Bioenergy production is facing a potential setback.
New rules drafted by the U.S. Environmental Agency call a reduction in Renewable Fuels Standard.
At issue is the EPA's notice in November 2013 that it intends to cut the ethanol and biodiesel requirements for mixing into gasoline from 18.15 billion gallons to 15.21 billion gallons.
Such a revision in policy will have obvious negative effects on the economy of north central Iowa and the nation.
In 2011 alone, the ethanol industry created and supported more than 400,000 new jobs across the country and contributed $42.4 billion to the nation's gross domestic product, generating $4.3 billion in federal tax revenues.
In Webster County alone, three ethanol plants - POET in Gowrie and Valero and Cargill in Fort Dodge - provide ample market for corn production and hundreds of jobs directly. Additionally, CJ BioAmerica's facility near Fort Dodge, which uses byproducts of ethanol production in its own endeavors, employs nearly 200 people. Long-term plans envision more such "over-the-fence" economic development, in addition to the hundreds of jobs indirectly supported by the value-added agriculture industry. Indeed, a drive down the Fort Dodge's Fifth Avenue South Corridor of Commerce would illustrate the positive impact value-added agriculture has had on the region.
However, this momentum is in jeopardy should the RFS be altered.
On a broader scale, the environmental impact of ethanol production is such that global ethanol use is estimated to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 100 million metric tons in 2012, the equivalent of taking 20.2 million vehicles off the road.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, each gallon of corn ethanol delivers as much as 230 percent more energy than is used to produce it. Ethanol production requires less water than gasoline by a 3 to 1 margin.
Given these facts, the proposed changes to the RFS are short-sighted in the extreme.
The EPA will accept public comment on the RFS until Jan. 28. Written comments may be filed online at growthenergy.org or at iowacorn.org. Additionally, Kelly Halsted of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance is presently overseeing a letter writing campaign through which area residents can direct their comments to the EPA. Letters can be directed to the GFDGA offices at 24 N. Ninth St. in Fort Dodge of via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Messenger urges all readers to make their voices heard.