The renewable fuel sector, including biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel, support more than 850,000 jobs across the country, producing $184.5 billion in economic output for our families and communities. As a result of biofuel refining and the research and development that goes along with it, rural communities – including many in Illinois and South Dakota – have seen more good-paying jobs come to town and greater economic activity. This thriving homegrown energy industry is powering local businesses, supporting our friends and neighbors, and creating a fluster of activity in rural America. Moreover, it opens yet another marketplace for our corn and soybean producers.
Of course, the increased levels of biofuel production benefit more than the communities in which they are refined and produced. Today, American-produced ethanol makes up about 10 percent of our fuel supply and acts as the only viable alternative to gasoline available that can provide true competition. That means lower prices for all of us at the pump.
Moreover, increasing the availability of “Made in America” biofuels plays a critical role in improving our national security. Without North American energy independence, countries like Iran, Russia, and Venezuela can manipulate the marketplace, using energy as a political weapon against us and our allies. Meanwhile, many believe some of the beneficiaries of our Middle East oil purchases could be using revenues to fund terrorist activities and organizations. Our national security depends on our energy security.
Last year, we sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding a new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule. This rule tells refineries how many gallons of renewable fuels ought to be blended into our fuel supply, giving both farmers and consumers more certainty and perhaps greater price stability. Our concern when writing the letter was that the EPA was planning to roll back our commitment to greater energy independence and close the door on increased renewable fuel production. Since then, the EPA has continued dragging its feet on the rule, creating long-term uncertainty for consumers and producers. We can only hope that the delay means our concerns – and those of our constituents – have been taken seriously and will be addressed.
We must maintain a strong Renewable Fuel Standard that sends a clear message: The United States is committed to decreasing our reliance on foreign oil and achieving North American energy independence.
Now is not the time to reverse course on an energy policy that has been, and will continue to be, successful. Biofuels enable us to take control of our energy future, bolster national security and support hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country in the process. That’s good for Illinois. It’s good for South Dakota. And it’s good for our nation.