Oil $$, No Ethanol. Coincidence? I Think Not.

Last week the biofuel industry took a hit when Florida voted to repeal its Renewable Fuel Standard, HB4001, that required fuel retailers to blend ethanol into their gasoline. The charge against ethanol was led by Florida Senator Greg Evers, who represents Escambia County, which happens to be the largest receiver of BP oil spill funds in the state. In fact, the same week HB4001 was passed, the county was one of the first to receive approximately $56 million to go toward restoration projects. Apparently, oil “balls” are still washing up on shore.

Barrels of Oil Photo-Kay Nietfeld:CorbisEscambia County receives its BP funds….ethanol gets squashed.

Coincidence?

I think not.

Let’s take a closer look at the correlation between state Renewable Fuel Standards and ethanol. In states that have a robust oil industry, Texas, Alaska, California, North Dakota, and New Mexico, combined with the state that has several oil refineries, Louisiana, with the exception of California, none of these states have Renewable Fuel Standards. While California has tried to move away from oil with its low carbon fuel standard, it was ruled unconstitutional. Although the legislation is temporarily moving forward, the oil industry is hoping to get another win when the roll-out is halted.

One could argue that when looking at states with the most ethanol production: Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, and Indiana, you’d think there would be state renewable fuel standards in place. But this is not the case. With the exception of Minnesota, which has a biodiesel mandate, these states have tax incentives for production, but no mandates for use at the pump. They don’t seem to need them. Residents of these states appear to take advantage of choice at the pump (and support home grown fuels).

If there is catastrophic oil crisis, Americans in Midwestern states would be driving long after those in states heavily reliant on straight gas at the pump. In fact, Iowa produces enough ethanol and biodiesel each year to fuel 100 percent of its vehicles plus still have fuel to export.

Common sense should tell us to go the way of the Midwest, but when it comes to logic this country seems fresh out and no one wants to pay the money during a recession for a clue.

I find it utterly amazing the hold big oil has on America’s energy. It’s like the same hold reality TV has on us. It’s a train wreck waiting to happen; yet we can’t look away. Sole reliance on oil is a train wreck waiting to happen and yet we just can’t seem to move away. Then when disaster strikes, like the Deep Horizon oil spill, e85-signAmericans are glued to the TV watching the tragedy unfold and outrageously cry for change and better energy policy and more choice at the pump. Then a celebrity gets arrested, knocked up or divorced and the oil spill and high gas prices are forgotten. I mean, who really needs energy anyway?

Wait – I seem to be on to something. I’ll create a reality TV show that follows various people around when we have no oil and watch their angst when they can’t get to the club, or go shopping or fly to Europe for a weekend in Cannes. It will be full of fights, scheming, undercutting, and drama. Since “reality” TV is scripted, I can write in a few clues. Oh wait, this has already been done – it’s called terrorism.

Yes, I’ve probably gone to far to make the point that this country’s energy future needs a makeover. We need choices. Not in a few years, not next year. Today. And since I make the choice for renewable energy at the pump, I’ll be sure to pick you up when you are stranded on the side of the road during the next gas shortage. Because to drive on by, well that would just be mean and that is not the Midwestern way.

5 thoughts on “Oil $$, No Ethanol. Coincidence? I Think Not.

  1. You might want to look into those Midwest fuel policies a bit further.

    In NE and IA at least (two states where I’ve lived a combined 28 years) Midgrade gasoline, blended with ethanol to E10, is always *cheaper* than Regular grade gasoline. I think.your claim that “them don’t seem to need [incentives]” isn’t based on the the actual situation “at the pump”.

    I thought you live in Des Moines. I know for a fact thisis the exact situation there.

  2. S.H. It used to be the blenders credit was the reason for the 10 cents a gallon cheaper price of E10. There is NO tax credit for blending now.

  3. Joanna: Well stated! Would you be willing to send your article as a hard copy letter to the governor of Florida? If you contact Tom Buis at Growth Energy, he can make sure it gets hand delivered to Governor Scott’s office. The letter should be addressed to:

    The Honorable Rick Scott
    Governor, State of Florida
    The Capitol
    400 South Monroe Street
    Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

    Thanks,
    Brad Krohn
    President
    United States EnviroFuels, LLC

  4. You aren’t wrong about the hold Big Oil has on us. At the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference last month, many speakers took off their gloves and got frank. It’s doesn’t seem to be impolite anymore to admit that every ounce of gasoline that is replaced by biofuel shrinks Big Oil’s market. The myth that renewables and petroleum were sharing an expanding market has been busted.

    There’s all out, well, the polite word is “competition” for every ounce of the transportation fuels market. And things are getting nasty. The whac-a-mole strategy is the framework.

    The anti-ethanol legislation in Florida and Maine are just the beginning. At least in Florida there’s a quid-pro-quo. I think the folks in Maine are doing Big Oil’s work for free. But the Watergate “Follow the Money” line is likely relevant to other federal and state anti-renewable fuel initiatives.

    See: http://advancedbiofuelsusa.info/bashing-the-oil-industry-at-advanced-biofuels-leadership-conference-offense-and-defense-in-the-game-of-whac-a-mole

  5. Another thought as I read this from 25 x ’25: http://advancedbiofuelsusa.info/renewables-remain-critical-in-meeting-long-term-u-s-energy-needs about oil-rich countries becoming leaders in renewable energy development.

    They are developing renewable systems so that they have energy freedom; and will continue to have saved their treasure and shored up their resources/defenses. The US, in greed and short-sightedness, extracts as fast and furiously as possible limited fossil fuel resources and stymies development of resources that could bring us domestic energy freedom. The MENA countries will have the goods and will again be able to charge whatever they want for us who remain dependent on fossil fuel-based transportation, heat and power.

    Unless we follow their lead and also develop renewable alternatives, we will have their boots on our neck; and will suffer societal disruptions that will weaken us from the inside. Not everyone will be as kind as you, picking up strangers stranded along the road.

    Yes, as you say, we’d rather escape from such thoughts by watching celebrities cavort on TV than work to elect thoughtful representatives who will take a longer view. See http://blogs.nicholas.duke.edu/thegreengrok/climate-chatter-in-the-house/ for some rich examples of the kinds of folks we have representing us now.