When I was younger, I competed on a swim team and spent most of my free time training. I learned a lot from that experience, but what stuck with me is that winning or losing began with a good training plan — and sticking to it. Sure, our team had tough three-hour practices and occasional progress plateaus, but executing the plan resulted in more wins than losses.
Americans know how to win because they are not afraid to lead and follow an ambitious plan. A prime example is our long history of leadership in biotechnology. Today, the U.S. is the world leader in the production of biofuels. We are also developing environmentally-friendly ways to produce biochemicals, materials, food and animal feed that use less petroleum and emit less CO2 throughout a product’s life cycle.
But this is a race for innovation and economic opportunity and we are not the only country competing: Brazil, China and others are making large investments in the production of biofuels, growing their bio-based economies and offsetting their carbon footprint.
There are many different paths to pursue when it comes to lowering carbon emissions and protecting our environment. President Barack Obama recently announced a Climate Action Plan to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030 with a focus on coal-fired power plants. The president’s plan is important: Every action we can take to clean the air and protect the environment matters. But the number one contributor to CO2 emissions in the U.S. isn’t coal — it’s transportation.
Forty-two percent of greenhouse gases generated in America come from our cars, trucks and buses. In 2007, our country made a strategic decision to invest in technology to reduce those gases — that’s when the Renewable Fuel Standard was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Fast forward five years: In 2012, America met the RFS targets, producing 15 billion gallons per year of renewable fuel from 209 plants. More than 90,000 men and women made that happen.
Private companies invested more than $1 billion dollars to build plants that could make fuel from agricultural and forestry waste, and even household trash. Despite the worst economic recession in decades, companies including POET, Abengoa, DuPont and others began construction of these advanced biofuel plants, putting thousands more Americans to work in construction, engineering, raw materials and management.
In just five years, America built an entire new industry from the ground up, positioning the U.S. as a leading innovator in new technology.
Now we arrive at 2014, when the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a reversal to the RFS that ultimately says, “We don’t want it.” For the first time, it has proposed to reduce the amount of renewable fuel blended into our country’s fuel supply despite the higher RFS target in the law and the industry’s capability to deliver the volumes as intended.
This change comes at a vulnerable time with political instability in the Middle East and beyond — and puts America more at risk of being affected by that instability.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.