Sudden Change: How The New EPA Policy towards Renewable Fuel Threatens Energy Independence

When it comes to the growth of clean, homegrown fuels, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been a leader in the industry. Through a key federal policy – the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) —the EPA has led the way on developing and expanding the use of advanced biofuels by civilians and our military. However, in a shocking turn of events, the EPA may actually become the roadblock on the path to America’s post-oil future as they consider reducing the amount of alternative fuels the industry can produce in 2014.

As a U.S. Army veteran who served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, I know alternative fuels are an essential tool for confronting our single-source dependence on oil, and ensuring our economic and national security. The EPA’s new attempts to weaken the advanced biofuels industry would not only undermine our ability to pursue a diverse energy sector, they would also hinder military readiness.

As the largest institutional consumer of fuel in the world, the Department of Defense (DoD) is extremely vulnerable to price spikes cost of fuel. When fuel prices increase unexpectedly, the military must divert resources to pay for the increased energy costs. Additionally, our military spends enormous resources and puts our servicemen and women in greater risk just to keep global supply lines open and operable.

That’s why the military is investing in advanced fuels to diversify energy sources and protect against price spikes.  They know this isn’t about being green.  It’s about expanding options to maintain the strongest fighting force in the world.

Here at home, we are shackled to the same volatile global oil market. Our transportation sector is dependent on oil to meet more than 93 percent of its energy needs.  And because the price of oil is determined globally, unrest or instability in faraway places raises prices at the pump and hurts household budgets too.

When it comes to America’s energy security, we need and deserve better choices. We shouldn’t hold ourselves back.

Today, the robust policies put in place by the EPA are supporting the growth of the advanced biofuels industry. One particular success story is biodiesel, a type of advanced biofuel.  Last year, the United States produced more than a billion gallons of biodiesel, with every single gallon reducing our dependence on oil.  The industry is poised to produce even more this year, helping revitalize small businesses and local communities all over the country.

However, proposed cuts to volume requirements for biodiesel and other advanced biofuels would hurt the future growth of the industry, limiting our country – and the military’s – ability to diversify fuel sources and hitting smaller producers and biorefiners especially hard.

As someone who served and defended this country, I believe the military needs every tool at its disposal when it comes to powering the mission and keeping America safe.

And as a North Carolinian, I want our state to continue leading the way in securing America with cleaner, advanced biofuels – like biodiesel. North Carolina is home to five biodiesel production companies, each generating private investment and creating jobs in local communities across the state – all while strengthening our national security.

This is a fight for America’s energy future – and the stakes couldn’t be higher. I call upon the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider cutting their support for robust policies that provide alternatives to our dangerous dependence on oil and bolster the renewable fuels industry in America. Instead of standing in the way of a more secure energy future, the EPA should go back to leading the way.

Chris V. Rey is a former Army Signal Officer who served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He is currently the Mayor of Spring Lake, N.C