Christian Science Monitor: EPA biofuel rule: energy solution or economic burden?

June 6, 2013

David J. Unger, June 5- The push for alternatives to petroleum-based fuels has run into a wall of mounting criticism.

Amid declining gasoline demand, fuel producers are struggling to keep pace with the Environmental Protection Agency's expanding Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS). But supporters say the EPA's standard offers flexibility, and is a critical part of reducing the country's reliance on foreign oil.

The brewing controversy has pit biofuel advocates and the EPA against the oil industry and fuel manufacturers who say the standards impose an unnecessary economic burden on consumers. Fueling cars with corn also has significant consequences for agriculture, putting upward pressure on food prices.

Republican lawmakers lambasted the standard in a House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday. 

“By requiring refiners to produce a product that consumers can’t use and don’t want, it is only logical that this constriction of the market will increase fuel prices, causing economic damage,” Rep. James Lankford (R) of Oklahoma said in prepared remarks. “Because of the over-reliance on food-based ethanol as a renewable fuel, the RFS has a negative impact on our food supply and security.”

The Renewable Fuel Standard aims to blend 36 billion gallons of renewable sources into transportation fuels by 2022. Much of that comes from ethanol, but today's cars and trucks were built to handle only so much of the corn-based fuel.