Why is it time to end ethanol fuel’s wild ride? Let’s count the ways.
Originally, the Environmental Protection Agency required ethanol to be blended with gasoline to help reduce America’s dependence on imported oil. But that dependence has been dramatically reduced for other reasons — improved extraction techniques that have boosted domestic oil production. Say what you will about fracking, it has meant that America can care less what Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries does.
Another reason offered for mandating an ethanol blend is that ethanol is regarded as friendlier to the environment. Except that it isn’t. As the Clean Air Task Force, among others, has noted, the expansion of corn ethanol consumption “has increased (greenhouse gas) emissions, air pollution, water pollution, and habitat destruction.”
But perhaps the most compelling reason to end Washington’s obsession with ethanol is the unintended market consequence of subsidizing the use of corn for fuel ethanol. As more corn is grown to be blended with gasoline, less is available for use in cereals and feeds. As a result, everything from tortillas to beef costs more. Raising the price of food makes life more precarious for poor and hungry people.
Further, as animal feed has been priced up, farmers have reduced the size of their herds, raising the price of meat even more. If you’ve shopped recently for a backyard barbecue, you already know this. Combine these three big reasons with multiple smaller ones, such as the EPA’s failed efforts to increase use of non-corn ethanols, including those made from grasses, and you have a subsidy that’s ripe for elimination. While outright elimination is probably too much to hope for, the EPA should recognize the wisdom of halting its customary increase in the Renewable Fuel Standard. It took a small step in that direction a year ago and has the opportunity to do more this year.
Corn producers won’t like hearing this kernel of truth, but the ethanol-blend mandate has been ineffective, even counterproductive. It’s time to give it a rest.
— The Providence Journal, Rhode Island