America’s Breadbasket Holds Key to Solving Gas Crisis

COMMENTARY | As President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner look to possibly end huge government subsidies of large oil companies, they need look no further than their own back yards. Both Ohio and Illinois are huge corn producers and agricultural states. They should consider giving these billions of dollars to the biodiesel industry.

My native state of Missouri would stand to benefit greatly. Missouri is rich in fertile crop land, and farmers could always use an economic stimulus package by getting more income from producing more crops.

Biodiesel is an issue that doesn’t come up very often in Missouri. However, now is the time for our political leaders to push agriculture and technology to the limit, as the nation needs to expand its biodiesel and ethanol programs to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Current Status

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources lists just 15 biodiesel plants currently in operation or being constructed. They are mostly located in northern Missouri or southeast Missouri, where the most cropland exists. Missouri needs to expand these plants by encouraging growth in areas beyond using corn to make ethanol. One plant being constructed in St. Joseph will experiment with cellulosic fibers, according to the Kansas City Star. Another in Carthage used agricultural waste products, such as chicken parts, before it was shut down in 2009.

It’s creative companies like these that think outside the box that should be rewarded for hard work in the Show-Me State. Big oil companies have done the same thing the same way for 50 years. They know how to work the system to their advantage.

Politics of Ethanol

Missouri last approved its ethanol blend rate in 2008. It’s not only time to revisit that policy, but also expand it. Corn prices have gone up again, but it may not necessarily be because of ethanol. The United States is the world’s largest corn producer but also the largest exporter of the grain.

Creative ways to produce ethanol and biodiesel need to come from innovative companies that can turn agricultural waste fibers and even trash into fuel for cars. Missouri can help foster that. Politicians like U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) have supported measures revolving around biofuels in the past. It’s time for him to step up again and encourage Missouri to engage in another economic activity that helps secure America’s future.

The state has offered a biodiesel producer incentive fund since 2002 that maxes out at $6 million annually for large producers of ethanol. That number needs to increase to be competitive with other states. Kansas has an incentive based upon how much a producer invests in ethanol plants. Iowa, a huge corn growing state, offers the largest incentives for biofuel growers and producers.

Benefits

The long-term benefits of allowing more biofuel plants in Missouri are manifold. It increases the economic engine in Missouri, provides well-paying jobs and keeps Missouri’s agricultural sector strong. It only makes sense that state and federal politicians should look to America’s breadbasket to find solutions to our energy crisis as gasoline prices rise.

Biodiesel and biofuels are a perfect fit for Missouri. Politicians need to realize that on every level and jump start more production to help ease the United States’ burden as consumers deal with high gas prices.