DES MOINES, Iowa – Proponents of the Renewable Fuel Standard met Thursday at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates to voice their support for a government mandate they say is working.
Along with speakers such as Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey and Rep. Steve King were other advocates who, until yesterday, have been less vocal.
Professor of economics at Iowa State University Bruce Babcock said the supply shortages cited by EPA in its justification of a lower RFS are simply wrong. Babcock argued there aren’t enough stations selling ethanol blends higher than E10, and said supply concerns are actually demand concerns.
“EPA has the causality backwards,” Babcock said. “The number of stations that sell higher blends won’t increase until EPA sets ethanol mandates beyond E10-levels. If increased mandates need to wait for the stations to be built, mandates will never increase. If EPA’s proposed rule is finalized, I believe it would send a strong signal to not produce any more flex vehicles, halt all ndew investments in fueling incrastructure, and halt all investments in second-generation biofuels.
Mason City-based surgeon and veteran of the Iraq War Dr. Tim Gibbons also addressed the crowd. Gibbons believes the war in Iraq was fought in part to secure the supply of fossil fuels.
“Ten years later, we have paid a heavy toll to stabilize the free flow of oil,” Gibbons said. “Over that same time period, I am unaware of single casualty caused by the production of ethanol. I’m unaware of a single serviceman who committed suicide after deployment, due to renewable fuels.
Iowa State University senior Brent Drey recalled an encounter he had four years ago with a gas station owner from New Jersey.
“[He] just hated ethanol, and he would not supply it,” Drey said. “I asked him why, and he said ‘Well, I don’t want my kids to starve.’ And I says ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well,’ he says, ‘aren’t they using the same corn to make ethanol as they are for food?'”
Sweet corn and popcorn are grown for human consumption. Iowa State University Extension reports that sweet corn was grown on 380,000 acres in 2007, while 93.6 million acres of field (also called dent) corn were planted that same year, and 22% of that crop was channeled to ethanol production.
Late last year, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and a coaliton of leaders in Iowa’s renewable fuels industry traveled to Arlington, Va., to give comments during an Environtmental Protection Agency hearing on a proposal to cut all renewable fuel production in 2014 by 16%. Supporters and opponents alike offered their perspectives, but the visitors from Iowa were invited into the office of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, to make their case directly.
On Dec. 12, Branstad, along with Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey and Iowa’s entire congressional delegation sent a letter to McCarthy, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and President Barack Obama, requesting that EPA and the White House Rural Council hold a field hearing in the Midwest. The addressees declined to do so.