Environmental Working Group: Same Dirty Fuel, Same Dirty Tricks

September 28, 2012

Corn ethanol boosters held yet another pep rally today (Sept. 27) for a dirty, inefficient fuel that has eliminated jobs, increased the price of food and gas, damaged engines and increased pollution.  Yet it has replaced less than 1 percent of world oil.

So it’s no surprise that reforming the corn ethanol mandate is one of the few issues that brings together Democrats and Republicans. This mandate, passed by Congress in 2005 and expanded in 2007, requires 15 billion gallons per year of conventional biofuels (mainly corn ethanol) to be blended into vehicle fuel by 2015.

Why the opposition?

One reason is that corn ethanol is destroying jobs in rural America. At a time when too many Americans are struggling to find work, it’s unconscionable that a government policy is making it even harder. But the corn ethanol mandate contributed to the closure of more than 60,000 pork, poultry, and beef operations since 2007. That’s because the mandate has diverted more than 40 percent of our corn crop to fuel, driving up the cost of feeding livestock. Animal agriculture supports more than 1.8 million jobs – or roughly 20 times as many jobs as the ethanol industry offers.

Another reason is that shifting food and feed to fuel is jacking up the price of food, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and other authoritative bodies.

Since Congress expanded the corn ethanol mandate in 2007, the Consumer Price Index for meat, poultry, fish and eggs has risen by 79 percent. The current drought has rendered corn supplies scarce. But under the mandate, corn ethanol continues to “eat first.”

For the poorest Americans, who spend a quarter or more of their income of food, spiking food prices add to their pain. For the global poor, the stakes are even higher. Oxfam, the international relief organization, has calculated that biofuels have endangered the livelihood of 100 million people and dragged more than 30 million people into poverty.

Corn ethanol puts pressure on gasoline prices.  Because corn ethanol is far less efficient than gasoline, consumers have to use more to travel the same distance. On a per-mile basis, corn ethanol is more expensive than gasoline. By contrast, new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks will double mileage per gallon and save Americans $1.7 trillion at the pump.