Column: Farmers, Americans need to punch back against big oil
By RYAN BUCK, Minnesota Corn Growers Association
GOODHUE — It’s time for farmers, rural Minnesotans and everyone who drives a car to fight back. Big Oil companies have been punching us in the mouth for too long, and if we don’t punch back, the knockout blow will be coming soon.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a misguided proposal that would slash the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and cut the amount of ethanol we blend in gasoline by 1.4 billion gallons in 2014. If this proposal is implemented, it will result in even bigger profits for oil companies and force drivers to pay more at the pump.
Thankfully, the proposal can be stopped if farmers and American consumers drop the gloves and fight back.
An early version of this column was packed with numbers and statistics to demonstrate just how harmful the EPA’s proposal is. I scrapped that early version and started over because, at this point, we need action, not a math lesson. The oil industry and its cronies have been pushing farmers and consumers around for too long. We need to stand up for ourselves.
The EPA is accepting public comments on its proposal through Jan. 27, 2014. If you go to www.mncorn.org and click on the “Take Action Now” banner at the top of the page, you can submit your comments and tell EPA to leave the RFS alone.
Here is what I will be telling EPA:
This proposal sends a signal that America is not serious about developing a domestically produced alternative to foreign oil. Americans are sick and tired of getting gouged at the pump and seeing their hard-earned money go to rich oil companies who drill in environmentally sensitive areas, or import their dirty product from Middle Eastern countries that hate the United States.
Did you know that Minnesota gets most of its gasoline from the Alberta Tar Sands? Producing a barrel of Tar Sands oil produces three times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions compared to a traditional barrel. More homegrown ethanol means less reliance on foreign oil. Since the RFS was implemented in its current form in 2007, foreign oil imports are down 20 percent.
Ethanol also saves us money at the pump. A recent Iowa State University study concluded that ethanol reduces gas prices by as much as $1.37 per gallon.
Because of the RFS, I’m able to choose a homegrown and more affordable fuel that comes from a Minnesota corn field instead of the Alberta Tar Sands or the Middle East. The oil industry doesn’t want consumers to have a choice at the pump. They just want your money and the RFS to be eliminated.
Coordinated and targeted misinformation campaigns by Big Oil and its allies has turned people against the RFS. For example, a popular misconception about ethanol is that it drives up the price of corn, which then leads to higher food prices.
This is a lie. Yes, corn prices have been high over the last few years, but massive drought throughout the Corn Belt was to blame, not ethanol. Now that farmers are harvesting a record corn crop, prices have returned to where they were before the RFS was implemented. Experts say slashing the RFS will send corn prices below the price of production. That’s terrible news not just for corn farmers, but for rural communities that rely on a strong agriculture sector for jobs and economic development.
If you’re wondering why food prices have gone up, the always increasing price of gasoline is to blame, according to a recent World Bank study.
Speaking of increasing costs, the price of a barrel of oil has shot up by 335 percent since 2001. Tearing up land in the Alberta Tar Sands and more recently in North Dakota in search of more oil hasn’t resulted in any type of savings at the gas station. Neither has fighting wars in the Middle East.
America simply cannot afford to rely so heavily on oil that is expensive and unsustainable. But if farmers and consumers don’t speak out, we might not have a choice.
Don’t let Big Oil keep punching us in the face. Tell the EPA to leave the RFS alone and side with farmers and American consumers over the oil industry.
Ryan Buck is a corn and soybean farmer in Goodhue and president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.