Ghosts of Ethanol Past, Present and Future

December 24, 2013

In the holiday classic A Christmas Carol, the cold-hearted, greedy Ebenezer Scrooge is given a glimpse at his Christmas past, present and future. In our version of the story, we’re going to let you peek at ethanol’s ghosts.

Ethanol Past

While opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard (the government’s ethanol mandates policy)is growing today, some have been wary of diverting food to fuel for decades. An article published by Nicholas Wade in 1979 reveals some of the early concerns:

“The rule of thumb in Iowa is that a 1 percent decrease in corn supply raises corn prices by 2 percent.”

Yet today, we divert more than 40 percent of our corn crops to ethanol, and we’ve felt the results in corn prices from the butcher to the baker.

Further, government has been subsidizing “gasohol” for years. In 1979, the going rate was 40 cents per gallon of E10 (a fuel blend containing ten percent ethanol).

And the final lesson from the ghost of ethanol past is this: we’ve been hoping for cellulosic biofuels forever. More on that later…

Ethanol Present

Unfortunately, the realities of today’s ethanol mandate (the RFS) are no better. Refiners, environmentalists, ranchers, world hunger groups, wildlife advocates, journalists and even the Environmental Protection Agency all take issue with one part of the policy or another.

Ethanol Future

All wounds heal with time, right? Actually, no, according to Energy Information Administration. Despite   the ethanol lobby promising that cellulosic (non-corn) biofuels are “just around the corner,” the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) annual American Energy Outlook report tells us that even by 2040, it is unlikely that we’ll be anywhere close to the mandated level of cellulosics.

This means decades more subsidies for the industry and continued reliance on corn to meet the ethanol mandate.

Just like Scrooge, it’s time for Congress to see the error in its ways.

Tell your Congressman to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard.