Bruce Edward Walker, Jan. 19– Heralded as a tonic for our reliance on foreign oil, environmental degradation and climate change, ethanol benefits only those groups that sell the raw material comprising it and the politicians who receive their donations while wreaking immeasurable harm on the world’s most economically vulnerable and providing little to no environmental advantages.
Most popular analyses conveniently disregard the carbon footprint inherent with growing corn. Tractors used to plow, disk and fertilize; combines used to harvest; and trucks used to transport corn to granaries, ethanol and gas refineries and, finally, gasoline stations all require copious amounts of fossil fuels. Michigan farmers know well that pressure to increase crop yields depletes the soil of important nutrients, resulting in increased fertilizer use. That, in turn, impacts Michigan’s waterways as the likelihood of runoff creates severe algae blooms that cause stream and river eutrophication.
Congress wisely ended the $6 billion per year Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit after forcing taxpayers to foot an estimated $45 billion in ethanol subsidies since 1980, and further allowed the ethanol import tariff to expire at the end of 2011. The federal subsidies amounted to 45 cents per gallon for ethanol blenders, and shielded the American ethanol industry from competition with a tariff of 54 cents per gallon on foreign imports.
Unfortunately, although the subsidies are gone, the federal mandates remain. The 2007 Renewable Fuels Standard, signed by President George W. Bush, still requires that all U.S. fuel contain a blend of 10 percent ethanol, resulting in 44 percent of all corn grown in the United States being, pardon the pun, earmarked for ethanol production. This percentage represents an estimated 15 percent of all corn grown in the world.