Iowa’s farmers have led the way in driving innovation and improving sustainability for generations. Just look at the evolution of corn production in Iowa and the growth of ethanol – an abundant, clean energy source that can be used to power America. Now, through new technology, the good stewardship of farmers, and efficiencies in the supply chain, the carbon intensity score of ethanol fell more than 45 points in just about 30 years. The result is an increasingly clean fuel source that reduces emissions, creates jobs, and bolsters our rural economy. 

This is a meaningful achievement and one that Iowa agriculture is already building upon to make biofuels a net-zero carbon emissions fuel source by the end of the decade. Reaching this goal will require new investments, including at the federal level, particularly in carbon capture research and programs. 

Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is a proven way to reduce carbon emissions. CCS involves trapping the carbon dioxide byproduct emitted from industrial operations such as ethanol production. Then, this trapped carbon dioxide is transported and replaced deep underground for storage, inhibiting these emissions from ever entering our atmosphere. CCS is a tried-and-true way to reduce the carbon footprint of ethanol, which is already an extremely carbon-efficient fuel production process, and there is broad support for incentivizing and increasing this practice.

In recent years, new proposals to incentivize carbon capture through means like carbon credits or low carbon fuel standards have gained traction. Carbon capture is growing in popularity and creating enhanced market opportunity for ethanol and other clean energy producers. 

We need to maximize the opportunities presented by CCS projects to reduce emissions, create jobs, and unlock economic opportunities for Iowa’s farmers and rural communities. Targeted investments in these initiatives will enable Iowa businesses to access key markets that pay premiums for sustainable fuels to adhere to state and local fuel standards. Iowa’s potential in this sector is unmatched; with the right resources, we can meet the growing nationwide demand for a more carbon-responsible economy. 

Breaking into these emerging markets would be tremendous for the ethanol industry. In addition to supporting 360,000 jobs nationally and contributing $45 billion to our annual Gross Domestic Product, the ethanol industry currently purchases more than half of all the corn grown in the state of Iowa. As farmers across our region and state have been harvesting in recent weeks, 53% of the corn they grow will be purchased by a local ethanol plant and blended into transportation fuel for vehicles across the country.

Ethanol helps the country meet its environmental goals while also bolstering American jobs in the heartland. It’s vital we maintain this connection by urging the EPA to uphold a strong RFS and promoting policies that increase access to higher blends of ethanol. The continued strength of the ethanol industry is critical to the continued success of Iowa’s corn producers and Iowa’s agriculture-based economy. It is vital that we continue to urge Congressional leadership and the Biden Administration to prioritize policies that will incentivize involvement in the industry, as well as a robust market for this clean and domestic energy alternative. 

Iowa farmers work day-in and day-out to meet our present and future food, fiber, and fuel demands with our nations’ finite resources. To support these efforts, create good-paying jobs, and help our environment, we must promote carbon capture and storage projects. 

Congresswoman Ashley Hinson represents Northeast Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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