GILFILLAN ESTATE - U. S. Senator Al Franken and a handful of biofuels and farm organization leaders said big oil companies are putting out misinformation about a national Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandate because it would cost them money.
"I support (ethanol) blender pumps for advanced biofuels," Franken said. "Ethanol is a platform for cellulosic ethanol, which will soon be produced at an Emmetsburg, Iowa plant."
Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said blender pumps level the playing field and that Mother Nature caused the disastrous drought gripping much of the nation, not biodiesel, as some reports claim.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
U.S. Senator Al Franken promotes the Renewable Fuel Standard Tuesday in the Farmfest Forum tent.
"Ethanol production is down 14 percent in the last five weeks because corn is going back to feed livestock that is often being sold early because pastures have dried up," Buis said. "Eighty percent of a cow's weight comes from pasture forage. Corn ethanol won't go away. Big Oil should play by the rules and stop putting out misinformation."
Buis said Big Oil and agricultural conglomerates are out to make money for themselves and their shareholders. He said the market will balance itself out over time.
"The best cure for high prices is high prices," Buis added. "Don't panic. Don't try to fix something that isn't broken."
Minnesota Biofuels Association Executive Director Tim Rudnicki said ethanol plants are not 1980s technology.
"New plants don't discharge any water and re-use heat that used to go up the stacks," Rudnicki added. "Expect ethanol to play a central role in fuel way past 2050."
He said Midwest-produced ethanol is responsible for lowering gasoline prices by an average of $1.69, according to a multi-year study, Minnesota ethanol production created 70,000 jobs and has a $3 billion annual economic impact.
"It's energy security," Rudnicki added.
Minnesota Ethanol Producers Association President Brad Nelson of Freeborn County said big corporations ran his family farm out of the chicken business, like it did many other smaller producers.
"Let the market do it's job," Nelson said.
Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson said he's fought many ethanol "wars" since the issue first surfaced 15 years ago.
"RFS was good for Minnesota in 1997, and it will be good across the country in 2012 despite big corporations spending lots of money to lobby against it," Peterson said. "Don't let Big Oil run us over. We need more funding for agriculture technology research too. We need to get this right again."
Franken said many of his U.S. Senate colleagues from states dominated by poultry production really know what ethanol is and how it works. He said that issue helped create big media putting out misinformation about renewable fuels.
"We're taking on the most entrenched market with the deepest pockets," Buis said about Big Oil. "They're upset that we've got 10 percent of the fuel industry pretty fast. We can get second generation biofuels, but not without a big fight. Follow the money."
Rudnicki said renewable fuels puts us on a sustainable energy path.
"A rising tide lifts all boats. A sinking tide sinks them all too," Buis added.
Franken said the energy future includes fuel produced from algae and electric vehicles that will help shrink the energy carbon footprint.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).