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Friday RFS Roundup – 8/15

As the Environmental Protection Agency — now more than eight months later on delivering the 2014 rule — and Congress step away from the Hill, Americans, refiners and farmers alike continue to wait for movement from Washington on the ethanol mandate. This week, the media focused on some of the long-term effects the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is having on food supply and our environment.

Learn more from this week:

Orange County Register, Andrew Purzder: U.S. needs corn for food more than for fuel: Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr.), explains how the ethanol mandate, which turns food into fuel, is hurting everyday Americans.

In Short: “Consumers experience the cost impact in their grocery stores and local restaurants. The RFS is particularly burdensome for restaurant franchisees, who are generally small-business owners operating with slim profit margins – sometimes just pennies on the dollar. With the RFS still in place, the increased cost of proteins restricts their ability to keep prices down and reduces the monies that otherwise would be available to support their communities, renovate facilities, open new locations or hire new employees.

A 2012 study by PricewaterhouseCooper commissioned by the National Council of Chain Restaurants to understand the impact of ethanol policies on chain-restaurant food costs, estimates that if the 2015 RFS mandate increased ethanol production by 6 billion gallons per year, it would increase commodity costs for chain restaurants by $3.2 billion per year. For quick-service restaurants alone, the estimated increase would be $2.5 billion per year.”

The Des Moines Register, We can’t let agriculture destroy our environment: Increased fertilizer runoff from expanding corn crops is causing even the people who benefit most from the RFS, Iowans, to question the policy’s legitimacy. 

In Short: “When a city has to stop drinking its water, something is seriously out of kilter.
Iowa could take steps to avoid that fate by limiting how much fertilizer farming operations use. Instead, Iowa lets them decide whether to voluntarily reduce nitrogen and phosphorus use — the sources of "toxic blooms" of algae. That isn't working.

Let's be realistic: If it's left to them, industries are likely to do what's easiest and costs them the least, which probably won't be in the best interests of residents and consumers.”

Green Builder Media, Lester Brown of Earth Policy Institute: Food Scarcity and Political Strategy: Environmental expert and founder of the Earth Policy Institute, Lester Brown, cites biofuels policies like the ethanol mandate as one reason the world is in a time of transition from a time of food surplus to one of food scarcity.

In Short: “Increasing use of grain to fuel vehicles is also straining our food supply. 400 million tons of grain are harvested in the U.S. each year. Of that amount, 130 million tons are allocated to ethanol distilleries to produce fuel for cars (the US has the highest level of grain use for transportation in the world).

… Using our precious food resource for transportation isn’t an efficient application for an already strained supply.”

What’s in your water? Ethanol mandates.

Last week, half a million people in Ohio were left without drinking water because of severe toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie, primarily caused by fertilizer runoff

Increased fertilizer runoff is just another unintended consequence of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that’s doing more harm to the environment that good. (For those of you catching up, the RFS is a government policy that mandates that ethanol fuel made from corn be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply.)

As the level of ethanol mandated grows each year, more land acreage is devoted to grow corn to make it. In fact, farms across the Midwest, including Ohio, have converted an additional 13.5 million acres to grow corn.

Unfortunately, corn happens to be an incredibly water and fertilizer intensive crop. Phosphorous, the element in fertilizer that is causing the algae bloom, is carried with rain from the farm land and ground water into nearby lakes and streams — and it’s happening in more than just Ohio.

The image below shows the path that fertilizer is taking from some of our top corn producing states, like Iowa and Minnesota, into the Gulf of Mexico and causing what is known as the “dead zone.”

The dead zone is a pocket of low-oxygen water that forms off the coast of Louisiana every summer, and could stretch from Alabama to South Texas this year, threatening 18 percent of the U.S. commercial seafood market.

Even Iowans, who benefit most from this policy, are starting to ask, “Are we prepared to sit back and leave our quality of life, our natural resources and our health up to the goodwill of Iowa's agricultural producers?”

Unfortunately the Administration is slow-moving on fixing this policy, but Congress can change this legislation. Join us to call for swift action from your representatives when they’re back on the hill.

Friday RFS Roundup – 8/8

This week, the media focused on some of the unintended consequences of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). From increased food costs to environmental threats and governmental boondoggles, the ethanol mandate harms consumers across the nation. And yet, the American people and refiners alike are still waiting for final 2014 blending requirements from the EPA, which are now almost eight months late..

Learn more from this week:

  • CDC News, Lake Erie's Algae Explosion Blamed on Farmers: Toxic algae blooms were found in the water of Lake Erie, likely caused by expanding corn crops in the area.

    In Short: “The commission's report suggested that changes to farming practices were largely to blame for recent blooms.

    ‘The main changes that are responsible have to do with intensification of farming – getting more out of the land than we did historically,’ Benoy said, adding that that includes things like:

    o More livestock farming and greater application of their waste to fields.
    o Higher application of fertilizers in general.
    o An increase in corn farming in the U.S. Midwest, partly to meet a demand for ethanol fuel.”
  • Delaware News, The real cost of ethanol: Ethanol was supposed to be good for the environment, lower gas prices and increase energy security but the costs of the unintended consequences outweigh the benefits, and Americans are starting to catch on.

    In Short: “[T]he growth of ethanol, an alcohol-based additive that makes up 10-percent of each gallon of gas, has had unintended consequences:

    o We pay more for foods like bread, snacks and chicken. Between 2007 and 2008, ethanol drove a 10 to 15 percent increase in food prices, according to a Congressional Budget Office report – partly because corn once used for livestock feed is now used to make fuel.
    o Our vehicles get fewer miles per gallon of gasoline now that ethanol is included, and we're paying more for that fuel – about 13 cents per gallon because of the lost efficiency.
    o Boat engines and lawn care equipment go kaput from engines that weren't designed for fuels that include alcohol, a natural byproduct of the sugars and starches in corn.
    o Fiberglass marine fuel tanks in older vessels can't stand up to the alcohol-based fuel additive, causing dangerous leaks.
    o Iconic species like monarch butterflies, native bees, pheasants and other grassland birds are declining from lost habitat as more land is converted to corn production.
    o Corn planted in marginal habitats threatens one of the most altered ecosystems in the world – the temperate grasslands of the Great Plains, which naturally absorb carbon from the atmosphere.”
  • Bloomberg, Obama’s Delay on Renewable Fuel Puts Producers in Bind: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), charged with enforcing the ethanol mandate, is more than eight months late in delivering the final 2014 blending requirements, which isn’t good for anyone.

    In Short: “The Environmental Protection Agency is eight months past the deadline for issuing its mandate of how much ethanol, biodiesel and other petroleum alternatives must be blended into motor fuels this year, leaving investors wary about the government’s commitment to the program. At the same time, cuts EPA proposed last year, and a surprise regulatory rewrite last month, may undercut demand for Canergy’s ethanol.”

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Legislative Updates will be coming soon.

A Coalition Against Bad Policy

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again… the ethanol mandate is everyone’s problem.

Oil refiners do oppose the ethanol mandate (primarily because of the looming blend wall), but they are hardly the only ones who take issue with the policy. Environmentalists, taxpayers, food producers, consumer protection groups of all types, anti-hunger advocates and even farmers have all spoken out against the RFS.

This year alone, our coalition has joined arms with even more poultry farmers who are struggling to feed their flocks due to the skyrocketing price of feed; gasoline retailers forced to stock a fuel that consumers neither know about nor want; and outdoor equipment groups grappling to find fuel that won’t damage their small engines.

On Thursday, April 10, Congressman Pete Welch (D-VT), Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, Rob Green of the National Council of Chain Restaurants and others will discuss how the ethanol mandate is impacting all Americans in an event hosted by The Hill Magazine in Washington, DC. You can watch the event on The Hill’s website or join the conversation on Twitter using #TheHillLive and #RFS2014.

The price you pay

NBC Nightly News shone a light this week on rising food prices that are impacting consumers across the United States.

While Brian Williams and the gang focused on the drought in California, it is important to note that these recent price increases are part of a longer-term trend.  Beef, poultry, milk and cheese prices have all been on the rise for nearly a decade—in fact, food prices are up 17.8 percent.

With the introduction of the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2005, the demand for ethanol increased making it more and more difficult for ranchers to feed their herds. By increasing the competition for and price of corn, the ethanol mandate has unintentionally been driving up the cost at the grocery store. By 2022, the RFS will increase food costs for Americans by $3 billion—annually—according to the Congressional Research Service.

And now the drought, which has been affecting various parts of the country since 2012, is making what is already bad, worse.

We can’t change the weather, but we can make changes to this failing policy. Tell Congress it’s time for a real solution.

Ghosts of Ethanol Past, Present and Future

In the holiday classic A Christmas Carol, the cold-hearted, greedy Ebenezer Scrooge is given a glimpse at his Christmas past, present and future. In our version of the story, we’re going to let you peek at ethanol’s ghosts.

Ethanol Past

While opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard (the government’s ethanol mandates policy)is growing today, some have been wary of diverting food to fuel for decades. An article published by Nicholas Wade in 1979 reveals some of the early concerns:

“The rule of thumb in Iowa is that a 1 percent decrease in corn supply raises corn prices by 2 percent.”

Yet today, we divert more than 40 percent of our corn crops to ethanol, and we’ve felt the results in corn prices from the butcher to the baker.

Further, government has been subsidizing “gasohol” for years. In 1979, the going rate was 40 cents per gallon of E10 (a fuel blend containing ten percent ethanol).

And the final lesson from the ghost of ethanol past is this: we’ve been hoping for cellulosic biofuels forever. More on that later…

Ethanol Present

Unfortunately, the realities of today’s ethanol mandate (the RFS) are no better. Refiners, environmentalists, ranchers, world hunger groups, wildlife advocates, journalists and even the Environmental Protection Agency all take issue with one part of the policy or another.

Ethanol Future

All wounds heal with time, right? Actually, no, according to Energy Information Administration. Despite   the ethanol lobby promising that cellulosic (non-corn) biofuels are “just around the corner,” the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) annual American Energy Outlook report tells us that even by 2040, it is unlikely that we’ll be anywhere close to the mandated level of cellulosics.

This means decades more subsidies for the industry and continued reliance on corn to meet the ethanol mandate.

Just like Scrooge, it’s time for Congress to see the error in its ways.

Tell your Congressman to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard.

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Smarter Fuel Future Advocates’ Ethanol Warning Labels

From Barbara T.



From Bill S.



From Bradford T.



From David A.



From Dudley D.



From Edward G.



From Franklin M.



From Howard S.



From Linda R.



From Lisa W.



From Lucinda S.



From Marilyn L.



From Mary O.



From Mike R.



From Patricia C.



Phillip R.



From Tom K.



From Walter E.



From William T.
 

 

Comparing the Ethanol Mandate with Projected Ethanol Demand

Consumer Price Index Since Ethanol Mandate

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The Real Cost of the Ethanol Mandate

Broken Promises of the Ethanol Mandate

Corn Ethanol is Not a Renewable Fuel

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Friday RFS Roundup – 8/15

As the Environmental Protection Agency — now more than eight months later on delivering the 2014 rule — and Congress step away from the Hill, Americans, refiners and farmers alike continue to wait for movement from Washington on the ethanol mandate. This week, the media focused on some of the long-term effects the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is having on food supply and our environment.

Learn more from this week:

Orange County Register, Andrew Purzder: U.S. needs corn for food more than for fuel: Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants (Carl’s Jr.), explains how the ethanol mandate, which turns food into fuel, is hurting everyday Americans.

In Short: “Consumers experience the cost impact in their grocery stores and local restaurants. The RFS is particularly burdensome for restaurant franchisees, who are generally small-business owners operating with slim profit margins – sometimes just pennies on the dollar. With the RFS still in place, the increased cost of proteins restricts their ability to keep prices down and reduces the monies that otherwise would be available to support their communities, renovate facilities, open new locations or hire new employees.

A 2012 study by PricewaterhouseCooper commissioned by the National Council of Chain Restaurants to understand the impact of ethanol policies on chain-restaurant food costs, estimates that if the 2015 RFS mandate increased ethanol production by 6 billion gallons per year, it would increase commodity costs for chain restaurants by $3.2 billion per year. For quick-service restaurants alone, the estimated increase would be $2.5 billion per year.”

The Des Moines Register, We can’t let agriculture destroy our environment: Increased fertilizer runoff from expanding corn crops is causing even the people who benefit most from the RFS, Iowans, to question the policy’s legitimacy. 

In Short: “When a city has to stop drinking its water, something is seriously out of kilter.
Iowa could take steps to avoid that fate by limiting how much fertilizer farming operations use. Instead, Iowa lets them decide whether to voluntarily reduce nitrogen and phosphorus use — the sources of "toxic blooms" of algae. That isn't working.

Let's be realistic: If it's left to them, industries are likely to do what's easiest and costs them the least, which probably won't be in the best interests of residents and consumers.”

Green Builder Media, Lester Brown of Earth Policy Institute: Food Scarcity and Political Strategy: Environmental expert and founder of the Earth Policy Institute, Lester Brown, cites biofuels policies like the ethanol mandate as one reason the world is in a time of transition from a time of food surplus to one of food scarcity.

In Short: “Increasing use of grain to fuel vehicles is also straining our food supply. 400 million tons of grain are harvested in the U.S. each year. Of that amount, 130 million tons are allocated to ethanol distilleries to produce fuel for cars (the US has the highest level of grain use for transportation in the world).

… Using our precious food resource for transportation isn’t an efficient application for an already strained supply.”

The Real Cost of the Ethanol Mandate

Broken Promises of the Ethanol Mandate

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