Ethanol: The politician's best friend

Here we go again. (Or should that be the Reaganesque there they go again?) There are times when it seems like The Ethanol Question is some sort of vampire from Trueblood. No matter how many stakes you drive into it, it just keeps cropping back up over and over again. Even though the Energy Information Administration has admitted that ethanol use is on the decline – and, in fact, will fall very much short of previous projections over the next decade – we still have actors on the political stage, up to and including the White House, pushing the issue. The latest chapter in this ongoing saga is the Obama administration’s continued efforts, in conjunction with Big Corn lobbyists, to lobby the EPA to jack up ethanol usage in fuel from 10% to 15% over the objections of the industry. At Redstate, Steve Maley explains.

What to do? The ethanol industry, with the blessing of Congress and the Obama Administration, is lobbying the EPA to mandate increased ethanol usage. This would be accomplished by increasing the allowable proportion of ethanol in gasoline from 10% to 15% (E10 to E15). In addition, ethanol lobbyists are pushing the administration for fleet mandates on automakers, to require a higher percentage of flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) capable of running on ethanol blends of up to 85% (E85).

The 70+ year experiment in central planning that was the Soviet Union ended in failure. Why can’t our political class learn from history?

By granting lucrative tax credits to finance the entree of Big Corn into the motor fuel business during times of high gasoline prices, Washington definitely has some skin in the game…

No, the only parties who are unabashed ethanol lovers are:

  • Big Corn
  • Corn Farmers & Corn States (especially Iowa)
  • Politicians (Congress & Iowa Caucus Presidential candidates)

This has prompted some members on the Hill who display a bit more common sense – specifically John Sullivan and Gary Peters – to pen a letter to their peers, which Ben Howe helpfully provides.

Dear Colleague,
We are writing to request your support in halting EPA’s actions to allow l5% ethanol blended with gasoline (E15) to enter the marketplace. As you know, last year EPA made a premature decision to permit E15 to be used in model year (MY) 2001 and newer vehicles. This decision was made prior to the completion of critical vehicle testing. Vehicles on the road today are built and warranted to withstand only up to 10% of ethanol in gasoline. E15 not only threatens to harm vehicles but also boats, snowmobiles, and small engine equipment such as lawnmowers and snow blowers. E15 has also demonstrated harmful effects on the environment.

Congress has since taken numerous steps to ensure that consumer investments are not harmed at the expense of EPA’s desire to increase the amount of ethanol in the nation’s transportation fuel pool. However, EPA continues to ignore these actions and take regulatory steps to commercialize E15 indicating that it plans to register the fuel in the very near future. Therefore, it is critical Congress stop EPA’s efforts once and for all. We urge you to sign the attached letter to House Appropriators requesting the Sullivan/Peters E15 language be included in the F Y 2012 omnibus appropriations bill. This provision would prohibit EPA from using any appropriated funds to implement the E15 waiver.

The documented instances of testing which shows that E-15 is more harmful to the current fleet of cars, as well as other engines not originally designed to handle it, are legion. Corrosion, seal damage and shorter engine lifespans are the result in far too many cases. So who benefits from such a move? As Steve explains above, politicians and lobbyists who are tied in to corn production.

I will break with a few of these critics on one point, however. They note that corn is one of the more heavy soil depletion crops, requires stiffer fertilization and can lead to polluting runoff in rivers and streams. While there may be some truth to all of that, it’s not a reason to abandon corn in general – just ethanol. It’s still an important food source around the world, and I really don’t want to demonize it as a crop. Besides… who doesn’t like corn on the cob?