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

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.