We don't need to reform the RFS, it's time to scrap it

It’s easy to allow some of the “little things” to get lost in the midst of Shutdownpalooza 2013, but since everyone is in the mood to be reminding their elected representatives of their supposed duties anyway, let’s not forget another disaster looming on the horizon. Next year, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will be kicking things into high gear, requiring Americans to push more than 14 billion gallons of ethanol through their vehicle engines just to comply with federal mandates. This could still be changed, but it’s going to require a serious expression of will by Congress. To get them in the proper frame of mind, they recently received a letter from a number of prominent conservative groups running the range of diversity from Grover Norquist to the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Here’s just a taste of it.


Re: Renewable Fuel Standard “Reforms”

Dear Senator & Representative:

It has come to our attention that Congress is considering legislation this fall to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). We, collectively and individually, believe the only reform to this failed government mandate should be to repeal the RFS. Repealing this mandate would bring certainty to the fuel markets and eliminate the harmful impacts this government program has had on businesses and consumers.

The RFS is a clumsy and misguided command and control mechanism that requires a certain level of ethanol to be blended into the nation’s transportation fuel supply. Gasoline has been required to contain 10% ethanol. The EPA plans to increase the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline by 50%. This is a horrifically bad idea. Congress has been working towards ending the counter-productive and costly RFS. Debt limit negotiations or other legislative vehicles moving through Congress at this time should not be used to expand regulatory burdens and impose additional costs on Americans.

Going one step further, Americans for Tax Reform has provided a primer over at Human Events for those student who may be a bit late arriving to class. Here is what your tax dollars and government power binging is getting you:

Getting Less For More
Implicit in the ethanol mandate is the reality that without such a policy, Americans would not use nearly as much ethanol—and for good reason. During most of the past 30 years, ethanol has been more expensive than regular gasoline. Furthermore, ethanol contains one-third less energy than gasoline.,,

If ethanol is more expensive and less efficient, it is easy to see why the fuel necessitates a mandate but hard to understand Congress’s justification for doing so. Unable to stand on economic grounds, ethanol proponents make claims about reductions in foreign oil and greenhouse emissions. Upon closer scrutiny, these defenses of ethanol also fall apart. A seminal study by Princeton University’s Tim Searchinger and several co-authors found that corn based ethanol nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years. While burning corn ethanol may produce fewer carbon emissions, growing, harvesting, and refining corn ethanol is a carbon intensive process.


There’s plenty more, so if you happen to find yourself chatting with somebody who is buying into all of the government sponsored (under the guise of the “trade association” pushing ethanol) “Don’t Be a Dummy” ads, (See EDIT below) make sure they get to read that. The truly hilarious part of the linked article on the pro-RFS advertisements is the association spokesperson’s cries of poverty and helplessness in the face of Big Oil’s Big Money and the influence they hold in Washington. Anyone who has ever gone near the Iowa caucuses already grasps the mendacity in this characterization, but it doesn’t stop them from claiming the role of David to the oil industry’s Goliath.

Unfortunately, for the new standards to go into place at this point, all Congress needs to do is… nothing. And sadly, that’s what they’re generally best at.

EDIT: (Jazz) Thanks to comments for pointing out that the original link to the Sheboygan Press article on the group pushing the “Don’t be a Dummy” ads was gone. It was there last night, but a site search this morning doesn’t show it anywhere. However, I’ve replaced the link with another to a related article which references the same interview with the group.

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