To the Editor:

Ideological purity tests aren’t going to get us anywhere when it comes to addressing big issues like climate change. Our actions must be rooted in reality and attainability, not fantasy. This is why any commonsense discussion of climate change can’t leave out biofuels.

Look around you, pretty much everything in your home and workplace was brought to you by medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Trucks are the lifeblood of the economy, and with the growth of at-home delivery, that trend isn’t slowing. The plans we make now and the actions of tomorrow must be rooted in the reality of today.

Maine has a very ambitious goal of going from 5,000 light-duty electric vehicles (EVs) on Maine roads today to 219,000 light-duty EVs by 2030. There are more than 50 light-duty EV models you can buy right now, but good luck finding an EV truck.

Unfortunately, climate deniers are not the only ones who don’t take climate change seriously. Establishing unrealistic timelines and ignoring proven science and proven policies is another disastrous way that climate change is not taken seriously. If the average truck lasts 15 years and everyone can’t go out to buy an EV tomorrow, then to ignore the proven benefits of biofuels is just not taking climate action seriously.

The bulk of California’s successful transportation sector greenhouse gas reductions is from the use of biofuels, beating the benefits of electrified cars, trucks, and buses by 3:1. All diesel engines, old and new, can operate on blends of biodiesel or 100 percent renewable diesel.

These are fuels that are capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent and in the case of renewable diesel fuel, emissions may be reduced by upwards of 80 percent, according to research commissioned by California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. But good luck finding any serious discussion of biofuels in the meeting minutes of the Maine Climate Council Transportation Working Group.

Biofuels can also be sourced locally and sustainably from waste from the forest industry, agriculture, and aquaculture. Talk about Pine Tree Power that is lower cost, local and reliable! With smart policy, biofuels can be a win-win for Maine’s economy and environment.

Critics of biofuels say they aren’t zero-emission, but neither is the electricity from your plug and neither is the process of manufacturing your new EVs or the environmental consequences of battery production. We should think twice about taking liquid fuel vehicles off the road before they’ve reached the end of their useful life.

Reliability is another reason we should go slow with transitioning our vehicles. Liquid fuels save lives, they power the vehicles and backup generators of emergency responders in an electric power outage. The past decade saw a 159% increase in weather-related major power outages (affecting 50,000 customers or more) in the Northeast. Now there is a referendum question that will make it harder to build transmission lines on public land and update the electric grid when it is already estimated that the state needs to come up with $60 billion if Maine chooses to aggressively pursue electrification.

Biofuels can quickly and affordably reduce carbon emissions now. It would be a serious sin of omission (and emission) if biofuels are not recognized for their proven positive impacts in Maine’s new Clean Transportation Roadmap. The Maine Climate Council Transportation Working Group meets this Friday and I’m going to ask them to look at ways to incentivize greener choices and lower carbon options like biofuels without putting excessive financial burdens on Maine families and businesses. I hope you will join me in asking for common sense and following the science.

Irv Smith


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