The Brookings Institute hosted a panel discussion today entitled, “Ten years of the Renewable Fuel Standard: What’s been the impact on energy and the environment?“. Two of the featured speakers were Chris Knittel and Tim Searchinger and prior to the event, Americans United for Change called on them to fully disclose their past work against the biofuels industry. Back in 2008, Searchinger released a report on the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) elements of biofuel production, that even though was found to have been found highly flawed, discussions around ILUC continue today.
According to Americans United for Change (AUC) Communications Director Jeremy Funk, criticism of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would be put in proper context for the audience if they knew if was coming from those who benefited financially from the oil industry, who has aggressively lobbied against biofuels and the RFS.
The organization cites Knittel as a long-term academic critic of the RFS who between 2007 to 2009 received nearly $500,000 in grants from Chevron. Knittel is currently an associate scholar at the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, which is sponsored by BP, Chevron and Shell among other companies. Also, notes AUC, the ‘event materials’ the Brookings panel attendees are encouraged to download are all, with the exception of a CBO report, co-authored by Knittel.
“We hope Mr. Knittel and Mr. Searchinger will be transparent about their financial ties to Big Oil and not present themselves as objective critics of the RFS,” said Funk prior to event. “Refusing to disclose their relationship with the oil industry would put them in poor company with Dr. ‘Willie’ Soon who controversially published a number of academic papers playing down the consequences of climate-change without disclosing that his work was financed with over a million dollars from the fossil-fuel industry, which of course is a leading producer of carbon pollution. It’s only fair the audience knows whose interests are really being represented at the table. And those interests hate the fact that over the last 10 years, the RFS has successfully displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil with cleaner homegrown fuels like ethanol. When Big Oil pretends to care about the environment, it should be taken with a grain of tar sand.”
Funk added, “And in case it doesn’t come up among the panelists, we would also encourage the Brookings moderator to note there is mountain of independent academic research showing that ethanol use significantly cuts down carbon emissions compared to gasoline made from dirty fossil fuels, whether it be from the Argonne National Laboratory, Purdue University, the University of Nebraska, Michigan State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Duke University, the University of Illinois-Chicago and others.”
The panel was moderated by Ted Gayer, Vice president and Director, Economic Studies Joseph A. Pechman Senior Fellow and also featured Bruce Babcock, Director of the Biobased Industry Center and Economics Professor for Iowa State and Terry Dinan, Senior Advisor, Microeconomic Studies Division of the Congressional Budget Office.