been demanding choices at the pump and the RFS was giving it to them. Now is not the time to cave into oil industry demands and cut the RFS.

Having choices at the pump isn’t just good for corn farmers, it’s good for all of us.

Harold Wolle is a corn and soybean farmer in St. James