Montana is a powerhouse. For generations, our natural resources have powered this nation’s homes, cities and economy. And we stand to keep powering America for generations to come as one of the top producers of biofuels and bioenergy.
Through hard work and innovation, Montana can remain one of the nation’s top energy producers, preserve our state’s natural resources and create new markets and jobs. On top of all of that, our growing biofuels industry stands to one day make our nation and military independent from foreign oil.
But this success requires support in Congress and the economic predictability provided by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which sets annual targets for the use of renewable fuel in our transportation fuel mix.
Currently, the RFS supports 400,000 American jobs. In 2011 alone, the RFS helped Americans save $50 billion in imported fuel costs. It has also helped reduce U.S. oil imports from the Persian Gulf by 25 percent since the year 2000. The U.S. departments of energy and agriculture estimate that there is enough bioenergy to replace a third of America’s gasoline needs by 2030.
Citing threats that have been made as a result of our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, the Department of Defense has set ambitious goals for energy independence and is taking steps to use advanced biofuels. In 2010, the U.S. Navy “Green Hornet” jet made a successful test flight powered by Montana camelina-derived jet fuel.
Montana farmers harvest about 9.5 million pounds of camelina each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the U.S. Air Force and Navy are investing a combined total of $16 million in Montana for 140,000 gallons of camelina-based biofuels for aviation testing and certification.
Interest in biofuels in flight goes beyond the military. In 2011, many in the aviation industry – including Boeing, Alaska Airlines, and the Seattle and Portland airports – celebrated the release of a study demonstrating the potential of camelina-derived biofuels to power commercial airliners.
Also in our state, locally produced biodiesel is being used to power personal vehicles and transit buses in the Havre area, and has been used to successfully power a BNSF train locomotive.
In this sluggish economy, Montana biofuels are charging ahead. There are two proposed ethanol plants, a strong potential for community-based oilseed and biofuel production, and new market opportunities for sustainable aviation fuel.
We live in an exciting and pivotal time in our state’s energy-producing history. We have so much potential to move forward and lead. However, this potential is being threatened by some in Congress who have proposed to pause or roll back the RFS.
We must keep the RFS in place. It is vital to Montana’s rural farms and communities, our state’s economy and our nation’s national security.
Barbara Stiffarm is executive director of Opportunity Link in Havre, which promotes the use of locally produced biofuels for transportation.
Dr. Duane Johnson is president of ClearSkies, Inc., Agricultural Consulting in Bigfork, and is a biofuels researcher and producer.
Steve Corrick is communications coordinator for Algae Aqua-Culture Technology, which operates a biomass-based bioenergy and soil amendment production plant in Columbia Falls.
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