This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does I feel obligated to put out some party balloons and celebrate. Regular readers know that we’ve been following the story of the Renewable Fuel Standard here for years and discussing the various corrosive influences it has on the country. So imagine my surprise when I opened up a Washington Post editorial board piece, only to find that they’re making the same arguments I’ve been shouting from the rooftops around here. The title alone was enough to offer hope for some bipartisan sensibility in Washington: Doubling down on the biofuel boondoggle.
FOR MORE THAN a decade, the United States has pursued the foolhardy energy policy known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. Thanks to legislation passed by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by a Republican president, George W. Bush, in 2007, the RFS illustrates the sad-but-true principle of Washington life that bipartisanship is no guarantee of wisdom. In a nutshell, the RFS required the nation’s petroleum refiners to blend ever-increasing quantities of biofuels, chiefly ethanol, into gasoline, purportedly to promote energy independence and fight climate change.
The WaPo goes on from there to point out that our energy priorities have changed considerably since the United States has become a global leader in oil and natural gas production, along with becoming a major exporter. From there they go on to offer a shockingly honest list of ethanol facts, dealing both with the raw science behind it and the politics which drives it. These are:
- The environmental harms of ethanol arguably outweigh its benefits, because it takes massive amounts of energy to distill ethanol from corn
- Ethanol requires massive amounts of fragile farmland to grow that crop
- Diverting resources into corn production for ethanol raises the price of food
- 39 percent of Iowa’s corn crop goes to create nearly 30 percent of all U.S. ethanol
- Iowa is a swing state with six crucial electoral votes and a first-in-the-nation presidential caucus; whatever Iowa wants, Iowa gets, from politicians of both parties
Wait a minute… am I reading the Washington Post or the New York Post? All that was missing was a reference to King Corn.
They go on from there to point out the foolish nature of President Trump’s recent decision to double down on year-round E15 sales, as well as recognizing how this is entirely politically driven. Much as I’ve done here in the past, the Post goes one step further and reminds readers that the original assumptions underlying the introduction of the RFS (that ever-increasing gasoline demand would create an unlimited market for corn ethanol) have changed drastically. And in conclusion, they drive a dagger into the heart of the pro-ethanol argument, pointing out that farm country agricultural interests are in direct conflict with the oil and gas industry. You can’t have it both ways.
While we hesitate to take sides between agribusiness and Big Oil, in this instance public policy clearly favors the latter.
Somebody pinch me. The Washington Post editorial board just said something positive about Big Oil. Perhaps they wouldn’t have published this if it didn’t present another opportunity to criticize the President, but you take your victories where you find them. I’ve had to check my calendar several times now just to make sure it wasn’t April 1st. But this turns out to be real, and my hat is off to the WaPo for this hard dose of truth which most of their liberal audience will not want to hear. Let’s just hope that it sinks in around Congress and the White House.