Column: Back off the Renewable Fuels Standard - it's working
By Tom Haag, Minnesota Corn Growers Association
EDEN VALLEY — If I told you there was a piece of legislation that has reduced America’s dependence on foreign oil by 20 percent, supports 400,000 jobs, adds $43 billion to our gross domestic product, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34 percent and saves the typical motorist $1,200 per year, would you call for that legislation to be scaled back or repealed?
It sounds like a silly question, doesn’t it? Why would anyone want to repeal a piece of legislation that is doing all of those things?
But that’s exactly what Big Oil companies and their highly paid executives, lobbyists and public relations teams are trying to do to a piece of legislation called the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).
The RFS was enacted in 2005, updated in 2007, and is one of our country’s most successful energy policies ever. Thanks to the RFS — legislation that sets market-based goals for blending renewable fuels with gasoline — Big Oil’s monopoly on transportation fuels is loosening, which allows alternatives like ethanol to compete fairly in the marketplace.
Unfortunately, Big Oil isn’t a fan of the free market and competition. It’s attacking the RFS and ethanol so it can continue gouging Americans at the pump and limit fuel choices.
I believe that America was founded on free-market principles. Businesses should compete fairly in the marketplace and consumers should be protected against monopolies like Big Oil that unfairly manipulate prices.
Consider this: A barrel of oil cost $23 in 2001. Today, oil is over $100 per barrel — a 335 percent increase — despite the fact that demand for gasoline is down and we’re drilling for more oil in places like North Dakota.
In Minnesota, the price of a gallon of gas has gone from under $1.50 to around $4 (sometimes more) over the last 11 years.
These unexplainable and unjustified price increases are not sustainable. We need legislation like the RFS to ensure fairness in the marketplace and give alternatives like ethanol a shot to compete. Because the price of ethanol is less than gasoline, it’s already saving Americans about $1.09 per gallon.
Of course, Big Oil hasn’t let the facts get in the way of its attacks on renewable fuels. It’s gotten so bad that Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) recently urged the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possibly anti-competitive practices (such as intimidating franchisees) by oil companies that may block market access for renewable fuels.
Minnesota’s corn farmers appreciate the bipartisan efforts of both senators to protect consumers and build a transportation fuels market that is competitive. Now it’s time for other leaders in Washington to follow suit and defend the RFS.
Partisan gridlock already makes it difficult for our elected officials to pass meaningful legislation these days. The last thing Americans need is for Congress to repeal the RFS – a piece of legislation that’s saving us money, increasing competition and preserving our environment.
Tom Haag is the president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. He farms near Eden Valley.