A Call To Action

The RFS is helping improve our environment by incentivizing the production of fuels that ensure a cleaner, greener future, writes Tom Buis of Growth Energy. He urges readers to ask elected officials to support the RFS.
By Tom Buis | April 13, 2015

Earth Day is a reminder that, now more than ever, we need to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, improve our environment and help clean the air for ourselves, our children and future generations. Planting a tree isn’t the only way to achieve those goals. Standing up and supporting the renewable fuel standard (RFS) will make a difference too.

The RFS is our nation’s most successful energy policy in the past 40 years. By using increasing amounts of biofuels under the RFS, GHG emissions will ultimately be reduced by 138 million metric tons, the equivalent of taking 27 million cars off the road. In 2013 alone, the 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol blended into gasoline in the United States helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 38 million metric tons, the equivalent of removing roughly 8 million cars from the road.

According to the Argonne National Laboratory, compared to gasoline, ethanol reduces GHG emissions by an average of 34 percent. Advanced biofuels have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 100 percent. Ethanol also reduces the need for aromatics—many of which are known to cause severe health problems—in motor fuel to improve their octane and performance. The American Lung Association has endorsed the RFS for these very reasons. 

Ethanol producers are constantly developing new and innovative ways to produce sustainable biofuels from farm waste and woody biomass, ushering in the next generation of renewable fuels that promise even greater reductions in GHG emissions. Meanwhile, the oil industry is polluting our air as well as our water and land with an endless barrage of spills.

In 2014, Big Oil was responsible for more than 3,500 oil spills, which averages to nearly 10 oil spills each day. Only a handful of those spills managed to grab the attention of the media, and none entered the national dialogue like BP’s 2010 Earth Day disaster—the 3.19 million barrel Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The impact of that spill is still being felt five years and billions of dollars later. In comparison, no beach has ever been closed due to an ethanol spill.

While Big Oil is becoming less environmentally friendly and more expensive, the ethanol industry is becoming dramatically more efficient, with less water and less energy being used to produce more ethanol from each bushel of corn. According to the Argonne National Laboratory, ethanol production only borrows 2.7 gallons of water for every gallon of ethanol, compared to 5.8 gallons of water in 1998. The majority of the water is returned to the atmosphere in the form of steam. Not only is the ethanol industry using less water than ever, it’s also using less energy to produce a gallon of ethanol, 23,862 Btu per gallon in 2012 versus 26,206 Btu per gallon in 2008. Additionally, the industry is now able to produce 2.82 gallons of ethanol from each bushel of corn, compared to 2.78 gallons in 2008.

Reach out to your elected officials and ask them to support these advancements by supporting the RFS, the only successful domestic energy policy that is reducing our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels, creating jobs right here in America and helping revitalize rural economies. The RFS is helping improve our environment by incentivizing the production of fuels that ensure a cleaner, greener future for us all. The biofuels industry has transformed the fuel market for the better and with next generation renewables right around the corner, the future is full of promise.
 

Author: Tom Buis
CEO, Growth Energy
202-545-4000
tbuis@growthenergy.org