Based on a recent letter published in the Herald, (“Fossil fuel vs. green energy,” March 14), I would like to correct several assertions about “green energy” that are incredibly misleading and, frankly, wrong.
Specifically, the claim that 30 percent of soybeans are being used for the biodiesel industry is inaccurate. Soybeans are grown primarily for their protein content.
About half of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are exported as whole beans. The vast majority of soybeans used stateside are fed to livestock, but first they must be crushed to separate the protein meal from the soybean oil. Soybeans are 80 percent protein meal and 20 percent oil, but that oil contains too much fat content for a healthy diet. Even in animals raised for meat, proper digestion and weight gain cannot be obtained when they consume that much oil.
Most of the oil that is separated from soy protein meal goes back into the food supply in the form of salad dressing, deep fried foods, and other prepared or manufactured food items. However, the volume of oil produced as a byproduct of protein demand remains too great to feed to livestock or consume as food for humans.
That’s why biodiesel was invented — as an alternative use for the oil that cannot be consumed as food. After counting soy products that are exported and consumed as food or feed, about 3 percent of the soybean crop is used to produce biodiesel.
Even though biodiesel uses a relatively small part of the soybean harvest, it has significantly positive impacts on emissions and the economy. According to the American Lung Association of Minnesota, biodiesel’s first 10 years as a fuel standard saw a reduction of more than 7.4 billion pounds of carbon dioxide. On a larger scale, the benefits are equally as profound.
Accounting for all harvesting, fuel production and transportation, the EPA says biodiesel reduces carbon emissions by as much as 86 percent and makes the air cleaner to breathe compared to petroleum diesel.
As biofuels grow, thousands of jobs have been created and are being supported during a time of economic hardship in the agriculture industry. Not only does the biofuel industry create a cleaner, safer environment, but it also creates jobs and economic prosperity in communities that need it most.
Additionally, there have been successful polices at the Minnesota and federal levels to ensure that the acreage of farmland devoted to biofuels is kept at a reasonable level. Since the enactment of the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, America’s farmers have cut their operating acres by 23 million because we are growing more efficient crops, like soybeans, that produce more protein per acre.
As the global demand for protein increases, we will continue to harvest more fats and carbohydrates than humans or livestock can eat. That’s why the biofuel industry is blossoming; they are simply the byproducts of the food supply.
These fats and carbohydrates are nature’s most elegant way of storing solar energy. So even when the sun isn’t shining on fabulous photovoltaic panels or when the wind isn’t blowing on those wonderful windmills, nature can store renewable energy. We can grow our economy by using these renewable fuels.
As the original writer stated, the fight against global warming and climate change must be fact-based, rather than ideologically-driven. So instead of making inaccurate and inflammatory claims, it’s time to take a serious look at the harmful effects of fossil fuels and the benefits that the biodiesel industry can provide.