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Nussle: Ethanol Ready to Put Citizens Back to Work

Sometimes the answers to the most vexing puzzles are right in front of us.

Today, unemployment is the unsolved puzzle that is posing a real threat to our economy. We must figure out which puzzle pieces go together to rev up the great American engine that is our job-creating economy.

At least one part of the answer is already here, creating jobs and helping to prop up our economy in some states. With the right policy moves — moves that would essentially lift the regulatory caps that prevent its natural expansion into what is currently a market captive to oil — the American ethanol industry can create jobs in every state.

The right policy moves include:

• Giving Americans a choice at the pump so they have an American-made alternative fuel instead of a regulatory-driven mandate that 90 percent of their fuel be gasoline, two-thirds of which is refined from foreign oil. This would include rigorous defense of the renewable fuel standard and rewriting the rules that define motor fuels in this country as foreign-sourced gasoline.

• Investing in an infrastructure program that would break the hold that global oil companies — defended by American military might while enriching foreign strongmen — have on our motor fuels market. This would mean encouraging the installation of flex-fuel pumps and encouraging the production and sale of flex-fuel vehicles.

• Renewing the call — first made in the bipartisan Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 — to foster a renewable source of domestically produced transportation fuel. We can do that today with continued support for the current generation of ethanol and investment in next-generation cellulosic ethanol, a move that would expand the industry beyond the Midwest to all 50 states, where more than a billion tons of biomass could be used every year to produce enough fuel to all but end America’s reliance on foreign nations.

Each of these moves would create tens of thousands of jobs right here in America. These would be jobs that would be impossible to outsource. It would mean keeping money in South Dakota, instead of sending it to Saudi Arabia, and investing in communities all across America, instead of places like Abu Dhabi. A billion dollars a day for foreign oil, plus taxpayers’ cost to defend the oil shipping routes around some of the most dangerous points on the globe, has cost our economy a terrible price.

It is time we stopped paying that price. And we can, with some very simple moves by the administration and Congress. These steps would benefit red states and blue states, creating jobs in cities and towns as well as rural communities. These steps to promote the production and expansion of ethanol not only would help farmers but would put to work industrial engineers, marketers, suppliers and technicians.

These steps would put a high-octane, high-performing fuel that is better for our environment in our tanks.

America’s ethanol industry stands ready to answer the call to help put America back to work. Ethanol is already here, displacing foreign oil and creating American jobs. But it can do much, much more, given the right policy moves.

Former Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) served as director for the Office of Management and Budget during the George W. Bush administration. He now works as president and chief operating officer of Growth Energy.

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