Sometimes, big government becomes so big that even good conservatives find themselves unwittingly advocating expansions of government in response to its failures. That's precisely what U. S. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) is doing with the new "solution" he has offered to the egregious humanitarian and economic scandal “The Ethanol Mandate”, officially known at the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS).
In the wake of rising food and feedstock prices caused by corn-based ethanol, Olson and several other members of Congress think the answer is to expand the RFS to include ethanol derived from natural gas. The result would be a spike in natural gas prices, hurting manufacturers and consumers.
The current ethanol mandate is a disaster and serves as a poster child of what happens when government attempts to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. It has already given us the embarrassment of EPA mandates for cellulosic biofuels that don't even exist, fraudulent trading of fake renewable credits, and approval of fuels with 15 percent ethanol that can damage engines (and which car warranties won't cover). We are It's now approaching a so-called "blend wall" where it will be physically impossible to blend the ever-increasing required volumes of renewable fuels into the total U.S. fuel supply.
The biggest scandal is the impact the RFS had on the food supply. Last year, 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop was burned as ethanol, a record high for our country. And combined with the drought conditions we experienced, livestock and poultry producers suffered.
Two Democratic governors — Bev Purdue of North Carolina and Mike Beebe of Arkansas — officially petitioned the EPA to grant a waiver from the RFS. They were joined by a bipartisan group of 26 senators and 156 House members.
A study by professors at Purdue University quantified the price impact, finding that a strong waiver could reduce the price of corn by as much as $1.30 per bushel.
Jose Graziano da Silva, the director-general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization weighed in warning: "An immediate, temporary suspension of that mandate would give some respite to the market and allow more of the crop to be channeled towards food and feed uses."
But the EPA said no – so the food burning continues unchecked.
Rep. Olson deserves credit for supporting full repeal; however, he is unfortunately dividing his efforts by introducing legislation that actually expands the mandate. The Domestic Alternative Fuels Act (H.R. 1959), would expand the RFS by allowing natural gas to qualify as a renewable fuel.
Phil Kerpen is president of American Commitment, a columnist on Fox News Opinion, chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition, and author of the 2011 book Democracy Denied.
American Commitment is dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom.
Washingtonian magazine named Mr. Kerpen to their "Guest List" in 2008 and The Hill newspaper named Mr. Kerpen a "Top Grassroots Lobbyist" in 2011.
Mr. Kerpen's op-eds have run in newspapers across the country and he is a frequent radio and television commentator on economic growth issues.
Prior to joining American Commitment, Mr. Kerpen served as vice president for policy at Americans for Prosperity. Mr. Kerpen has also previously worked as an analyst and researcher for the Free Enterprise Fund, the Club for Growth, and the Cato Institute.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Kerpen currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife Joanna and their daughter Lilly.