Staff Editorials

Work to keep renewable fuel standards high

Sanjay Bhutiani photos #xac; DuPont on Friday marked the opening of its #225 million cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada.
Sanjay Bhutiani photos ¬ DuPont on Friday marked the opening of its #225 million cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada. When operating at full production next year, the plant will produce 30 million gallons of ethanol annually from corn stalks, leaves and cobs left in fields after the grain harvest. ¬

Kudos to the Environmental Protection Agency and Obama administration for increasing preliminary Renewable Fuel Standards, but the new standard still misses the mark.

Renewable Fuel Standards — how much biofuel will be produced and blended with traditional gasoline — were initially set by Congress in 2005 and expanded and updated as part of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. The 2007 requirements called for a total of 22.25 billion gallons of biofuels to be produced and distributed in 2016. Targets recently released by the EPA reduced that output to 18.11 billion gallons.

Congress had called for corn-based ethanol to make up 15 billion gallons of the total biofuel output in 2016. Yet the newly announced EPA requirements limit corn-based ethanol to only 14.5 billion gallons. The lower standard is bad for Iowa and for the environment.

Iowa’s cornfields provide one third of the nation’s ethanol. An estimated 47,000 of Iowa’s jobs are in the ethanol industry. Yet, economic self-preservation is only part of the reason we support biofuels, and the higher RFS standard.

In the 10 years that the RFS has been in existence, oil imports have been cut by one third — the equivalent of taking 8.4 million cars from the road. That is no small feat. Lessening our dependence on foreign oil moves the nation forward in the way Congress intended, and in a way we all can agree is needed.

No one would argue that corn-based ethanol is the perfect, permanent solution to energy independence, but the creation of a stable market for renewable fuels, including ethanol, is a critical bridge to the increasingly clean, sustainable energy solutions of the future.

The research and innovation happening now is due in large part to the government mandates that have been a part of the RFS. Guaranteed demand for biofuels calms the marketplace, enables necessary infrastructure and encourages investment and expansion.


The delays, uncertainty and target fluctuations that have plagued EPA’s oversight hinder this forward progress.

Farmers in Iowa and other grain-producing states, as well as investors in renewable energy, need clear and consistent standards.

We encourage federal lawmakers to push for the biofuel benchmarks they created. If the EPA is unwilling to keep on course, Congress needs to regain control of the wheel.

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