Danville, VA - He is on a mission against ethanol. Congressman Bob Goodlatte has been fighting against government requirements to put it in our gasoline But others say ethanol is our path to energy independence and it is here to stay.
Whether you like ethanol or not, you likely are using it. Almost everyone in Virginia has an ethanol blend inside their gas tank right now. But some say government mandates have simply gone too far.
Central Virginia's longest-serving representative is at war.
"That's just really out of control government interference in the marketplace," said Goodlatte.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte has been fighting almost tirelessly for years against ethanol mandates in gasoline. Goodlatte sat down with us to explain his side of the debate.
"The federal government is picking winners and losers," said Goodlatte.
Opponents of the Renewable Fuel Standard, like Goodlatte, say the more corn being used for ethanol production the higher the costs for corn to be used as feed for animals, which means ultimately higher costs for food that we eat.
"They're concerned about rising food prices and the effect that will have on people's buying habits," said Goodlatte.
Goodlatte argues that the requirement to blend ethanol with gasoline can be blamed for the higher prices of meat at the grocery store. And for restaurants, he says those burgers could be costing more, too.
"They in a very very competitive industry, the restaurant industry and the grocery store industry don't often have the ability to pass along to consumers," said Goodlatte.
But Professor of Agriculture and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech Jim Pease says ethanol cannot be completely to blame for higher meat costs. Pease says the drought in the central part of the U-S has resulted in the supply of cattle being the lowest in decades. Meanwhile, CEO of the Renewable Fuel Association Bob Dinneen explains the price of corn has dropped substantially.
"The price of corn has fallen by more than 50% over the past 2 years and food prices haven't come down," said Dinneen.
Still, Congressman Goodlatte is determined. He's so passionate, he's trying to change the government's hand in the ethanol debate.
"I've introduced the legislation which would eliminate corn from the Renewable Fuels Standard or even better eliminate the Renewable Fuels Standard altogether," said Goodlatte.
Pease says that's not a good idea. He says ethanol reduces air pollution and is good for the environment, despite the amount of energy needed to produce corn.
"There doesn't seem to be much doubt anymore that...at least you get more energy out than you put in," said Pease.
And Dinneen says ethanol has revived the corn industry.
"I see a community that has been revitalized by this industry," said Dinneen.
Pease also points out government financial incentives to blend gasoline with ethanol ended in 2011.
"It was felt that the ethanol industry had received the stimulus that it needed to in order to build new ethanol plants," said Pease.
But everywhere you look, headlines suggests ethanol may not be good for the environment. Within the last month, researchers published in Nature Geoscience a study that found ethanol can increase ground-level ozone.
"Anybody who thinks that ethanol is the solution to urban air problems should think harder. And if anything, the only study...has actually suggested the opposite with respect to ozone," said Alberto Salvo, Associate Professor of Economics at National University of Singapore.
That research was done in Brazil with a different concentration of ethanol in gasoline. Here in the US, another study published last month in the Nature Climate Change journal says bio-fuels made with corn residue release 7% more greenhouse gases in the early years compared to conventional gasoline. But according to the Des Moines Register, critics of that study say this study's authors used a 'worst case' scenario.
Goodlatte is not giving up anytime soon, however and neither is the government. Current legislation is requiring blenders to add bio-fuels to gasoline until 2022.
"If ethanol is a good thing, and in some circumstances it may very well be, it should prove itself in the marketplace. Let consumers buy it when they want to buy it," said Goodlatte.
Virginia didn't have any ethanol production until now. Vireol Bio Energy LLC a ethanol production company opened in Hopewell, Virginia. Governor Terry McAuliffe says that creates 70 jobs with more than a $26 million investment.