The black and white of it is that ethanol is the only alternative to oil that is having any impact on America’s voracious oil appetite. The use of 13 billion gallons of ethanol in 2010 reduced America’s need for imported oil by 445 million barrels– more oil than we import from Saudi Arabia annually.

Moreover, ethanol is reducing the pain American’s feel at the pump as a result of oil markets being held hostage by the whims of OPEC. According to a report from respected economists at the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, the mere presence of ethanol in the market kept gasoline prices $0.89 lower than they otherwise would have been in 2010. That is a savings of some $800 for the average American family.

The impact of ethanol can even be seen in oil pricing around the world. As RFA’s Geoff Cooper noted in his analysis of the unusual and growing spread between the West Texas Intermediate crude contract at the terminal in Cushing, Oklahoma and the Brent Crude price in the UK, “… ethanol now constitutes 10% of the U.S. gasoline pool and represents a rapidly growing share of U.S. refinery input. In other words, the glut of North American oil creating the logjam at Cushing is in large part the result of increased ethanol production and use. Larger ethanol supplies are eating into U.S. oil demand and putting downward pressure on WTI prices.”

To be clear, all OPEC members are concerned about the growing role of biofuels. In confidential 2010 U.S. Embassy cables recently uncovered by WikiLeaks, Ambassador James Smith stated that the Saudi assistant petroleum minister had expressed concern that Saudis could be “greened out” of the U.S. fuel market by biofuels like ethanol. According to the cable, “Prince Abdulaziz (the Assistant Minister of Petroleum) noted that in 2009, the U.S. for the first time consumed more ethanol domestically than Saudi oil. Saudi officials watched the ethanol debate with great interest…”

Even the “moderate” voices in OPEC are concerned about the growth and potential of American ethanol production to replace the need for imported oil.

With the motives of OPEC nations clear, it begs the question, “Why would we let them off the hook?” Instead of seeking to turn back the clock to the days of gas lines and oil embargoes, the nation should be seeking ways to expedite the growth and evolution of the American ethanol and biofuel market. Sadly, as is the case within OPEC, politics are threatening to trump sound policy.