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Jerke: Despite Big Oil’s efforts, biofuels are moving U.S. forward

JANESVILLE, Minn. -- American-made ethanol is a clean-burning, environmentally friendly biofuel that represents an exciting step forward from dirty, foreign-sourced oil, yet an op-ed (“Renewable Fuel Standard continues to devastate”, March 10) being circulated in papers around the country paints a very different picture while relying on dubious arguments unsupported by basic logic or current data.

Interestingly, the author of that op-ed, George David Banks, is executive vice president of The American Council for Capital Formation, a group with deep ties to the oil industry that has a clear financial interest in keeping Americans hooked on oil.

Mr. Banks is spreading his dishonest scare tactics by submitting identical opinion pieces in dozens of newspapers all over the country without disclosing his ties to Big Oil lobbyists. This isn’t new for Banks. As a Senate staffer, National Journal once reported he was caught on email encouraging oil industry lobbyists to better coordinate their efforts to protect their tax exemptions that cost the American public $9.5 billion annually. It’s clear that Mr. Banks is a creature of Washington, D.C., who has little idea or concern for policies that actually improve the lives of Americans.

So one must ask, why do oil companies feel the need to hide behind front groups with non-descript names run by D.C. insiders while spending millions of dollars attacking modern biofuels that offer clear environmental, economic and performance advantages? The only logical conclusion is that the oil industry wants to limit consumer choice at the pump to maintain their near monopoly on the American energy market.

In 2005, there was bipartisan agreement in Congress on the need to increase our use of biofuels, so Republicans and Democrats worked together to pass the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to take advantage of the environmental gains made possible through biofuels. And the RFS has been a resounding success.

As Janet McCabe, an official with the Environmental Protection Agency said last fall, “the biofuel industry is an incredible American success story, and the RFS program has been an important driver of that success — cutting carbon pollution, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and sparking rural economic development.”

As CEO of Guardian Energy, I am proud of the products we produce and honored to tout the tremendous benefits ethanol and other biofuels have to offer American drivers. Biofuels significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to regular gasoline, some by more than 100 percent, in fact. Ethanol in particular replaces dangerous additives in gasoline that have been linked to higher cancer rates. Thanks to the RFS, that means the air we breathe today is appreciably cleaner.

Ethanol is made right here in America and is already in 97 percent of the fuel we use. In all likelihood, the gasoline you use in your car is blended with 10 percent ethanol. In 2015 alone, the RFS was responsible for a 527-million-barrel reduction in foreign oil imports. By relying less on foreign oil, we also lower the price of gasoline. Studies have shown that ethanol usage decreased the cost at the pump by as much as $1.50 a gallon during gas price spikes in recent years. And since it is American made, we are less vulnerable to the whims of foreign regimes that try to fix the price of oil to their benefit.

The RFS and biofuels are moving America forward in discernable ways. Now is not the time to roll back the clock and increase our reliance on foreign sources of oil that have higher costs — both financially and environmentally.

The RFS is a rare instance of Democrats and Republicans working together to advance solutions that benefit all Americans. By setting clear, laudatory goals for the use of biofuels, the RFS ensures we all enjoy a greener tomorrow. From cleaner air to more affordable fuel, the benefits of this program are enjoyed by all of us every single day.

Mike Jerke is CEO of Guardian Energy LLC, a cooperative effort of six Midwest farmer-owned ethanol plants based in Janesville, Minn.

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