The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Listen to Voters on the RFS

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 27, 2016

Two more results from the new Harris Poll on what Americans are thinking about key energy issues.

First, 77 percent of registered voters say they’re concerned about government requirements that would increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline:


Second, 73 percent agree that federal government regulations could contribute to increased costs for gasoline to consumers:


Both results basically point fingers at the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – which indeed is Washington pushing for more ethanol in gasoline, which experts and studies warn could impact consumers at the gasoline pump and at the repair shop.

Both results – findings that are strongly decisive and bipartisan – should guide policymakers as they wrestle over what to do with a broken program – one that needs to be repealed or significantly reformed. EPA has proposed requirements for ethanol use in 2017 that would test the ethanol “blend wall” – the point where the RFS requires more ethanol in the fuel supply than can be safely blended as standard E10 gasoline.

EPA supports pushing into the marketplace more E15 fuel, containing 50 percent more ethanol than E10 gasoline. But that’s putting ethanol interests ahead of protecting consumers. Studies have shown E15 could damage engines and fuel systems in vehicles that weren’t designed to use it, and automakers have warned E15 use could void warranties for those vehicles. AAA has estimated that more than 85 percent of the vehicles on the road today are not approved by manufacturers to use E15, including nearly all 2001-2013 models.


In addition higher ethanol-blend fuels could damage marine engines, motorcycles and outdoor power equipment. At the gas pump, a breach of the blend wall could increase the price of gasoline by up to 26 cents per gallon, according to the Congressional Budget Office. In all of these instances, consumers could end up bearing increased costs. API Downstream Group Director Frank Macchiarola:

“Consumers’ interest should come ahead of ethanol interests. … We need Congress to repeal or significantly reform the RFS. Members on both sides of the aisle agree this program is a failure, and we are stepping up our call for Congress to act.”

For more information on the RFS, check out an API white paper that details the program’s legislative background and problematic history, as well as the real-world market forces that have made obsolete the original rationales for creating the RFS – including surging domestic oil production and gasoline demand that’s 10 percent lower than the government’s projections in 2007, when the RFS was  expanded by Congress. The white paper:

Renewable Fuels have been mandated under federal law for over a decade, and our current renewable fuels policy is outdated, and ineffective. Government fuel blending requirements are constraining free market forces, supporting uneconomic activity, and limiting consumer choice.

At a House hearing last week, a spokesman for ethanol manufacturers said there’s nothing wrong with the RFS, that the program should be allowed to continue as it is, requiring more ethanol in the fuel supply than can be safely absorbed as E10. But that simply ignores the warning flags sprouting all around the RFS, as discussed above – which clearly concerns U.S. voters.

The RFS should be repealed or undergo a significant overhaul. In the near term, EPA should set ethanol levels at no more than 9.7 percent of the fuel supply, to protect consumers – while ensuring space in the fuel supply for ethanol-free gasoline. 


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.