Jeff Zueger, CEO, Midwest AgEnergy: Renewable fuels power region’s economy
UNDERWOOD, N.D. – The United States, more specifically North Dakota, is blessed with abundant natural resources. Sun, water, wind, minerals, hydrocarbons and fertile land produce more food, feed, fiber and fuel than can be used domestically. Choices are unlimited in how to use these great resources.
As North Dakotans, we must support agriculture – a main driver of the state’s economy – by proactively expanding the availability of renewable fuels.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, commonly referred to as the Renewable Fuels Standard, set a course to change U.S. liquid fuel options. Its five primary objectives:
- Reduce dependence on foreign oil
- Grow the economy
- Improve domestic air quality
- Lower consumer fuel cost
- Provide consumers with renewable fuel choices at the pump
It has been one of the most successful energy bills ever passed; it was done with broad bipartisan support; and to date, it has successfully achieved four of its five primary goals. Further, it has proven to be the most significant agriculture market development tool in the past 50 years.
Midwest AgEnergy, an upper Midwest biofuels enterprise that owns two biorefineries – Blue Flint near Underwood, N.D., and Dakota Spirit near Spiritwood, N.D. – processes 50 million bushels of North Dakota corn to produce 145 million gallons of ethanol, 400,000 tons of high-protein livestock feed and oil products annually.
Nationwide, the ethanol industry processes 5.5 billion bushels of corn to produce 16 billion gallons of ethanol and 50 million domestic tons of livestock feed. Additionally, the U.S. processes more than 2 billion bushels of soybeans into high-protein feed and biodiesel each year.
Without the RFS, these fuel markets would be limited, restricted and difficult to enter, given the barriers in place today.
While the RFS has been successful on four of five goals, work is still needed to achieve the last goal of providing consumers renewable fuel choices at the pump. The agriculture and renewable fuel industries have worked together to increase consumer access to renewable fuels. But it is critical for the long-term success of U.S. agriculture to proactively ensure this continues to happen.
Our industry supports free markets and would like to enjoy the same market access as traditional fuels; but unfortunately, there are many impediments to gaining market access. Current barriers include Environmental Protection Agency fuel-use restrictions, complex infrastructure certifications, complex and incumbent-favored fuel certification processes, regulatory restrictions that favor conventional fuels and state and federal labeling and use restrictions.
I encourage Prairie Business readers to choose renewable fuels such as E10, E15, E30, and E85, and to ask for those fuels if a reader’s fuel station does not offer the renewable-based products that North Dakota and U.S. farmers produce.
These fuels are high-octane, clean-burning and should be an option for all consumers throughout the nation.
Do not stand for the status quo, but be proactive in making sure consumers have access to the renewable fuel products our state’s agriculture producers created.