Delivering on the Promise of Change

By Bob Dinneen | February 05, 2008
As America gears up to elect its next president, Capitol Hill is abuzz with a new raison d'etre: change. After the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, it is clear that Americans want just that. The status quo is no longer comfortable. Our addiction to oil sits on top of the list of items Americans wish to see changed.

Just 36 hours into the new year, petroleum prices reached the historic price of $100 per barrel. As they have done every year, gas prices will continue to rise, and Americans will continue to pay exorbitant prices at the pump.

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, gas prices this spring will begin their upward march as America's petrochemical refining complex continues to age and be strained, often beyond its capabilities. As is the case each year, a host of factors will be blamed for rising prices, and you can be assured that ethanol will be one of them.

This year, however, such an argument will be difficult, if not impossible, to make. As the American Petroleum Institute reported in January, gasoline demand remained flat in 2007 compared to 2006. Petroleum imports actually decreased. So what does this all mean?

While the oil industry wouldn't dare admit it, the reason for this change in America's energy consumption habits is due in no small part to the increasing availability and use of fuel ethanol. According to an analyst at investment firm Bear Stearns Co. Inc., the more than 400,000 barrels of ethanol produced each day in 2007 replaces the gasoline output of three average oil refineries. The dramatic increase of domestic ethanol production and use we will see in the coming years will continue to help meet growing demand for motor fuel, displacing a greater volume of imported oil and relieving the pressure on America's oil refinery infrastructure.

This change in how America is fueling its future has come about not because of the benevolent nature of America's petroleum industry, but because of the foresight and vision of leaders in the U.S. government. From President George W. Bush to every rank-and-file member of Congress, they have understood the consequences of the energy status quo. They realize that steps must be taken today that begin the difficult task of diversifying America's energy portfolio.

For the first time, America has a roadmap to begin that process. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 took those logical and necessary first steps to address the impacts of increasing foreign oil dependence and global climate change.

As the candidates for president are finding out, promising change and delivering it are two very different things. However, Americans stand ready, as does the U.S. ethanol industry. Together, we can change the course of America's energy future.

Bob Dinneen
President and CEO
Renewable Fuels Association