On Thursday, April 10, several diverse voices—including chain restaurants and environmentalists—participated in a panel with The Hill Magazine to discuss why the need to reform the government’s ethanol mandate is at critical mass.
Democratic Congressman Peter Welch opened the event by sharing some of the concerns he’s hearing from his Vermont constituents. Per Welch, many Vermonters have found that ethanol-blended gasoline damages engines of critical outdoor equipment— from chainsaws and snowmobiles to boats and lawnmowers. Further, Vermont’s dairy farmers were being hit hard by the rising cost of animal feed, as they were forced to compete with ethanol producers for cor
Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, Rob Green of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, Dominic Albino of New England Complex Systems Institute and Michael McAdams of the Advanced Biofuels Association discussed how the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is affecting the environment, food prices, global unrest and the shortcomings of both advanced biofuels and this policy.
Faber was particularly outspoken on the shortfalls of the ethanol mandate. He said there are four main environmental concerns about blending more corn ethanol into gas: air quality, land conversion, water quality and habitat loss. These are not small concerns, especially considering the policy was enacted to help the environment. “Because of the land use issues,” he said, “corn ethanol is increasing GHGs more than gasoline.”
There was no surprise when biofuels proponent McAdams argued the policy isn’t strong enough to foster (flawed) advanced biofuels — which EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said was the intention of the mandate. He even conceded that the industry has not once met its goals in that regard.
Green, of the National Council of Chain Restaurants stated: “We're not anti-ethanol; we're just asking that the gov't step away and let the industry stand on its own.” The RFS costs chain restaurants $3.2 billion dollars per year in increasing costs of food commodities like beef and bread.
Meanwhile, researcher Dominic Albino reviewed the costs of the ethanol mandate from a global perspective. Albino’s organization, the New England Complex Systems Institute has determined a specific point at which global food prices can incite revolution and violence, and finds developed countries’ biofuels programs as a significant culprit sparking recent unrest throughout the world.
You can watch the full event on The Hill’s website.
All photos are courtesy of The Hill.