Hallelujah: Aversion to the Renewable Fuel Standard seems to be catching on in Congress

posted at 8:31 pm on December 12, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

This certainly isn’t the first time the Senate has introduced legislation designed to mitigate the many economically injurious effects of Renewable Fuel Standard, that insidious little mandate that manipulates the market on behalf of biofuels interests by requiring refiners to blend an ever-increasing volume of the stuff into the fuel supply, but none of the previous efforts have really managed to gain much traction despite their bipartisan support. The growing public consciousness of corn ethanol’s negative environmental effects and its impact on food and gas prices has been catching on, however, in conjunction with increased cries of exasperation coming from oil and auto industries that find themselves running up against the problematic “blend wall” at which they are required to blend a higher concentration of ethanol than is deemed safe for use in cars and trucks. If even the EPA can’t pretend any longer that this policy is a particularly good idea, everybody else is going to have rather a rough time of it, which gives me renewed hope for the legislation coming out of the Senate. Via The Hill:

A group of eight senators unveiled legislation Thursday to repeal the federal Renewable Fuel Standard’s contentious ethanol mandate, saying regulations are pushing up corn prices and threatening the oil-and-gas industry.

Introduced by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2013 would effectively repeal requirements for the amount of ethanol that is blended into gasoline.

“The time to end the corn ethanol mandate has arrived,” Coburn said in a written statement. “This misguided policy has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, increased fuel prices and made our food more expensive.”

“Under the corn ethanol mandate in the RFS, roughly 44 percent of U.S. corn is diverted from food to fuel, pushing up the cost of food and animal feed and damaging the environment,” [Feinstein] said.

Co-sponsors of the bill include Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Corker, (R-Tenn.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.).

And that’s not even the only piece of new legislation in the works, via National Journal:

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member David Vitter, R-La., touted legislation they have been working on together to amend the mandate, which requires blenders to mix ethanol with gasoline, during a joint hearing held Wednesday by the committee and its Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee.

Neither senator spelled out the details of the bill, which has not yet been formally introduced, but Cardin emphasized that it would drawdown the corn-based ethanol portion of the mandate while protecting the quotas for advanced biofuels.

“[The RFS] needs to be better balanced for energy security, food security, and motor safety. There are more efficient renewable-energy sources in the advanced biofuels, and that’s what we should be focusing our attention [on],” Cardin said, adding that he and Vitter are looking for ways to “make aggressive reductions on the volume mandates for corn-based ethanol.”

Unfortunately, both of the bills sound relatively weaksauce in aiming to scrap the required corn-ethanol volumes rather than getting rid of the mandate altogether, but it is a step in the right direction — and perhaps in this sad, bitter day and age of big-government inertia, this is realistically the best intermediate step for which we can hope. …Ugh.


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So we’ve finally decided not to burn our food?

No doubt this is one bill Grassley will be voting against.

viking01 on December 12, 2013 at 8:40 PM

And Iowa will demand that every presidential candidate repudiate even this modest step.

rbj on December 12, 2013 at 8:55 PM

Now that they’re figuring out that the program doesn’t work…

They’ll probably expand it.

trigon on December 12, 2013 at 8:58 PM

Unfortunately, both of the bills sound relatively weaksauce in aiming to scrap the required corn-ethanol volumes rather than getting rid of the mandate altogether, but it is a step in the right direction — and perhaps in this sad, bitter day and age of big-government inertia, this is realistically the best intermediate step for which we can hope. …Ugh.

The ugly news – neither bill touches the unobtainable-at-any-cost “advanced” biofuels mandates.

Steve Eggleston on December 12, 2013 at 9:00 PM

We’re heading towards civil war. I’m not sure it matters.

I mean,, beating the progs won’t be defined on these issues. I’m glad you post on them.

There’s a larger context.

You are absolutely great at detail. Now correlate it to historical failure.
Tie it all together. Make the parallels.

wolly4321 on December 12, 2013 at 9:05 PM

27 comments or bust!

Bishop on December 12, 2013 at 9:19 PM

Keep the ethanol lobby away from Reid, otherwise that bill will never see the light of day.

GarandFan on December 12, 2013 at 9:24 PM

God, Sen. Finestein’s face must have been on fire, and someone beat it out with a golf shoe.

Myron Falwell on December 12, 2013 at 9:41 PM

If you posted your pic instead of hers…

Twice the hits.

You post good stuff.. but it’s like singleing out individual trees in a forest fire.

Put it all together.

wolly4321 on December 12, 2013 at 9:42 PM

27 comments or bust!

Bishop on December 12, 2013 at 9:19 PM

The Latest Betrayal has sucked the life out of all other topics, which explains why I didn’t touch the weekly jobless claims report.

Steve Eggleston on December 12, 2013 at 9:46 PM

I’m 100% against mandated use of ethanol. Those who will suffer with its elimination are all all the small farmers who are the one who actually own the ethanol plants.

Kermit on December 13, 2013 at 12:29 AM

Appears Coburn’s and Feinsteins bigger campaign contributors are now taking this route in trying to protect market share. Big Oil recently has a multi-million propaganda campaign that must not be paying enough dividends……….

sbark on December 13, 2013 at 1:23 AM

What corn ethanol opponents don’t seem to comprehend, is that the driving force behind using corn for fuel is the relative price difference between fuel and any other use of the land, for food for instance. As long as the price of crude oil is $100/ bbl, motor fuel is $3+ per gallon (because ethanol drops it 1.50), and next highest value for a crop is $1.50/bushel corn for food there will be pressure to develop a higher value use for the land.

The end result, and there will be a crop alternative that diverts mass acres of corn to another ag-fuel component……..is that there will be less corn for food, and less corn for Feed as the ethanol by product DDG’s disappear–they cut effective corn use for ethanol by 40%+.

Farmers settled for 1.50 corn in the 80′s…..and it brought on the Ag-crisis…….they will divert acres a higher value crop unless energy drops…..and then big oil looses once again anyway.

sbark on December 13, 2013 at 1:28 AM

s bark, if using ethanol lowers the price of fuel, then ethanol production will continue to increase. I agree with the part of your argument that land will be put to its best use. Unfortunately you use the argument of shifting the production of corn to the production of other mandated crops based upon mandates/subsides.

We have to get away from the mindset that business even Ag, needs subsidies. We also have to get away from the idea that your subsidies are bad but the subsidy I get is necessary.

Mandating and subsidizing ethanol is bad fuel policy, bad food policy, and diverts land from better use. However, the mandates and subsidies are fantastic vote buying vehicles and wealth redistribution machines. I expect the beneficiaries to fight to keep them.

jpmn on December 13, 2013 at 6:58 AM

s bark, if using ethanol lowers the price of fuel, then ethanol production will continue to increase. I agree with the part of your argument that land will be put to its best use. Unfortunately you use the argument of shifting the production of corn to the production of other mandated crops based upon mandates/subsides.

We have to get away from the mindset that business even Ag, needs subsidies. We also have to get away from the idea that your subsidies are bad but the subsidy I get is necessary.

Mandating and subsidizing ethanol is bad fuel policy, bad food policy, and diverts land from better use. However, the mandates and subsidies are fantastic vote buying vehicles and wealth redistribution machines. I expect the beneficiaries to fight to keep them.

jpmn on December 13, 2013 at 6:58 AM

Right on!! Right on! If ethanol can lower the price of gas without being subsidized by taxpayers, it should flourish! Who doesn’t want cheaper gas?! However, when you are sucking $$ out of our wallets and then supporting the production of that “cheaper” fuel, it’s not really cheaper now, is it?

Free Indeed on December 13, 2013 at 10:20 AM

If I recall correctly, they’ve effectively killed the cattle industry. It will be years before it begins to recover. So now they’ve moved on to health care. And it looks like its destruction is proceeding faster than originally planned.

jeanneb on December 13, 2013 at 4:41 PM

Hydrogen powered fuel cells will be available from major car companies in the next year or two. It is truly game changing technology and will make today’s arguments moot.

joe btfsplk on December 13, 2013 at 5:10 PM