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Pope Francis Brings his Message of Change to America

September 22, 2015


"What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?" asked Pope Francis back in May in his environmental encyclical. It is a question every generation has posed before passing on the mantle to the next. Every parent wants to see their children grow up in a world that is better than when they first entered it. Pope Francis asked this question as a way to start a conversation meant to bring the world together in finding solutions to common global concerns — in this case, the environment. On Thursday, he will take his message for international cooperation on this issue to one of the highest levels possible in an address before a joint session of Congress. No matter which side of the aisle one stands on, the basis behind the Pope's intentions is one we can all agree on: we all want to leave behind a world better than how we found it. Luckily, the United States is ahead of the game. A decade ago, in the midst of war in the Middle East and skyrocketing gas prices, Congress passed a landmark energy program: the Renewable Fuel Standard. Since then, ethanol — with the backbone of the RFS behind it — has been helping to clean our air by slowly weaning Americans off their addiction to dirty fossil fuels. When looking at ethanol's benefits, one has to wonder why the United States has only recently rediscovered this fuel, which was first used by Henry Ford a century ago. Consider this: conventional ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by a third compared to regular gasoline every year. With a 10 percent share of the fuel market, ethanol is able to displace the annual greenhouse gas equivalent of 8.4 million cars. If you take one look at the smog-choked skies of Beijing, it becomes immediately clear just how far the U.S. has come in the fight against air pollution. By providing consumers with a cleaner alternative to petroleum, renewable fuels are at the forefront of this fight. But it's not enough for renewables to simply show up. In accordance with Pope Francis' message, the RFS is changing the game entirely; the program is laying the groundwork for a future that moves our nation beyond the oil industry's monopoly at the pump. The air of excitement surrounding the Pope's visit is unprecedented, and rightly so. He has confronted issues of importance to the Church in a way that no other pontiff has in recent memory. Pope Francis has shown that leadership means, at times, going against the status quo. In an attempt to channel that sense of leadership, the ethanol industry is determined to reverse the detrimental effects a petroleum-based economy has had on the environment. Whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or agnostic, Americans shouldn't have to think of a clean environment as a privilege. It is, as the Pope said in his encyclical, a "complex crisis." On the day of his arrival here in America, the ethanol industry is ready and willing to tackle this crisis head on.