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Congress should not oppose biofuels. They create jobs and help the environment.

No fuel at scale today comes close to equaling ethanol’s ability to prevent American cars and trucks from spewing pollutants from their tailpipes. Unfortunately, one of the most important incentives for the growth of biofuels is now under attack by misguided lawmakers and Big Oil.

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Rep. Fred Upton (R) of Mich., left, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, speaks to reporters at the Capitol July 17. Mr. Upton has asked four committee members to explore reforms to the renewable fuels standard. Op-ed contributor Bob Dinneen says that 'even tinkering with the [biofuels mandate] would create uncertainty that would discourage growing investments in new environmentally friendly, job-creating biofuel technologies.'

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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If Americans are serious about curbing climate change, they need to use less gasoline and more clean-burning biofuels, such as ethanol. That’s because the combustion of petroleum-based fuels is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

No fuel at scale today comes close to equaling ethanol’s ability to prevent American cars and trucks from spewing pollutants from their tailpipes. Unfortunately, one of the most important incentives for the growth of biofuels – the federal Renewable Fuel Standard – is now under attack by misguided lawmakers and Big Oil lobbyists.

While subsidies for oil and gas average $4.86 billion per year, the ethanol industry receives no tax subsidies and renewal fuel standard doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. It is simply a guideline (a 2005 energy law provision) requiring gasoline blenders to use increasing amounts of renewable fuels.

In hearings last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee heard a range of views on the the fuel standards and the production of biofuels. Several lawmakers concerned about the rising costs of corn – the source of ethanol – have argued for repealing the fuel mandate. They argue that eliminating the mandate to produce ethanol will relieve some of the upward pressure on corn prices, after a drought diminished the crop.

Committee members may draft legislation in the coming months aimed at reforming the renewable fuel mandate as opposed to repealing it. They’re right not to repeal the standard. But even tinkering with it would create uncertainty that would discourage growing investments in new environmentally friendly, job-creating biofuel technologies. Now that investors are putting their money into promising projects and gasoline blenders are using more renewable fuels, why change the rules in the middle of the game? 

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