Americans in every corner of the country are feeling the squeeze of rising gas prices. The war between Russia and Ukraine has cut off supplies from the third largest oil producer in the world, sending prices skyrocketing. In my home state of Iowa, gas prices have risen by nearly 80 cents a gallon since January of this year.
While much-needed actions are being taken to combat rising gas prices, including the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as part of a global response to reduce reliance on Russian oil, we can do more. I have been working tirelessly to ensure E15 gas can be sold year-round, and am pleased that my efforts have paid off and E15 will be available at gas stations this summer. This fight is not over though, and I’ll be continuing to work to make that change permanent. Now is the time for a transformation of our energy sector to further combat rising gas prices - while also fighting climate change and supporting farmers and domestic fuel production. Specifically, we should increase our investment in biofuels and build out our nation’s biofuels infrastructure.
Biofuels, including ethanol and biodiesel, are a homegrown source of energy that create jobs in Iowa and across the country with the ethanol industry supporting nearly 350,000 jobs, many of them union jobs, and contributing roughly $40 billion to our economy. In Iowa, ethanol production supports over half of our state’s corn crop, resulting in more than $5.5 billion of annual revenue for Iowa farmers.
Not only are biofuels an economic driver for our state and our country, they also play a key role in the ongoing fight against climate change. Biofuels have been shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least half for ethanol and upwards of 80% for biodiesel. In addition, biofuels reduce harmful tailpipe emissions resulting in cleaner air and a healthier environment.
Finally, higher blends of ethanol are significantly cheaper at the pump. Blends of 15% ethanol, or E15, are often 10 cents cheaper per gallon and can be up to 60 cents cheaper per gallon. The savings on E85 is even more robust - nearly a dollar cheaper per gallon on average. In fact, a nationwide shift to E15 could save consumers more than $12 billion annually.
Increasing our investment in biofuels and building out our nation’s biofuels infrastructure is a win-win-win; a win for the American consumer, a win for farmers, and a win for the environment and it’s imperative that we do so.
As co-chair of the House Biofuels Caucus, my colleagues and I are always looking for opportunities to expand the role of biofuels in our economy. I led them in introducing the bipartisan Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Investment and Market Place Expansion Act, which will bring us one step closer to this goal.
The legislation would provide consistent federal investment for biofuels infrastructure $500 million over five years to make E15 available at more gas stations and will remove barriers to E15. I fought hard to get this legislation passed through the House with double the funding - $1 billion dollars and I remain committed to getting it across the finish line and signed into law.
My colleagues and I proudly introduced this commonsense legislation last year and are continuing to urge leadership to take swift action on this bill. The Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Investment and Market Expansion Act will be one additional piece of the puzzle as we work to bolster the use of biofuels.
While all actions should be on the table to alleviate Americans’ pain at the pump, we must also make the necessary investments for the years to come. This is a moment of unprecedented opportunity to make biofuels more accessible and available to Americans while boosting our domestic fuel production, lowering prices at the pump and doing our part to fight the ongoing climate crisis.
• U.S. Representative Cindy Axne, Iowa Democrat, represents the 3rd Congressional District. She serves on the House Agriculture and Financial Services Committees, and as the Midwest Regional Whip for the House Democratic Caucus. A fifth-generation Iowan, she is also co-chair of the House Biofuels Caucus.