What was the second biggest policy story of the year in eyes of the petroleum industry? According to a recent membership survey by the American Petroleum Institute reconsidering biofuel (ethanol) blending. What was the second biggest transportation, storage and refining story of the year? The battle over biofuels blending. And what was listed 2nd on oil’s list of things they most want to see happen in 2014? Yep, reduction in EPA blending requirements.
Most of the public are too focused on their jobs, raising families and just paying the bills to have a deep understanding of the growing role of biofuels and renewable ethanol in our nation. However, years of education by supporters of the domestic fuel have generated a basic awareness of ethanol’s benefits such as job creation, reducing greenhouse gas, and providing a fuel choice that makes us less reliant on imported petroleum.
Because of this hard fought and well deserved perception that ethanol is good, many of my friends have been asking me lately what the heck is going on with the rash of negative information related to ethanol. How did proven ethanol suddenly become a bad idea over night? Most recently, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol to be blended in our fuel supply has been getting a lot of media attention.
Put simply, the oil industry has always been ok with ethanol as long as the market share didn’t get too large. In fact they need a certain amount of ethanol because it allows them to provide a high octane product at less cost…meaning more margin for them. Without ethanol they would be forced to do more extensive and costly refining in order to produce a product that won’t leave your car sputtering curbside.
But in today’s market things have changed. Increasing domestic oil production, more fuel efficient vehicles and a soft economy have shrunk the volume of fuel needed. Thus big oil finds themselves looking at the bigger market slice on ethanol’s plate and thinks “hey we want some of that back.”
The unspoken part of the previous statement is “and yes we will pay nicely to get it.” And they have done so in recent years. Their most recent onslaught has been sustained by millions of dollars of lobbying, advertising and poor pseudo-journalism.
You might be inclined to think the family farmers and independent businessmen that make up the ethanol industry are just paranoid but given the aforementioned high priority petroleum has placed on this issue, “it ain’t paranoia if they’re really out to get ya.”
Ethanol isn’t poison and gasoline is. There….I have said it. It boggles my mind how much of the public buys into the oil industry propaganda related to ethanol, most notably some of the environmental community. Why someone who considers themselves an environmentalist would listen to big oil on energy topics and what is best for consumers leaves me perplexed. Even on a good day when gasoline isn’t $3 to $4 a gallon, it remains a really bad idea when it comes to our health and the environment.
Ethanol is ethanol. There are no additives and it is the same product chemically that some drink in the form of martinis and other cocktails. Drink ethanol and you just think you are better looking and funnier. Drink gasoline and you get dead. Gasoline has terrible environmental risk and repercussions and they are getting worse as we find new ways to dig, steam, and frack to get it out of the ground and the ocean bottom.
However, that is just the beginning of making commercial gasoline. Gasoline starts out as poison and it only gets better as dozens of chemicals can get mixed into the product. They get mixed in to make gas burn better during different seasons, to add octane, and even as a way for the oil industry to charge you for some byproducts of gasoline manufacturing that they otherwise would have to dispose of as toxic waste.
To this day one of my favorite news cartoons of all time showed the Exxon Valdez oil spill with petroleum covered wildlife effected by the disaster. The next panel showed an ethanol spill and featured google-eyed sea otters, dolphin and fish who apparently had been to happy hour.
I am a typical blogger. I have lots of opinions and I like words. But in this case I think I will show good judgement and just shut up and let the accompanying image tell the rest of the story. Take my word for it that many of these chemicals are even worse for your personal health and our future than they sound.
The newly confirmed head of the Environmental Protection Agency visited the Iowa State Fair last week, where she spoke about her goal of building a better relationship with farmers.
“My commitment to you is that at the end of my term, we will have a stronger, more productive, more trusting relationship between EPA and the agriculture community,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy during her brief remarks.
In an interview with USDA Radio from Iowa, McCarthy also had some encouraging words about renewable fuels. “We’re at a pretty exciting time,” she said. “We are seeing a lot of activity, especially here in Iowa where they have advanced ethanol plants. We’re working closely with the farming community and we’re looking at new feedstocks all the time, new ways of producing biofuels.”
In addition, McCarthy offered her views in support of the RFS. “We see that the Renewable Fuel Standard is operating effectively, that the law gives us plenty of tools and flexibility that we can move this forward,” she said.
McCarthy was just confirmed as the administrator of EPA last month. Listen to her comments about farmers, working with USDA, and renewable fuels here: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
It may be trite to define a commonly used term as a lead in to a larger story, but it seems a Texas lawmaker has completely forgotten what the word “renewable” means.
U.S. Representative Pete Oleson (R-TX) wants to rewrite what qualifies as a biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard to include ethanol made from natural gas. Maybe Rep. Oleson was confused by the word natural or maybe his support for the state’s oil industry blinds him, but natural gas, a coproduct formed with petroleum, does not qualify because, intrinsically, it is not renewable.
Congress created the RFS to reduce our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. While they certainly did so to cut pollution, they also wanted to shift our nation’s energy future away from an addiction to a finite resource. As an oil coproduct, natural gas also qualifies as a fossil fuel. The supply of natural gas however, while more abundant than the oil supply, still is finite.
The oil industry’s stranglehold on America’s energy supply should not be tightened by redefining the word renewable. It shouldn’t be tightened at all.
Common sense prevailed when lawmakers crafted the RFS. They had the foresight and wherewithal to create a way to break free from fossil fuels. They created a way to build the greener, more sustainable energy future that renewable biofuels can provide. Today’s lawmakers should exercise the same integrity and deny big oil a backdoor win.
Redefining renewable biofuels will not magically make oil wells that never run dry. A renewable future needs a renewable feedstock. It needs corn.
In recent conversations about the environment, some fingers have been pointed toward corn farmers. The finger pointers wrongly allege that growing corn emits massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
If you want to see an enviro-villain responsible for a far greater percentage of our nation’s CO2 emissions, just look out your front door.
Residential lawns actually emit more CO2 than corn fields according to a study recently published in the Soil Science Society of America Journal. As more exurbs push city boundaries further and residential developments move land out of agricultural production, the effect can even intensify according to David Bowne, an assistant professor of biology at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania who led the study.
Everyone needs a place to call home. Everyone needs nutritious, healthy foods. Instead of pointing a finger at a farmer because, as such a small subset of the population, very few outside of agriculture personally know about and have experienced our nation’s incredible farming and ranching tradition.
Farmers work hard to act as good stewards of the land, air and water upon which they depend for their livelihood. The original environmentalists, farmers want to work with their counterparts from all parts of the country to ensure that their children will be able to continue farming the land that their grandparents once did.
All fruitful efforts start when we extend an open hand instead of wagging a finger. So take a moment to look at the facts. We have all contributed to the problem. Now, we all must be part of the solution.
The incredible reliability and performance of ethanol has been proven once again. As part of its NASCAR Green ™ campaign, NASCAR™ announced that its drivers have now logged so many miles using Sunoco GreenE15™ that it would be the equivalent of driving around the world 160 times.
While NASCAR adopted the 15 percent ethanol blend as the official fuel of every car in every race because it decreases harmful greenhouse gas emissions, American Ethanol has demonstrated that it can perform. After more than two years and 160 trips around the world, the world’s best drivers and their pit crews rely on E15 for the horsepower they need and the continual performance their sport demands.
Learn more about what NASCAR and its partners, including American Ethanol, are doing to make a greener tomorrow by clicking here.
This might not be the most politically correct message for Earth Day week, but it’s true.
I’m sure you’ve seen email signatures saying something to the effect of “Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail!” Today I got one with a very different message:
Notice: It’s OK to print this e-mail.
Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees and corn starch. Growing and harvesting trees and corn provides jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest and agricultural management, we have more trees and corn in America today than we had 100 years ago.
To give credit where credit is due, the signature came from an employee of GROWMARK, Inc. I plan to add it to my email signatures in the future.
In honor of Earth Day, NASCAR rolled out a new TV spot Sunday designed to show how they are being eco-friendly – and ethanol is front and center.
The NASCAR RACE TO GREEN™ spot features Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle, currently ranked third in the Nascar Sprint Cup standings.
“So, wanna be eco-friendly?” the announcer asks Biffle, who answers “Of course.”
ANNCR: “Ok, got corn?”
BIFFLE: “We got that.”
ANNCR: “Got some of it blended into fuel?”
BIFFLE: “Got it.”
ANNCR: “Got a car to use that fuel?”
BIFFLE: “Sure do.”
Watch it here:
The NASCAR campaign also features a tree-planting initiative, and American Ethanol is part of that effort, pledging to plant a tree for every mile raced in April. With almost 4,000 miles fuels by Sunoco Green E15 over the month, the 4,000 trees planted will be enough to offset the carbon emissions of all the miles driven on American-made ethanol in practices and qualifying laps.
“American Ethanol shares the commitment of NASCAR to operate sustainably and do our part to protect and preserve the environment,” said National Corn Growers Association board member Jon Holzfaster of Nebraska. “Farmers manage their farms every day with the tandem goals of making a profit but doing it in a way that is better for the environment. So we are proud to expand our commitment to NASCAR Green.”
And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer. Paul Harvey, 1978
Thanks to the Dodge Ram Super Bowl commercial this year, millions and millions of people now know the words to radio icon Paul Harvey’s beautiful ode to farmers and ranchers. Since today is Earth Day, it’s a good time to remind those who seem to want to blame farmers for ruining the paradise God created that, in fact, farmers were the original environmentalists. Paul Harvey’s words really get to the very heart and soul of how seriously farmers and ranchers take their responsibility as caretakers of the earth and all that dwells upon it. Here’s just a few lines:
“I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark.
It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church.”
For many farmers and ranchers, the federal agency that best exemplifies the cynical phrase “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” is the Environmental Protection Agency.
During a Senate confirmation committee hearing last week, President Obama’s nominee for EPA Administrator admitted that the relationship between the agency and those working in agriculture could be improved.
“I think the agency has bridges to build with the agriculture community,” said nominee Gina McCarthy in response to questioning by Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska about one particular rule that requires farmers to have an oil spill prevention plan in place to protect against water contamination. McCarthy said she looks forward to addressing the issue with Sen. Fisher and others because “I know just how hard the farming community protects their resources and I want to make sure that we have an opportunity to change the relationship between that community and the EPA.”
This week, EPA’s new senior Agricultural Counselor held a conference call with agriculture media to discuss how that might happen. Sarah Bittleman, who previously served as USDA’s Senior Advisor on energy policy, says she knows that there is a lack of trust in the agency on the part of farmers and ranchers.
“My job is to restore some of that trust,” she said, noting that it might be improved by working more closely with USDA, conservation districts and state departments of agriculture that have a better relationship with producers. “By partnering with these other folks who work so closely with agriculture, we can little by little grow a base of increased and better trust relationships,” Bittleman added.
Bittleman says her goal as EPA advisor is to serve rural America.