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Aerial view of an Ethanol plant in South Dakota.

Editorial: The EPA should not give up ground on renewable fuels

When the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, was expanded in 2007, it was because it is in the nation’s best interest to create a stable market for renewable fuels, including ethanol, as a down payment on efforts to develop cleaner fuels of the future.

The intent was that today’s corn-based ethanol industry would provide a necessary bridge to clean, sustainable energy solutions that will eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, often imported from volatile regions.

That innovation and research continues. Much progress has been made. The nation’s goals for energy independence and reducing carbon emissions remain unmet. Oil producing regions remain volatile. So it makes little sense for the Environmental Protection Agency to back away from ambitious renewable fuel market standards adopted by Congress.

The agency announced in May that it would require oil refiners to blend 17.4 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2016. That’s an increase from the 16.3 billion gallons this year, but far below the 22.3 billion target approved by Congress.

Of course, this strikes a chord with us here in the nation’s top corn producing state. Iowa processed 3.9 billion gallons of ethanol in 2014, 27 percent of total U.S. production. Our renewable fuels industry employs 47,000 Iowans, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, and buys almost half the state’s corn crop, according to the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

A poll released this week by Selzer & Company, the same firm that conducts The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll, found that 79 percent of likely Republican presidential caucusgoers and 90 percent of Democratic caucusgoers say the RFS is good for the nation.

Some may scoff at farm-state support for an effort that benefits farmers. But the most aggressive opposition to the RFS comes from the oil industry, which opposes blending renewable fuels into its products. A battle of big economic interests, to be sure, but only one side also is trying to pull the nation’s energy policy into the future.

We concede that progress hasn’t always been a straight path. Ethanol alternatives have not been developed as swiftly as we’d hoped. We look forward to a time when renewable fuels succeed without government mandates. But the answer cannot be to back away from the challenge when so many promising roads are before us.

In related news, Minnesota receives $8 million to expand biofuel infrastructure.

This article was from The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.