High Country News: Some states recognize that corn ethanol is a bum deal

July 31, 2013

Ari LeVaux, July 30 – While recent Supreme Court rulings on voting rights and same-sex marriage have held the nation's attention, another decision slipped quietly under the radar. In late June, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the EPA’s program to raise the ethanol content of gasoline from 10 to 15 percent, thus clearing the way for adding more ethanol to gasoline.

The Senate’s Farm Bill, meanwhile, includes more than $1 billion worth of support for all things ethanol. While supporters see this action at the federal level for ethanol as bullish, many states are describing it more bluntly, and calling it BS.

The fact that most ethanol is made from corn means that an increase in the ethanol content of gas could worsen a variety of problems, ranging from higher food prices to elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Ethanol production has also been linked to the spread of a dangerous form of the deadly bacterium E. coli.

While current federal policy continues to back ethanol, a few individual states have opted out. In June, Florida repealed its Renewable Fuel Standard with its mandate that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol. And in May, Maine lawmakers approved a bill banning ethanol in gas and asked the federal government to do the same.