Viewpoint

Why the EPA must move forward with biofuels

Austin Dillon, driver of the American Ethanol Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania July 31.
Austin Dillon, driver of the American Ethanol Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania July 31. GETTY

As a former NASCAR driver and current team owner, I know a thing or two about engines, performance and fuel. My team’s success depends on using the best technology to get the best results. I would never turn my back on a competitive advantage. That’s why I support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the use of E15, a higher blend of ethanol fuel, in NASCAR racing.

My team didn’t win six Sprint Cup championships, six Nationwide Series championships and two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championships by not paying attention to the performance details of our race cars. So when NASCAR decided to switch to a 15 percent ethanol fuel in 2011, we did our homework.

We didn’t listen to the empty rhetoric surrounding ethanol. We did our own testing and proved that higher blends of ethanol deliver. Since switching fuels, NASCAR has experienced an increased horsepower from a higher-octane ethanol fuel blend and decreased emissions. After five years and over seven million miles, E15 has proven its merit. It has met and exceeded the performance requirements for the most demanding driving situations imaginable.

I’m passionate about winning each week on the track. I’m equally passionate about my country, its sustainability, economic health and security. That’s why I support the RFS. After sitting on the Board of Directors at Growth Energy, the country’s leading trade association of ethanol and renewable fuel producers, I’ve come to understand the important role ethanol plays in America and its amazing potential as we begin producing the next generation of fuels.

The RFS has been the most successful energy policy this nation has adopted in the last 40 years.

The RFS has created American jobs, revitalized rural America, reduced our dependence on foreign oil, made our nation more energy independent and improved our climate security. Renewable fuel has reduced our dangerous dependence on foreign oil by nearly two thirds. It has opened up the vehicle fuels market by injecting competition and providing drivers with savings. Currently, the RFS supports nearly 400,000 American jobs and generates nearly $53 billion in economic activity.

Besides, no beaches have ever been closed because of an ethanol spill.

But now, on the 10-year anniversary of this bipartisan policy, our nation finds itself at a crossroads. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rule that would drastically cut back the production of ethanol and other biofuels. Not only would this affect production of ethanol, but it would severely hinder innovation and investment in next generation fuels made from sources like biomass and farm waste.

Americans have made their voices heard, telling America’s leaders to move the RFS forward not backward. After all the great strides we have made and the exhaustive testing of E15 and other higher blends – with truly exceptional results – it is time to take the next step in biofuels production. But we can’t if EPA blocks the path moving forward.

If E15 can handle the Daytona 500, Talladega or the Brickyard, it will definitely meet the needs of daily drivers. It is finally time to break through the mythical “blend wall.” It is time to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, step up our efforts to improve our environment and ensure America’s rural economy stays robust. It is time to give consumers the choice of a less expensive, higher performing fuel.

Most importantly, it is time for the EPA to follow the law and help move our nation forward on the development of renewable fuel.

Childress is the owner of Richard Childress Racing.

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