Biofuels, an Available Solution

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Much of what needs to be done to clean up our air can be done right now with biofuels, without any future technological development. We can clean our air today without jeopardizing our future in any way.

Consider this: While biofuels have been publically chastised, rural America has quietly risen to every occasion to support and benefit numerous public policies, such as energy diversity, public health protection, and sustainable agriculture. While it benefited from a lower tax rate in ethanol’s early years, it no longer receives a direct financial subsidy despite competing with the heavily subsidized oil industry. Biofuels have provided a great return on investment for the American taxpayer/consumer.[1]

One gallon of ethanol can replace up to two gallons of aromatics, which are the most carbon intensive and toxic of the 450+ chemicals in gasoline. Adding ethanol to gasoline allows refiners to reduce toxic/carcinogenic aromatics additives, which means a reduction in mobile source air toxics (MSATs) and ultrafine particles that create dangerous pollution and negative health effects. In addition, ethanol continues to improve its carbon footprint. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), by 2022 ethanol’s greenhouse gas profile is expected to be almost 50 percent lower than gasoline due to improvements in corn yields and transportation efficiency, further improving air quality.[2]

Between 2008 and 2014, U.S. gasoline prices remained well above the $3 per gallon mark. Without ethanol’s contribution to the finished gasoline pool, Merrill Lynch estimated gasoline prices could have been 50¢ per gallon higher.[3] The Department of Energy concluded that ethanol also reduces crude oil demand which makes crude oil cheaper for the whole world. Therefore, ethanol makes all products cheaper, including food.[4]

The demand for industrial corn, 95 percent of which is not used for human consumption, has created a new era of sustainable agriculture. Many economists point out that without the demand for biofuels from corn there would be less incentive to farm and fewer farmers.[5] Before biofuels, corn farmers were paid a subsidy for their corn because there was no market for all the corn produced. Biofuels have significantly reduced the need for farm subsidies today.

When ethanol is added to gasoline, it increases the octane. This helps cars burn gasoline more efficiently and with fewer emissions. Ethanol’s high octane will allow automakers to make gains in engine efficiency while reducing carbon intensity without additional manufacturing costs.[6] Right now, almost all gasoline contains 10 percent ethanol. New gasoline pumps can dispense up to 25 percent ethanol at no extra cost to the retailer or consumer.Urban-air-initiative-fix-our-fuel-social-graphic6

Today’s U.S. ethanol industry creates economic growth. It has already created more direct jobs than Exxon Mobile has employees and more indirect jobs than the top 10 U.S. oil companies have in total employees. Any movement toward clean air through biofuel expansion also helps government stimulate private-sector jobs without subsidizing them. Biofuels support the U.S. Department of Agriculture in meeting its sustainable agriculture and rural economic development objectives.[7]

Biofuels have a direct benefit to the consumer because gasoline blenders/retailers purchase ethanol for about 50¢ less than a gallon of gasoline and these savings are seen by the consumer at the pump. Biofuel producers in the United States spend $25 billion annually on production inputs — including $1 billion in labor (339,175 jobs). This generates $24 billion in economic activity.[8]

We can have more jobs, better fuel, better vehicles, cleaner air, and better health…today.

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Footnotes:

[1] Growth Energy, FAQ, Does ethanol receive federal government subsidies?
https://growthenergy.org/faq/ethanol-receive-federal-government-subsidies/

[2] U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA Releases New Report on Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Balance of Ethanol, January 12, 2017
https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2017/01/12/usda-releases-new-report-lifecycle-greenhouse-gas-balance-ethanol

[3] Southwest FarmPress, Ethanol helps keep gas prices down, April 14, 2011
https://www.southwestfarmpress.com/grains/ethanol-helps-keep-gas-prices-down

[4] U.S. Department of Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, Ethanol Benefits and Considerations
https://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/ethanol_benefits.html

[5] Governing the States and Localities, Ethanol’s Crucial Role in Protecting the Farm Economy from China, July 3, 2018
http://www.governing.com/gov-institute/voices/col-trump-china-ethanol-crucial-role-protecting-farm-economy.html

[6] The Detroit News, Automakers push Congress for higher fuel standards, April 16, 2018
https://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/2018/04/16/automakers-push-congress-higher-fuel-standards/33902227/

[7] Renewable Fuels Association, Analysis Finds U.S. Ethanol Industry Making ‘Significant Contribution to the Economy,’ February 14, 2018 https://ethanolrfa.org/2018/02/analysis-finds-u-s-ethanol-industry-making-significant-contribution-economy/

[8] Agriculture and Biofuels Consulting, LLP, Contribution of the Ethanol Industry to the Economy of the United States in 2017, February 12, 2018
https://ethanolrfa.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/RFA-2017-Ethanol-Economic-Impact-01_28_17_Final.pdf