In an epic and unexpected turn of events on Thursday, the House version of the farm bill failed to gain enough traction to make it into conference with the Senate, but the fact that the farm bill lives on in its current form — wedded to food stamps and chock-full of more agribusiness pork than you can shake a stick at — is a deplorable testament to the staying power of farm subsidies and the lobbyists who love them. Once you start handing out subsidies, the relevant special interests are reliably reluctant to let them go, and most unfortunately, the farm bill isn’t the only legislation on which powerful agribusiness lobbies keep a protective eye.
Last April, bipartisan lawmakers in the House introduced a bill that would abolish the Renewable Fuel Standard, the federal regulation beloved by biofuels interests because of the convenient way in which it requires consumers to buy their product via forcing energy companies to blend it with their gasoline, whether or not they might actually want to. Now, the Senate is coming out with their own version — also on a bipartisan basis, I might add.
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced “The Renewable Fuel Standard Repeal Act” (S. 1195). The bill would repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in its entirety.
The Renewable Fuel Standard is fundamentally broken and beyond repair,” said Senator Barrasso. “Instead of delivering meaningful environmental benefits, it’s driven up food and fuel costs for American families. This flawed program will also inevitably lead to widespread lawsuits against American manufacturers. When Congress enacts bad policy, the right response is to scrap it and start over.”
“The Renewable Fuel Standard isn’t working for consumers, refiners, or livestock groups,”said Senator Pryor. “These mandates are unworkable and need to be overhauled. Repealing the RFS will allow us to develop a new policy for advanced biofuels without driving up Arkansans’ gas and food prices.” …
In 2005, Congress established the RFS effectively requiring refiners to blend increasing volumes of biofuels (e.g., corn ethanol) into the nation’s gasoline supplies. In 2007, Congress expanded the RFS effectively requiring refiners to blend much larger volumes of biofuels and advanced biofuels (e.g., cellulosic ethanol) into the nation’s gasoline and diesel fuel supplies.
I’m holding out hope, but sadly, agribusiness interests will predictably do everything they can to lobby against the bills and prevent them from becoming viable legislation — which is just dumb, because nobody even likes ethanol except for them. Environmentalists don’t like it; economists don’t like; consumers and energy companies obviously don’t like it, since they have to be mandated to use it; even the EPA has to work hard to pretend that there are any real benefits to continuing this dreadful, market-distorting, and environmentally harmful policy.