Pounding the Table

By Ron Lamberty | September 23, 2013

An old lawyer’s adage says: “If you have the facts, pound the facts. If you have the law, pound the law. If you don’t have either, pound the table.”

The people who want ethanol to go away can’t pound the facts, because they know that the facts are against them. They have tried to pound the law—all the way up to the Supreme Court—and were told to pound sand. They didn’t even have a right to bring a lawsuit, much less win one.

But Big Oil and its apologists in the media and Congress have had great success this year with their version of pounding the table, which is why you can expect that pounding to get louder and louder. Eventually, the “facts” they’ve made up out of whole cloth—like their renewable identification number distortion and the phonied-up Big Oil E15 studies—will give way to real facts that favor ethanol. And at some point, Congress will realize that the law that includes the renewable fuel standard (RFS) was written to give us more energy choices, not just to tide us over until more oil is discovered. 

A recent USA Today editorial contained a good collection of the current fraudulent case being made against ethanol. It was featured in the opinion section, probably because it would have no place in a fact section.

In addition to repeating some of the food vs. fuel charges that have been disproven multiple times, the article mentioned farmers planting corn on farm land “roughly the size of Kentucky” this year. Set aside the duplicity of complaining about lack of corn one year and then too much corn the following year. If that statement were true (it’s not), that amount of land would provide enough corn to make 18 billion gallons of ethanol and over 2 billion bushels of feed for livestock. But why no mention that fuel is needed to keep cars traveling on a Kentucky-and-a-half of U. S. highways? Why no concern about oil companies drilling for oil on four Kentuckys worth of U.S. land, and another Kentucky out in the ocean?

The article cited reduced fuel use as another RFS problem, saying it was “driven largely by a new generation of fuel-efficient cars.”  Wrong again. The new generation of fuel-efficient cars won’t hit the road in any significant numbers until 2016. The decline in gasoline consumption closely matches an overall decrease in total miles driven and that can be traced directly to high gas prices. Those gas prices are higher because, although Big Oil cites increased production as proof they don’t need the RFS, oil companies seem to only be finding oil that makes gas that costs more than double what it cost few years ago. Isn’t that precisely why we need alternatives to oil?

Which is maybe the most maddening part of the current anti-RFS rhetoric. The editorial says the only way for oil companies to meet the RFS “is to blend more into each gallon of gas,” as if that were some sort of revelation. It’s not. It’s the reason the Energy Independence and Security Act was passed in the first place. You don’t break an addiction to oil by switching to a different brand of gasoline, you beat it by providing choices that aren’t oil and using more of that. Whether it’s electricity, ethanol, or hydrogen, unless we have more options, we’re going to continue paying more and more for oil every year, until there’s no more oil.

If you’re Big Oil, that’s worth pounding the table for, regardless of the cost.

Author: Ron Lamberty
Senior Vice President
American Coalition for Ethanol