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Tuesday Letters: Ethanol still big in Iowa

This 02 May 2006 photo shows a sign at a Citgo gas station in Arlington, VA, that offers E85, a blend which uses 85 percent ethanol and and 15 percent gasoline. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board makes two erroneous assertions in its Jan. 1 editorial, “Ethanol lobby losing clout in Iowa caucuses.”

First, the board claims Iowa’s voters have expressed “serious skepticism” about ethanol. Nothing could be further from the truth. A recent poll sponsored by Bloomberg Politics and the Des Moines Register shows the Renewable Fuel Standard — the law which sets the amount of biofuels that are to be blended with gasoline – enjoys solid bipartisan support among likely caucus goers. The poll showed that 77 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans favor the RFS.

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Those results are not surprising. Iowa’s voters understand the importance of creating greater diversity in our fuel supply. They have also seen first-hand the economic benefits the ethanol industry has provided in creating and maintaining well-paying stable employment opportunities in rural communities throughout our nation.

Second, the board claims that ethanol is harmful to the environment. Again, this is simply not true and belies the fact that a number of studies have concluded that ethanol use has been a potent weapon in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transportation sector. According to the Department of Energy, corn ethanol produced today reduces GHG emission by 34 percent on average compared with fossil fuels. In 2014, the use of ethanol in gasoline reduced GHG emissions from the transportation sector by a whopping 39.6 million tons. That’s the equivalent of removing more than 8 million cars for an entire year.

Ethanol is a home-grown source of renewable energy that has not only had indelible positive impacts on our nation’s environment and economy, it has also allowed consumers to have less expensive fuel choices each time they pull up to a fueling station to fill their engines.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO

Renewable Fuels Association

Saudi Arabia too good a customer

The Shi’ite half of the civil war in the Middle East is rightly stirred up by the mass execution of 47 people in Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, including top Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. What cost al-Nimr his life? He was detained in 2012 for organizing a protest demanding an end to discrimination against the Shi’ite minority in Saudi Arabia. He was put on trial for “disobeying the ruler” and “inciting sectarian strife,” based on sermons he had given. His execution provoked the Shi’ite majority in Iran to trash the Saudi embassy, leading to severed relations between the two regional giants. Shi’ite-dominated Iraq may soon close the newly opened Saudi embassy in Baghdad as well.

And Uncle Sam’s response? Not willing to upset its best foreign customer for weapons of human destruction — more than $80 billion since 2001 — someone at State opened the door at 3 a.m. to whisper that the U.S. has “deep concerns.” We shouldn’t be surprised by the American response. We’re just following the time-honored capitalist adage: “The customer is always right.”

Walt Zlotow, Glen Ellyn

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