AgMag: Fix the broken biofuels mandate

March 14, 2013

Scott Faber, March 12- It’s time to face facts: the biofuels mandate Congress established in 2005 is creating too much bad biofuel and not enough good biofuel.

This year, that mandate requires American refiners to use 13.8 billion gallons of corn ethanol – more than they can actually blend into their gasoline.

By contrast, fuel makers are expected to generate only a little more than 5 million gallons of non-food-based biofuels that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many doubt whether the industry can hit this target.

Once heralded as a “bridge fuel” to advanced biofuels, corn ethanol has turned out to be a bridge to — more corn ethanol.

That’s not just bad news for Americans worried about the greenhouse gas impact of the fuel they use. It’s also bad news for consumers worried about rising food prices. And it’s terrible news for the developing world, where corn ethanol has increased the cost of food imports by more than $6 billion in recent years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warns that corn shortages – caused in part by the ethanol mandate – will drive up U.S, food prices by another 3 to 4 percent this year.

Corn ethanol has been a costly disaster for farmers, food manufacturers, restaurants and other food retailers. What’s more, it is increasing the price of gas. When you factor in the inconvenient truth that corn ethanol delivers two-thirds of the energy content of gasoline, ethanol is actually more expensive than gas per mile driven, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.