Biofuels And America’s Energy Independence
Illinois will have large role in the nation’s energy future

Lane Evans
Former U.S. Representative, Illinois’ 17th Congressional District.

Illinois is the second largest producer of farm-based fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, in the United States. As the nation begins to rely more heavily on renewable sources for its energy future, Illinois will be at the center of this movement, greatly contributing to the economic growth and national influence of the state’s farmers and rural communities.

According to the U.S. Government’s Energy Information Administration, the United States imports approximately 69,000 barrels of crude oil a month from the Persian Gulf. When we invaded Iraq in 2003, Americans, among many concerns, once again feared for the nation’s energy security. This fear was felt in real terms at the pump when the price of gasoline drastically increased after the invasion, and again after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita temporarily disrupted production in refineries off the Gulf Coast.

As difficult as these price hikes were on the individual American, they forced all of us to review our energy policies, and as a nation we began to look toward alternative fuels as a solution to our problems. This was evidenced in President Bush’s 2006 State of the Union Address, in which he outlined his Advanced Energy Initiative. This initiative provided for a 22 percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy (DOE) and aimed to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.

Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion in this country to develop cleaner, cheaper and more reliable alternative energy sources. From this effort, in Illinois alone, a half-dozen ethanol plants have been built, most of them located outside small, rural towns. These ethanol plants in Illinois and elsewhere now produce 40 percent of the ethanol consumed in the United States. Investment by the ethanol industry in Illinois has exceeded $1 billion and has generated 800 jobs in plant operations and 4,000 jobs in the industry-related service sector. Additionally, Illinois now leads the nation in biodiesel consumption, with more than 6,000 vehicles running on B20, amounting to millions of gallons per year. And, nearly 50 percent of Illinois farmers use biodiesel in their operations.

Thanks to increased investment and President Bush’s support, we are on the verge of a major breakthrough in the alternative fuels market. The industry just needs real commitment from our policymakers to provide the resources necessary to push biofuels to center stage.

I am proud to say there are efforts underway in Congress to do just that. The Congressional Biofuels Caucus, of which I was co-chair, has continuously fought for a Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to create a nationwide paradigm for the use of domestically-produced renewable fuels. We achieved success on this front when the Energy Policy Act was signed into law last year, mandating that production of ethanol reach 8 billion gallons by the year 2012. Economists predict that the Energy Policy Act’s RFS will have a significant impact on both the farm economy and our national economy. We will see a reduction in crude oil imports by two billion barrels per year and a reduction in the outflow of dollars to foreign oil producers by $64 billion. In addition, the RFS will create 234,840 new jobs, increase U.S. household income by $43 billion, and add $200 billion to our GDP between now and 2012. It will also lead to the investment of another $6 billion in renewable fuel production facilities.

We cannot underestimate the importance of renewable energy and its potential benefit to the United States. The use of renewable fuels will give a much needed boost to our farm economy while making our air cleaner and breaking our ties to foreign oil. In the near future the majority of our nation’s energy supplies will come from biofuels, and Illinois farmers stand ready to contribute to America’s energy security and independence.


More Information

Lane Evans was U.S. Representative of Illinois’ 17th Congressional District from 1983 until his retirement this past year.
He supported issues important to electric co-ops such as renewable energy financing and was the recipient of the Illinois Electric Cooperative Public Service Award in 1995. Evans was also very supportive of the co-ops’ Youth To Washington program for many years..