Editor's Note: This column was co-authored by Tom Fletcher
Even with an energy revolution underway in the United States, the government still makes us pour money into expensive, inefficient, and subsidized energy like ethanol. Due to a law called the Renewable Fuel Standard, consumers are required to fill up their gas tanks with increased amounts of ethanol. This is problematic since forced ethanol consumption means that cars get fewer miles per gallon, gasoline and food prices will increase, and your car’s engine could be in danger as long the Renewable Fuel Standard remains on the books.
Passed as part of the American Energy Act of 2005 and increased in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates that Americans must consume billions of gallons of corn-based ethanol. Today, when Americans fill up their car or motorcycle they are doing so with 10 percent of ethanol. Next year, Americans will be forced to use more than 14 billion gallons of corn based ethanol, a number that could increase ethanol’s percentage per gallon of gasoline by 50 percent. If this law is not repealed, Americans will be forced to consume 36 billion gallons of “renewable fuels” by 2022, almost half of which will be ethanol.
The problem with the Renewable Fuel Standard is simple: mixing large amounts of ethanol in gasoline is economically inefficient and can damage vehicles’ engines. A study by NERA Economic Consulting concluded that the ethanol mandate could increase the price of gasoline by 30 percent and increase the price of diesel by 300 percent. Furthermore, ethanol delivers 25 percent fewer miles per gallon than gasoline with numerous studies showing that ethanol’s corrosive properties damage engines. Increasing the ethanol blend per gallon of gasoline, which is what the EPA is considering, could severely damage older vehicles. Fearing the worse, both auto manufacturers and AAA have come out warning against the new standards.
Another victim of the Renewable Fuel Standard are people that eat food – that’s you. With more and more quantities of ethanol being diverted to fuel instead of food, the price of products like milk, eggs, meat or anything made with corn or its sweeteners has increased. Price-Waterhouse-Cooper along with the National Council of Chain Restaurants concluded that increased ethanol requirements will cost fast food and dine-in restaurants $2.5 billion and $691 billion respectively. This means that, due to the ethanol mandate, every restaurant in the U.S. pays around $18,000 extra for food, inflated prices that are certainly passed to consumers.
One myth that has been perpetuated by ethanol supporters is that it’s environmental preferable to fossil fuels. This has been conclusively disproven. Todd Searcher of Princeton University found that corn-based ethanol nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years, calling harvesting ethanol, a “carbon intensive process. Other studies from the National Research Council report that “production of biomass ethanol is projected to result in a higher release of air pollutants, such as ozone and sulfur oxide, than petroleum-based fuels.”
Even with data saying otherwise, ethanol supporters continue to promulgate fairytales leading people to believe that ethanol is the solution for all of the country’s energy needs. If ethanol is the solution it claims to be, then it should compete on a level playing field instead of being propped up by government mandates. For too long politicians have caved to ethanol special interests instead of standing up and pursuing policies that would unleash the American energy giant. Allowing a continuation of the status quo would be nothing short of a disaster.
The time has come to end the Renewable Fuel Standard. Americans for Tax Reform has created the website www.EndtheEthanolMandate.com where you can tell your Representative to do just that.
While there has been recent movement to “fix” the current law, the country would be better off if it was done away with all together. It is time to put the American people ahead of the ethanol lobby and repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard.