RFS bill ignores ethanol's documented environmental benefits

Kevin Skunes


An auger delivers corn seed onto a wagon near Schyler, Neb., Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. A couple days of strong winds in late October arrived at the wrong time for corn farmers who saw their crops shrink as ears of corn fell to the ground. Some eastern Nebraska farmers reported the value of their crop dropping roughly $19,000 an acre overnight as their yields fell from an estimated 250 bushels an acre before the wind to roughly 190 bushels afterward, according to crop insurance giant RCIS.

The Udall/Welch Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) legislation seeks to kill our most successful American renewable energy program. The bill ignores current science reflecting the significant environmental benefits of ethanol and would have catastrophic consequences for our nation’s economy, our energy security, and family farmers.

The sponsors of this legislation need to understand farmers’ productivity. Ethanol production is not significantly impacting land use. In fact, planted corn acres were lower in 2017 than when the RFS was expanded in 2007, yet we produced significantly more biofuels. We produce more biofuels because average crop yields have increased by more than 25 bushels per acre, not because we are farming more land. The total agriculture footprint in the United States is shrinking.

Corn production is also increasingly sustainable. Since 1980, corn farmers have doubled production while using half the nutrient inputs per bushel. Through our Soil Health Partnership, corn farmers are advancing production practices that result in greater productivity and more environmental benefits.

Every citizen has a stake in the RFS. The first casualty of this legislation will be consumer choice at the fuel pump, when they will be forced to buy more expensive gasoline, and the second will be the environment as we increase reliance on fuel that produces more greenhouse gases and toxic emissions like benzene.

Kevin Skunes

Last year, analysis done for USDA shows corn-based ethanol results in 43 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) when compared to gasoline. And the Environmental Protection Agency notes air quality has improved in the last 15 years, at the same time ethanol blending has increased. I find it difficult to believe the public wants to walk away from this kind of environmental success and leave farmers as a casualty in the process.”

Kevin Skunes is president of the National Corn Growers Association