Photo by George Lauby
Recently I participated in an oversight hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on domestic renewable fuels. This meeting focused on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to scale back its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The RFS currently determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that must be contained in transportation fuel sold in the United States.
Nebraskans understand the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard. Our state has answered the call to invest in domestic renewable fuel production. Nebraska has 24 active ethanol plants and an annual production capacity of 2.3 billion gallons. These plants represent more than $5 billion in capital investment in the state and provide direct employment for nearly 1,200 Nebraskans.
On a national scale, the RFS enhances domestic energy supplies and reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Adding more than 13 billion gallons of homegrown ethanol to the U.S. fuel supply in 2012 displaced the need for 465 million barrels of foreign oil, which saved our economy $47.2 billion. The RFS also helps to support more than 380,000 American jobs and lower fuel prices for consumers.
During the short time that the RFS has been in place, production – both of the biofuels themselves and the feedstocks for these fuels – has only become more efficient. Nebraska’s farmers have demonstrated an ability to continually produce more while using less land, less water, and less fertilizer.
I was so pleased to welcome fellow Nebraskan Jon Holzfaster, a corn farmer from Paxton, to the EPW hearing exploring the impact of changes to the RFS.
Corn, of course, is currently the primary feedstock used for ethanol production. During my time questioning Jon, I asked him about land and water use issues in the production of ethanol. In his response, he directly addressed faulty claims from critics regarding the negative impact of his work on the environment, a matter with which Nebraska farmers are all too familiar. His comments on the subject were powerful, and I’d like to share them with you.
Jon stated, “In agriculture, we’ve been accused of creating dirty air and dirty water, and that … hurts. I breathe that air. I drink that water. I love this town [Washington], but one thing I look forward to is going home and breathing that air and drinking that water. I know that it’s safe.”
This Paxton farmer reminded everyone that the land is not only his livelihood; it is also his home. It’s where he’s built his life. These farmers, more than anyone, understand the value of precious natural resources and work hard every day to protect them.
Through innovative technologies and the commitment of hardworking people like Jon Holzfaster, Nebraska’s agriculture sector has been able to produce an abundant supply of food, feed, and fuel in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Nebraskans are blessed with a diverse array of energy resources. The surest way to achieve long-awaited energy independence is by balancing conventional sources of energy, such as coal and natural gas, with renewable sources, such as biofuels. The many stakeholders in our agriculture industry all benefit from lower prices, and increasing the supply of safe, clean energy will help keep costs down for both middle class families and producers.