A recent column in The Lima News by an oil-funded professor made numerous claims that paint our country’s biofuels policy as outdated and unneeded.
The truth is the Renewable Fuel Standard was passed into law to solidify America’s leadership in clean fuel technology and gain energy independence from foreign oil. These are admirable goals that are still relevant years later.
Current RFS law allows the EPA to issue waivers to small refiners who produce less than 75,000 barrels of fuel per day and who have a proven economic hardship resulting from blending that year. Small refiners have used this policy to maintain an outdated business model — making no effort to move towards compliance with the law and the requirement to blend biofuels. Large refiners have found ways to skirt the law; some of the largest, wealthiest oil companies in the world have been issued waivers from the current EPA.
The impact of these illegal acts is devastation across Ohio. During a year of complicated trade negotiations, reduced export opportunities, terrible weather conditions, and increasing numbers of unplantable acres, we would not expect the government to pile on hardship for farm families and biofuels workers. But that’s just what they did. By issuing unprecedented numbers of small refinery waivers, the EPA has slashed corn demand by 1.4 billion bushels and domestic ethanol demand by 4 billion gallons. Because of these waivers, domestic ethanol consumption in 2018 dropped for the first time in over 20 years.
The result is pain for farmers and biofuels workers alike. In Ohio the biofuels industry usually buys 233 million bushels of Ohio corn each year and creates and supports more than 17,697 jobs, which supports more than 5,300 farming families.
But now things are different. Millions of dollars that normally flow to Lima-area farmers have dried up this year. Farm income is down and has been trending down for the last five years, while farm debt is way up. This year, farm debt is forecast to increase $15.9 billion. The American Farm Bureau estimates Midwestern farm bankruptcies were up 19% from 2017-2018, the highest level in 10 years. Biofuel prices are falling, production is dropping, and plants are idling. Just a couple weeks ago, Three Rivers Energy in Coshocton announced it was temporarily shutting down.
The EPA is not only hurting farmers and the rural economy. The impact of their attack on industry is far-reaching; the benefits of ethanol are widespread. Ethanol is clean-burning, earth friendly, and helps us breathe easier.
USDA research shows that using ethanol cuts carbon emissions by an average of 39%. Ethanol production and use is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 110 million metric tons every year, the same as taking almost 20 million cars off the road. Ethanol displaces cancer-causing chemicals and toxic alternatives in fuel, which have been proven to cause cancer, asthma, and smog.
The benefits for Ohio’s rural economy, for our future generations, and for America as a whole are clear. Any effort to block the RFS and its critical impacts are purely efforts to boost Big Oil profits over the health and wellbeing of Ohio and our country.
Ken Micelli, of Leipsic, is secretary of the Ohio Ethanol Producers Association and general manager at POET Biorefining in Leipsic.