Making Your Vote Count

By Bob Dinneen | September 23, 2010
If the polls are right, this November could see a tidal wave election that would swing control of Congress back to Republicans. Then again, these polls change almost daily. But what does remain the same in poll after poll is the concern most Americans have about the direction the country is going. Right or wrong, a majority of Americans are worried about their future, with much of this fretting caused by concerns over economic issuesalways the top tier issue in polls.

Other issues, however, also register on these polls. Concerns over national security, our oil addiction and the environment routinely show up as issues of importance to many voters. Not coincidentally, all are key issues that form the foundation for the continued efforts to expand America's renewable fuels industry.

Let's break them down.

Renewable fuels, and especially ethanol, are an enormous source of economic activity and opportunity in thousands of communities across the nation. American ethanol production alone is helping to support 400,000 jobs and providing billions of dollars of economic activity and new tax revenue. Many of the jobs directly associated with ethanol production are well-paying and provide employees with important benefits such as health insurance for their families and a sound retirement savings program.

Simultaneously, using domestically produced renewable fuels reduces our trade deficits with oil-rich nations, far too many of which harbor hostile intentions toward the U.S. Using more than 10.5 billion gallons of ethanol last year alone reduced oil imports by 364 million barrels, enough savings to stop imports from Venezuela for 10 months. Displacing these oil barrels also helped improve our trade balance, saving more than $16 billion.

Likewise, reducing the amount of money we spend on oil from hostile nations improves our national security. We spend $1 billion a day importing oil, with too high a percentage of that money going to nations that have interests contrary to ours. Too often, those dollars find their way to groups seeking to do Americans harm.

On the environmental front, ethanol is unparalleled in its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. Compared to gasoline, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 60 percent. In 2009, these savings were the equivalent of removing 2.7 million cars from American roads. As new technologies are developed, these benefits will only grow.

With ethanol the only widely available and viable alternative to gasoline, policy decisions on the future of the nation's renewable fuels are important. I am not one to advocate voting on a single issue, but as you weigh which candidates for federal, state and local office you will support, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
>Does this person share our industry's vision for America's energy future?
>Is the candidate willing to have open and honest discussions about American energy policy, including petroleum and other fossil fuels, in full context?
>Does this candidate demonstrate the necessary fortitude to reject misinformation, fairly evaluate the facts, and make informed rather than politically expedient decisions?

In Washington, people are fond of saying that elections have consequences. This is especially true against the current backdrop of Washington gridlock and voter anger. The votes that you cast have the potential to shape the future of American ethanol and energy policy for years to come.

As always, I trust the men and women who make up and support America's ethanol industry to make sound decisions and vote for candidates who reflect their views. That is what gives me confidence that issues from tax incentives to ethanol blending will be resolved in a manner that benefits the greatest number of people.
Happy voting!

Bob Dinneen is president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association. Reach him at (202) 289-3835.