The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Criticism of Ethanol Policy Grows

Jack Gerard

Jack Gerard
Posted January 27, 2016

If the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) were a candidate in this election year, its track record would invite landslide defeat.

Editorial boards of major newspapers are now echoing what a diverse coalition of restaurant associations, grocers, producers of poultry, pork and beef, environmental non-profits and anti-hunger groups have been saying for years.

Arguing that “there is no doubt it should be repealed,” the Washington Post editorial board explains: “Blending more and more ethanol into gasoline will require spending money on infrastructure that is not yet in place and selling more fuel that older and more specialized engines cannot take. It will also raise food prices, according to a 2014 Congressional Budget Office analysis…The country’s recent uptick in oil production eliminates the already weak argument for ethanol’s energy security benefits.”

USA Today calls the mandate a “folly” that “forces consumers to buy billions of gallons of ethanol, a costly and inferior fuel produced mostly from corn.” The editors conclude: “A heavy-handed Washington mandate makes no sense. It is bad for consumers, bad for the environment, and bad for Americans’ confidence in their political system.”

Recent polling shows 72 percent of American voters are concerned about government requirements for higher ethanol blends. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to force the addition of more ethanol into the nation’s fuel supply each year, regardless of consumer demand or vehicle compatibility.

Since its passage in 2007, the RFS has had almost a decade to make good on its promises to reduce emissions and imports. Instead, it has “significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions when compared to emissions from gasoline,” according to the Environmental Working Group. And the imports argument? USA Today says “even that veneer has disappeared” because imports and fuel costs are down “thanks in part to increased domestic production.”

Increases in emissions and food costs, potential engine damage for the 90 percent of vehicles not manufacturer-approved to use ethanol blends higher than 10 percent, the risk of economic damage – the RFS is more than obsolete; it is damaging. It’s more than flawed. It’s failed.

Repeal or significant RFS reform should be a top congressional priority in 2016.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack N. Gerard is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute (API), the national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry. He also has served as the president and CEO of trade associations representing the chemical and mining industries. Jack understands how Washington works. He spent several years working in the U.S. Senate and House, and co-founded a Washington-based government relations consulting firm. A native of Idaho, Jack also is very active in the Boy Scouts of America, a university graduate program on politics, and his church’s leadership. He and his wife are the proud parents of eight children, including twin boys adopted from Guatemala.