In Congress, I’m focused on supporting family farmers, investing in rural communities and addressing the generational challenges we face as a nation, including tools to address climate change. That’s exactly why I’m a supporter of biofuels. Biofuels offer predictability for farmers, drive economic growth and investment in rural America and decrease the carbon intensity of our transportation sector. These benefits are why I am pushing for immediate policy and budget changes to ensure that biofuels remain a key part of this country’s transition to renewable energy.
Minnesota is no stranger to renewable fuels like ethanol and is the fourth-largest producer of corn in the United States. Right now, more than half of the district I represent is covered by corn and soybeans. With 19 ethanol plants in our state, this activity contributes between $1 and $2 billion to Minnesota’s GDP annually and last year supported nearly 14,500 full-time jobs. Over the past several years, biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel have helped keep our family farms afloat — even as growers and producers across the country have struggled with overseas trade uncertainty, volatile markets and a global pandemic that disrupted supply chains around the world.
The benefits of renewable biofuels go far beyond their economic impact on rural communities. They are also a key tool in our fight against climate change. Recent studies — including one from EH&E, Harvard and Tufts — show that renewable fuels like ethanol cut carbon emissions by 46 percent or greater compared to traditional fossil fuels. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions achieved by a transition to higher ethanol blends like E15 — a 15 percent ethanol blend — is equivalent to taking nearly 3.85 million cars off the roads. In Minnesota alone, a shift to E15 has the power to reduce greenhouse emissions by 332,000 metric tons. And in California, where a low carbon fuel standard creates a market for renewable fuel credits to decarbonize the transportation sector, it’s biofuels that are playing the biggest role in reducing transportation sector carbon emissions.
Right now, this country and the world are experiencing the severe and devastating consequences of a changing climate. More than 70 percent of my state is experiencing drought conditions. It has never been more important that we identify and embrace innovative solutions that can help to reduce our carbon emissions and reverse this dangerous trend. I am strongly supportive of the inclusion of electric vehicles in the conversation due to their potential for emissions reductions. But given the scale and severity of this crisis, it is vital that we pursue impactful policies that can be implemented immediately. Unlike the longer-term timeline of electric vehicles, we can take advantage of the significant benefits of biofuels today. That’s why in Washington, I am committed to fight for immediate action on key legislation in this space.
Earlier this year, I introduced the Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act, bipartisan legislation to create transparency in the small refinery exemption (SRE) process and offer more certainty to the renewable fuel marketplace. I have also co-sponsored the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act, a critical piece of legislation to invest in biofuels infrastructure across the country. And in July, I introduced the Year-Round Fuel Choice Act, a bill to ensure that Americans can buy E15 throughout the entire year.
By acting quickly to pass these key pieces of legislation, Congress and the Biden administration can make a long-lasting and transformative impact for rural America and our collective effort to combat climate change. I was disappointed not to see biofuels included in the initial bipartisan infrastructure framework, but rest assured that as conversations in Washington continue to focus on infrastructure investments and efforts to address climate change, I will continue to fight to ensure renewable fuels have a seat at the table. After all, they are road-ready solutions to support family farmers, generate economic growth in rural America, and tackle climate change. Now is the time to make sure they are part of the mix. If not, we will have missed an important opportunity as a nation to reduce carbon emissions immediately.
Craig represents the 2nd District of Minnesota and is a member of the Agriculture Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee.