Strange bedfellows

USDA has announced its Agriculture Innovation Agenda which includes polices supporting higher blends of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply. While this is welcome news to the biofuels industry it would have been even more welcome had it come from EPA. USDA’s support of biofuels is important but to achieve goals of blend rates of E15 by 2030 and E30 by 2050, cooperation will be needed from EPA, big oil and the auto industry, groups not always known for their full support of biofuels. Perhaps the growing attention to climate change will bring a change of heart by those who have resisted going all in on biofuels in the past. As policy makers look at ways to address environmental issues they will be tempted to lean towards technologies like battery powered vehicles. No doubt there is a place for those technologies. It doesn’t have to be an either or situation. That said it is becoming increasingly important not only for the biofuels industry but also the petroleum industry to show how liquid fuels can play a major role in protecting the environment. Hopefully the oil industry will stop looking at biofuels as the enemy and see the bigger picture. Better to embrace biofuels as a way of protecting the liquid fuels market rather than risk losing market share to other technologies. It’s long been discussed in ethanol circles that an E25 to E30 blend would be the sweet spot for environmental benefits, higher fuel efficiencies and lower price. Already we are seeing the push for low carbon fuel in states like California. Other states are looking at creating their own clean fuel policies. Perhaps the stars are aligning for the oil and biofuels industries to be partners not adversaries. The increased competition from new technologies may indeed make for strange bedfellows. Perhaps then EPA will not be granting RFS waivers to refineries and automakers will increasingly manufacture engines to take advantage of the benefits of higher biofuel blends. What a concept! Working together, much can be accomplished. I know it’s asking a lot but then again a lot is at stake.