Biofuels are key to energy independence

    Independence from our reliance on expensive foreign oil is essential to reducing gasoline prices at the pump, grocery prices at the store and overall costs throughout our economy.  As Americans continue to feel the pain of rising fuel prices throughout the economy, Energy Independence Day and must represent the dawn of a new era. 

    However, achieving energy independence won’t be easy. It is going to take hard work, innovation, investment, conservation, collaboration, and patience. It also is going to require change to a more diversified energy portfolio of clean domestically produced alternative fuels and renewable energy – energy sources which also will help reduce greenhouse gasses that cause climate change.

    American consumers must stand up and demand unity in finding clean, renewable solutions to our dependence on expensive petroleum. If we cannot have this debate now in the face of crippling fuel prices, then what does the future hold?

    In both our nation and others around the world, the struggle over oil has spawned ugly conflict, economic trouble and humanitarian concerns. Food prices are on the rise and the globe’s poorest regions struggle to feed their people.

    High worldwide demand, along with political events, conflicts and the declining value of the dollar, are putting pressure on supplies and driving up prices. As the Earth’s population continues to grow, so too does demand.

    Unfortunately, today 40 percent of our energy comes from petroleum and 22 percent of our energy is derived from coal. That adds up to more than $1 billion dollars a day spent by the U.S. on imported foreign oil. It’s an expensive habit, and globally we are paying a hefty price for our inability to work together to find viable solutions to our dependence on fossil fuels. 

    While anti-ethanol sentiments are splashed across headlines in the papers, biofuels remain the only current viable fuel alternative. To secure a future of energy independence, we must create a more diversified energy portfolio, and ethanol is a part of that portfolio. 

    In Wisconsin, we have nine ethanol plants in operation, with the first opening in 2002. We are now on pace to produce 500 million gallons of ethanol a year right here in our own state. We are helping to lead the way to American independence by producing a clean, renewable fuel alternative. These plants not only help remove our dependency from foreign oil, but provide good wage paying jobs and strengthen Wisconsin’s economy.

    Nationally, in 2007, ethanol displaced 200 million barrels of imported oil. Continued development of clean alternative fuels, renewable energy and improved energy efficiency must remain at the forefront of the domestic agenda. In 2009, using domestically produced oil and ethanol only, American consumers could drive for 185 days without using foreign oil or to July 4, 2009 – Energy Independence Day.

    But this is far from enough. The situation is simply too urgent to allow corporate and political self-interest to prevent us from progress. We must end the finger-pointing and band together in the fight for energy independence by focusing on shrinking dependence on foreign oil. And to do this, we must turn our support to ethanol and biofuels. Together, we can work to provide a clean, renewable form of energy that will help us to find our Energy Independence.

    Joshua Morby is the executive director of the Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance and spokesman for the Wisconsin Ethanol Coalition.

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