It's crucial for leaders in farm states like Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska to lead the fight against an Environmental Protection Agency plan to lower Renewable Fuel Standard requirements beginning next year.
Created in 2005, the federal RFS requires transportation fuel sold in the U.S. be blended with a minimum volume of renewable fuels, such as corn-based ethanol. Under a proposal announced earlier this month, the EPA would reduce the requirement for 2014 by three billion gallons.
Clearly, this plan would hurt agriculture states. Iowa, for example, is the number-one producer of ethanol in America. The industry supports some 55,000 jobs in the state and accounts for $5.4 billion of Iowa’s GDP, according to the Iowa Corn Promotion Board and the Iowa Corn Growers Association.
Ethanol is good for America, too. In addition to creating jobs and economic activity (in 2012, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, the production of 13.3 billion gallons of ethanol directly employed 87,292 Americans, indirectly employed an additional 295,969 Americans and contributed $43.4 billion to the national GDP), clean-burning ethanol is helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil.
But we're preaching to the choir. In the heartland, we understand and appreciate the value and importance of renewable fuels, including ethanol.
This battle will be waged in Washington, largely against the lobbying efforts of the oil industry.
As we have said before, if the federal government wishes to reduce or end support for renewable fuels like ethanol, then it should end all forms of support, like tax writeoffs, for all energy producers, including oil.
Since the percentage-depletion allowance was created in 1913, the oil industry has enjoyed a wealth of tax breaks. Today, those tax writeoffs amount to billions of dollars each year. This at a time of record profits for the five largest oil companies.
What we fear is happening to the RFS is this: Influential oil interests possessed of power through lobbying and campaign contributions are dictating the rules of the game.
For the good not simply of states like Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, but America as a whole, we do not wish to see RFS requirements reduced and believe biofuels should remain a key component in national energy policy. In the name of achieving energy independence for the country, we in principle are comfortable with the idea of federal support for energy - all of energy.
We encourage state and federal leaders in our three states to continue pushing back against the EPA proposal in aggressive fashion.
We like, for example, the stand taken by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad last week when, in staunchly opposing the EPA proposal, said presidential candidates who visit Iowa in advance of the 2016 first-in-the-nation caucuses should get behind biofuels.
“I think that anybody who aspires to be president of the United States also should make a commitment to continuing … the reduction of our dependency on foreign oil and our commitment to having more and more of our energy coming from renewable sources like ethanol and biodiesel," Branstad said.
Regardless of political party or philosophical differences on other issues, leaders in states like Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska must stake out common ground together in spirited opposition to the EPA proposal on the RFS and work to reverse what is a misguided plan.