• Ron Kotrba

Banning ICE vehicles in favor of EVs would be a 'hammer blow' to American farmers

Executives of the Iowa Biodiesel Board and Iowa Renewable Fuels Association penned a joint letter to all candidates in Iowa running for federal office, urging them to oppose the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act of 2020, legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives Oct. 20 that would begin restricting sale of passenger vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2025 and banning their sale by 2035 in favor of so-called "zero-emission" vehicles, such as electric cars.


According to Rep. Mike Levin, one of three Democrats who introduced the bill, the act would "fix what is currently only a patchwork of state-level policies by setting a federal zero-emissions vehicle standard to boost the market for battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles."


"Alarmingly," writes Grant Kimberley of the IBB and Monte Shaw of the IRFA, "the bill was cosponsored by some senators who have campaigned as biofuels advocates as recently as earlier this year during the Iowa caucuses. Further, this legislation mirrors a recent executive order signed by Gavin Newsom, governor of California―the largest vehicle market in the United States."


Newsom signed an executive order in late September banning the instate sale of light-duty gasoline vehicles by 2035 and ordering the operation of medium- and heavy-duty diesels to be 100 percent zero emission "where feasible" by 2045.


Banning ICE vehicles would also, in effect, be a ban on the use of biofuels such as biodiesel, renewable diesel and ethanol as transport fuel.


"Today, over half of Iowa's corn crop goes into the production of ethanol and its coproducts, and over one-third of Iowa soybean oil goes to biodiesel production," the letter states. "Losing this market could very likely trigger another farm crisis. Further, banning the sale of biofuel powered vehicles is a flawed approach to combating climate change. While electric vehicles (EV) will certainly play an increasing role in meeting our nation's transportation needs, it is a fallacy to consider them 'zero emission.' In fact, studies have shown that in some parts of the country, a flexible fuel vehicle running on E85 has a lower carbon footprint than an EV that was charged using electricity generated by coal. Biodiesel and renewable diesel can also outperform EVs in some situations depending on feedstock and the source of electricity."


Opponents of electrification argue that policymakers pushing it are not technology neutral and, as the letter says, that there is no such thing as a "zero-emission" vehicle. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than 60 percent of U.S. electricity came from fossil fuels in 2019, including 38 percent from natural gas and 23 percent from coal. Only 17 percent of U.S. electricity in 2019 was derived from renewables. Globally, coal-fired power plants provided nearly 40 percent of all electricity in 2018.


"The federal Renewable Fuel Standard, California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and Oregon's Clean Fuels Standard firmly establish the carbon reduction benefits of ethanol and biodiesel," the letter states. "Biofuels are also continually reducing their carbon footprint due to improved processing technologies and more efficient farming practices. If there is to be federal legislation aimed at addressing vehicle carbon emissions, the best way to do this is to set reduction targets and let the fuel and vehicle market decide how to achieve the goals―a strategy that has worked in Oregon and California. Biofuels deserve a fair opportunity to compete in a low-carbon economy. As such, we urge you to oppose any legislation, including this bill, that is not technology neutral. The environmental challenges facing this country are too great to outlaw promising biofuels technologies. The economic challenges facing rural America are too great to not fight for a vital market opportunity for farmers."

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