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The value of a viable energy future

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Chicago Tribune recently published an editorial “Crop Politics”, in which the author suggests eliminating the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and subsidies for biofuels and renewable energy. 

I wonder if the author understands the history of energy subsidies in the United States.  The graph below, which is from Nancy Pfund, DBL Investors, illustrates that the U.S. government has been subsidizing energy for decades—almost a century for oil and gas industries. The horizontal axis of the graph is the years of subsidy life for a particular energy industry and the vertical axis is the cost of the subsidy in billions of dollars.

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Several points in this graph are work exploring:

  • Oil & gas subsidies began in 1918 and continue today.
  • The subsidies provided in the beginning years of the oil and gas subsidies far exceeded the subsidies of the early years of the renewable energy industries—even during the Depression years.
  • The nuclear industry has also received significant subsidies that far exceed the renewable energy subsidies. 

I could go on explaining how the subsidies received by the existing energy supply industries enabled these industries to prosper. But the simple fact is that the federal government assisted these industries to develop because of a long-range vision that energy is critical to the future of these United States. 

My point is simple: Why chastise an industry that is creating renewable, clean, affordable and sustainable supply of energy that is vital to our economy? Why suggest that the dynamic and responsive industry of agriculture cannot respond to this challenge? After all, the productivity efficiency of the agricultural industry has exceeded the productivity efficiency of all other industries. 

The ingenuity and creativity of U.S. farmers and ranchers, and the fertile natural resources of the United States managed by these farmers and ranchers is our future. Renewable energy uses just what it says—renewable sources, not fossilized solid or liquid carbon that has taken eons to produce, not to mention the impact of releasing the carbon stored in these fossil energy sources. 

Let’s be real. The sun will shine—at least for the next 6 billion years—and the wind will blow and the soil will produce plants thanks to the dynamic photochemical reaction called photosynthesis. In addition, scientific evidence suggests that food prices are equally correlated with the price of oil and the price of corn. The process used to produce biofuels only removes the starch from the grain; the oil, protein and other byproducts are high-quality animal feed or can be used in other industrial products. And one thing the American diet needs less of is starch. 

Perhaps it is the responsibility of the federal government to assure a clean, abundant, reliable and affordable energy future for this country—just as it has done for the past decades. After all, energy is key to our country’s economy and economic competiveness in the global economy. In pursuit of a viable energy future, the federal government has the responsibility to assure new and developing energy industries will move forward.


James Fischer James Fischer (
Principal, Fischer and Associates

View more posts by James Fischer

2 comments on “The value of a viable energy future”

  1. Frances Fischer
    Posted Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 8:19:16 PM

    I totally agree....well done

  2. Bill Hires
    Posted Friday, November 15, 2013 at 7:54:19 AM

    Well written with the correct information gathered by the author of many years of experience in this subject. His background began many years ago in research with alternate fuels. He knows what he writes about without a political agenda.or headlines.

    l research.

The views and opinions expressed in AgChllenge2050 blog posts are solely the opinions of the authors, and not those of Farm Foundation, NFP.