July 27 – A House committee has opened the center court to the long contest between two big lobbies over what to do about the obnoxious requirement for increasing use of ethanol in gasoline. The abolitionists deserve to win.
Hearings this week by the Energy and Commerce Committee featured expectable arguments from farm groups, who grow the corn used to make ethanol, and their supporters, and people hurt or in line to be hurt by the soaring prices for corn and gasoline — beef and pork producers, auto manufacturers, motorist advocacy groups and auto and oil companies.
Refiners must put 13.8 million gallons of ethanol into gasoline this year and 14.4 million gallons next year. Gasoline use has been declining and that much ethanol can’t be used at the current 10 percent maximum concentration. Refiners are forced to buy credits allotted by the Environmental Protection Agency, the price of which is soaring too. That has helped push regular gasoline above $4 per gallon in some places.
The EPA could suspend the requirement but has done nothing except raise the permitted maximum concentration to 15 percent starting in 2015 for 2001 and later models. This is pouring salt in the wound. Auto manufacturers have warned they will not honor warranties if there’s any damage.