A bipartisan group of 169 congressmen is urging the Environmental Protection Agency to lower its ethanol blending mandate for 2014.
Lawmakers hope the move will alleviate the upward pressure on food and fuel prices that are holding back economic recovery in many areas.
The EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard requires that ever increasing amounts of ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. By 2022 the RFS requires that 36 billion gallons of ethanol and renewable fuels be blended with gasoline and diesel.
However, as U.S. gasoline demand falls and ethanol production increases, refiners have become reluctant to blend more ethanol into the fuel supply due to safety concerns for vehicle engine systems.
“While well-intentioned, the federal ethanol mandate is inflicting significant economic harm on families by driving up food prices, on dairy farmers by driving up feed prices, and on homeowners and outdoorsmen by ruining small engines,” said Vermont Democratic Rep. Peter Welch.
The petroleum industry has been lobbying hard to get Congress to repeal the ethanol mandate as the price of ethanol credits — which refiners are required to buy if they don’t blend enough ethanol — have spiked, increasing by over 1000 percent earlier this year.
Lawmakers argue that high ethanol prices are diverting 40 percent of the country’s corn crop into ethanol production, driving up food prices, not to mention raising fuel prices as well.
“Whether it’s increasing amounts of ethanol in fuel or higher food and feed prices, the RFS continues to negatively impact American consumers and the economy,” said Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte. “As the blendwall approaches, it is clear that this flawed policy is not working.”
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is currently working on bipartisan legislation to reform the ethanol mandate, but no bill has come out of the committee yet. On the Senate side, however, Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso introduced a bill to repeal the ethanol mandate.
Also, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn are working on a bipartisan bill to cut the amount of conventional ethanol that refiners will be required to blend, though the legislation has not yet been introduced, reports Politico.
The ethanol industry has opposed efforts to reform the mandate.
“This legislation is monumentally stupid,” said Bob Dineen, president of the Renewable Fuel Association. “We all understand that Senator Coburn just wants a world free of competition for his oil industry. But, Senator Feinstein professes to support second generation biofuels.”
“What she is failing to understand, however, is that we will never see those technologies develop if the policy is gutted and the investment community is given the unambiguous signal that Congress is not serious about reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” Dineen added.
Once touted for its environmental benefits, ethanol has not lived up to lawmakers’ expectations.
“Due to the dramatic expansion of corn ethanol, volatile corn prices have led to the conversion of millions of acres of sensitive wetlands and grasslands into production,” the 169 lawmakers wrote to the EPA. “According to the EPA’s analysis, the lifecycle emissions of corn ethanol in 2012 were higher than those of gasoline – and will be for years to come. Despite promised environmental benefits when the RFS was implemented, the National Academy of Sciences has noted that overall ethanol production and use lowers air and water quality.”
The EPA still has not made a decision on whether or not it will lower blending requirements for next year.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.