Federal ethanol mandates are extremely expensive and won’t meet their goals, according to a new report published Monday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
GAO’s report concluded that producing advanced biofuel is extremely expensive, takes a long time to produce and likely won’t meet its goals of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil or to lowering carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
“The Renewable Fuel Standard program calls for greater use of advanced biofuels—fuel made from waste fats and oils or crop residues, for example—in the transportation fuel supply through 2022,” states the report’s summary. “Yet, there is not nearly enough of this fuel to meet the program’s targets—nor will there likely be enough in the near future.”
The report claimed the technology was unlikely to overcome some serious challenges, including the high costs of creating biofuel, the relatively low price of fossil fuel, regulatory uncertainty and other issues. The report estimates that between 2013 and 2015, the federal government invested more than $1.1 billion into research and development of advanced biofuels despite these inherent problems.
Other government research published in August found that taxpayer-supported biofuels emit more carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than gasoline. These researchers analyzed real-world crop data from the Department of Agriculture on crop and biofuel production and compared the amount of CO2 generated relative to fossil fuel production and vehicle emissions. Researchers found that rising biofuel use has resulted in increasing CO2 emissions, even though the programs were justified by claiming ethanol would reduce CO2 emissions.
Roughly 45 percent of American corn is now used to produce biofuels like ethanol, due to enormous levels of taxpayer support. America supports ethanol via billions in subsidies and federal programs like Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires gasoline sold in the U.S. to contain a certain amount of ethanol. These ethanol subsidies and mandates cost motorists $10 billion annually in additional fuel costs, according to a study published in March 2015 by the Manhattan Institute. As a result, the amount of ethanol and other biofuels used in America increased from 4.2 billion gallons in 2005 to 14.6 billion gallons in 2013.
Originally, ethanol subsidies were justified by claims that they would reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and to lower CO2 emissions, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Other research has shown ethanol subsidies were not responsible for America’s declining dependence on foreign oil.
America’s National Academy of Science has been extremely skeptical of the environmental benefits of American biofuel production and has found that the programs “may be an ineffective policy for reducing global [greenhouse gas] emissions.”
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