March 22, 2016

Setting the Record Straight on Heartland Institute’s False RFS Claims

By Tom Buis

Last week, the Heartland Institute published a blog post claiming  the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has a detrimental impact on American farmers and rural corn producing areas. Growth Energy responded to the post, pointing to the clear successes of the RFS and questioning the source of the original content. Growth Energy's response is presented below: 

Recently, more dubious research has been published attacking the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its merits. A study from researchers at Strata Policy and the Institute of Political Economy at Utah State University falsely suggests the RFS harms farmers. But the truth is that the RFS has been a tremendous success for America’s farmers and rural communities; to suggest otherwise is nothing short of disingenuous.

Net farm income averaged $62.4 billion over the 7 years (2000-2007) prior to the enactment of the RFS. Since then, net farm income increased to an average of $88.6 billion, an increase of nearly 42 percent that was driven in large part by the additional market opportunities afforded farmers by the ethanol industry and the RFS. Additionally, the biofuels industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs that can't be outsourced while providing the largest single economic stimulus to rural America in decades. But it’s no surprise that Big Oil’s beneficiaries are at it again—these groups want to turn back the clock on the most successful energy policy our country has ever seen to defend fossil fuels’ monopoly and they are not above using America’s farmers as a political prop.

The Heartland Institute seized on the opportunity to publicize the erroneous study in a blog post, but failed to disclose some disconcerting facts about the funding behind the research.

Strata Policy and the Institute of Political Economy at Utah State University are both funded by the Koch brothers and the lead researchers, Randy T. Simmons and Ryan M. Yonk, are professors at the Koch-funded institute. This is not the first time the two have been the front of a suspicious study undermining environmentally sound policies, like the RFS. It likely won’t be the last either, so long as they continue to be funded by forces determined to keep the oil industry’s monopoly by undermining the only energy policy that has slashed oil imports, reduced harmful emissions, and saved consumers at the pump. These outsized forces have unlimited resources to spread misinformation and that extends to interfering with academic integrity.

The RFS was enacted with three goals in mind: to decrease oil imports and dependence on foreign oil, increase rural incomes and farmer profits, and to reduce harmful fossil fuel emissions. On all three counts, the RFS has succeeded and alleging otherwise ignores reality. The biggest reality the study misses is the fact that subsidies under the RFS ended in 2011, meanwhile subsidies to the fossil fuel industry continue to this day. The RFS ensures access for a cleaner, American-made fuel in a market tightly controlled by the oil industry. The funders behind this study want to keep American consumers addicted to foreign oil, which have harmful emissions and higher prices, but the American public can see through these deceitful studies and America’s rural communities and our farmers can see through them, too.

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