Published Real Clear Energy November 6, 2022
You’ve almost certainly driven by one. Maybe visited one as a student on a school field trip or tackled the challenge of their mazes in the fall. You might have even grown up on one, like I did.
Corn farms are an important part of the American ethos. Across the country, millions of farmers and their families help sustain the everyday way of life for millions more Americans they will never meet. Our efforts to grow crops and raise livestock year after year keep our nation self-reliant and secure.
It has been a tough year for a lot of people. Following months of record inflation, our nation faces an ongoing energy crisis while rising interest rates and continued impacts of climate change raise new concerns.
Fuel prices hit Americans especially hard this summer as the national average for a gallon of regular gas reached a record $5.01 in June. Following a steady decline thereafter, prices are rising yet again, averaging $3.88 per gallon this week. While significantly lower than earlier in the year, prices remain higher than a year ago.
To top it all off, OPEC’s announcement last month to cut output by millions of barrels per day could cause the price of oil to jump back up, and when oil prices rise, gasoline prices follow. These increases impact every sector of our economy, driving inflation in the thick of harvest season.
Farmers understand our nation faces environmental and energy challenges, and we are proud to be part of the solution. Ethanol, made from corn, is key to enhancing U.S. energy security, lowering prices at the pump, reducing dependence on foreign energy sources, and lowering emissions.
I’m from Minnesota, a state that leads the way when it comes to producing and using biofuels. In fact, Minnesota is home to 16 percent of the nation’s retail locations offering E15, a higher ethanol blend often marketed as Unleaded 88. E15 costs less and has fewer emissions than regular gasoline, which is a 10-percent ethanol blend.
The proof that ethanol lowers fuel prices is at the pump, where Minnesota drivers saved 25 cents per gallon on E15 when gas prices were at their highest this summer. Thanks to E15, drivers in our state saved $7 million between June and August, while nationwide savings totaled $57 million. Today, consumers nationwide are continuing to save up to 30 cents or more per gallon on E15.
In addition to saving consumers money, ethanol also cuts emissions and helps clean up our fuel. According to the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab, ethanol results in up to 52% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline over its life cycle. The GHG emissions reductions from biofuels are utilized in the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden recently signed into law. New energy and climate policies in this law will help more farmers continue to expand and enhance sustainable production practices. These production practices enable us to contribute to even lower carbon biofuels, including new fuels such as sustainable aviation fuel.
Even with the progress made, there is more to be done, including expanding higher blends of ethanol to save drivers more with even cleaner fuels. The bipartisan Next Generation Fuels Act would build on the Biden administration’s actions by increasing our fuel supply through the expansion of higher ethanol blends to reduce emissions, improve engine efficiency and save consumers money at the pump. These are the type of innovative policies that can drive progress on both energy affordability and emissions reduction goals while supporting our rural communities.
Through fuel price volatility, America’s corn farmers remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting long-term energy and climate solutions through low-carbon fuels that increase the nation’s fuel supply and save Americans money at the pump.
These are uncertain times, and it’s hard to know what new challenges will arise in the year ahead. But as we have done for generations, farmers are here to tackle them together and partner with policymakers to advance home-grown solutions. By expanding ethanol choices for consumers, policymakers can do their part to feed and fuel a cleaner America, too.