Grain News


RFA President Dineen Says America's Energy Future at Crossroads

Date Posted: October 16, 2007

Washington, DC--Serving as the chairman of the “Cellulosic Ethanol Summit” being held Oct. 16 and 17 in Washington, DC, Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen issued the following statement:

“Ethanol, and America’s energy future, is at a crossroads.

"Either we will continue on a path toward greater energy diversity and security by expanding the current Renewable Fuel Standard to motivate investment in new cellulosic ethanol technologies, or we will succumb to the nattering nabobs of negativity who are seizing upon every unfounded fear to thwart the worldwide movement toward biofuels, leaving us evermore dependent upon petroleum and its environmental and economic consequences.

“Some here might think the choice is obvious.

"It is not.

"Well-funded opponents are engaged in a coordinated effort to protect the status quo.

“Some might think this is just about food vs. fuel, and the wildly exaggerated claims that grain-derived ethanol is driving up consumer food prices.

"It is not.

"There are groups amassing to slow the drive toward cellulose as well, full of misinformation and distortions about land use, deforestation, water use and infrastructure costs of cellulosic ethanol.

“The insidious campaign being waged today has very little to do with the feedstock for ethanol, and a great deal to do with the loss of petroleum market share that will occur if we are successful.

"To our opponents, there is no good ethanol or bad ethanol; there is only ethanol, and it’s all bad.

"Within the ethanol industry, we must not draw meaningless distinctions between feedstocks either; we must propagate the message that all ethanol is good; it’s all better than petroleum.

“We have seen this kind of coordinated offensive of mistruths before. Indeed, many of the same groups fighting biofuels today are among those who just a few years ago sought to discredit scientists focusing the world’s attention on the growing crisis of global climate change.

"Today, the Nobel Prize is awarded for awakening the world to the reality of global warming, and companies take out full page ads extolling their efforts to improve their ‘carbon footprint.’

“All ethanol, indeed all biofuels, are in this fight together.

“We all need to respond to the hysterical claims about ethanol.

"We need to enlighten those that believe you can have food security in this country without energy security.

"We need to remind people that rising petroleum costs have a far greater impact on consumer prices, including consumer food prices, than a modest and much-needed increase in the prices farmers get for their products.

"And we need to educate people about the technological evolution occurring in the ethanol industry today, where more efficient energy resources, water recovery systems, process technologies and new feedstocks are leading toward a far more sustainable energy future for all of us.

“Are there legitimate questions that need to be discussed about the efficacy of biofuels?

"Of course.

"If there weren’t, there would be no need for conferences like this. But we can’t allow the momentum toward a more sustainable energy future to be slowed or derailed while we count the angels on the head of a pin to dissect every conceivable shortcoming that the marketplace has yet to resolve.

"We ought to recognize that renewable fuels are going to be inherently better than fossil fuels and encourage investments in these technologies as soon as possible so that markets can start making them more efficient.

“We did not move from the horse and buggy to the turbo charged E-85 Saab Biocar without first going through the Edsel.

"But it’s a good thing we didn’t stop Henry Ford from mass-producing the ethanol-fueled Model T until automobile technology was perfected.

“It’s a fact that the carbon footprint of ethanol is good today (grain-derived ethanol provides a 21% reduction in GHG emissions with current technology and existing feedstocks) and will only get better with second generation technologies and new cellulosic feedstocks.

"Conversely, the carbon footprint of oil is bad today, and getting progressively worse the further we have to go in our quest for oil reserves, the deeper we have to drill and, certainly, with each gallon of petroleum derived from tar sands we must utilize to meet the ever increasing demand for motor fuels.

“Oil companies portend to be comfortable when ethanol is just a blend component in gasoline.

"But given today’s economics, with oil surging past $85/barrel and ethanol priced significantly below gasoline, it remains a mystery why consumers in many parts of the country are unable to find ethanol blended fuels.

“Angst in the oil patch has been raised to new heights as Congress contemplates a 36 billion gallon Renewable Fuel Standard that provides a certain market for 21 gallons of cellulosic ethanol and moves ethanol from a blend component into a significant alternative to gasoline.

“But the angst begs the question, ‘If not biofuels, what?’

‘If not now, when?’

"These are the questions Congress must answer.

"And we must demand an energy policy that promotes a more sustainable energy future.

"We must have an accelerated and expanded RFS that motivates investment in cellulosic ethanol while providing a strong foundation for existing production to continue to grow.

"We need this now.”

For more information, call Matt Hartwig at 202-289-3835.

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