Climate change: two words we often hear circulated in the media and in heated political debates (no pun intended). We’re no strangers to the frantic speculations attached to the topic. Is the earth’s temperature rising? Is it destroying our oceans and marine life? Is it impacting agricultural production? Will it change the lives of future generations?
As of now, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes.” Several recent studies assert that climate change may be even more detrimental than anyone predicted. Temperatures and weather patterns are changing more rapidly than anyone could have anticipated and, unless we take action, the results could be catastrophic.
While this is a universal problem that affects literally everyone on the planet, rural America could take one of the hardest hits. According to our government’s own National Climate Assessment, “Projected changes in precipitation, coupled with rising extreme temperatures before mid-century, will reduce Midwest agricultural productivity to levels of the 1980s without major technological advances.”
Nearly all climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, a significant percentage of which are used for transportation. We can’t power our vehicles without some source of energy, so unless we all intend to go back to riding horses, this is an issue we need to address. But it seems that all the solutions that have been offered to turn this dire situation around involve outrageous costs or impractical ideas.
There’s really only one solution to reduce the impact of emissions from the transportation sector: biofuels like ethanol. Traditional starch feed stocks are 43 percent cleaner than gasoline; when coupled with new innovations in feedstocks and production technologies, that number can be as high as 100 percent.
The only emission from burning ethanol is carbon dioxide, and 100 percent of that CO2 is utilized by the corn that will be used to produce next year’s ethanol. Plus, unlike other so-called solutions to climate change that are even more expensive than fossil fuels, biofuels are actually less expensive than gasoline.
So why isn’t this option being more widely discussed? Why isn’t everyone using more biofuels?
Many of us are all too familiar with the reasons. The oil industry has spent exorbitant amounts of money creating myths and using every possible outlet to discredit the only sustainable solution to fossil fuels that exists in order to protect their markets. But someone needs to tell this story, and who better than us — ethanol producers and supporters, ag companies, farmers and farm organizations — to come together and spread the truth about what we can do to solve one of the world’s most dire challenges?
The truth is that biofuels can replace gasoline, and the protein, corn oil and micronutrients that are produced as coproducts help to lower protein and food prices worldwide. And new research is developing additional exciting products that can replace other derivatives of petroleum.
The truth is that biofuels are the only short-term solution to global climate change that exists. We need to own this fact, we need to sell it, and we need to make sure everyone knows it. Year-round E15 will be a fundamental step, but it is only the beginning.
As we move into this new year, let’s all make a pledge to bring the truth to light and change the narrative around biofuels like ethanol — agriculture’s prized product that can reverse global climate change.