The Hill: Renewable fuel standard mandate is a failed policy

October 16, 2013

Ryan Alexander, October 15 – With the ability of policymakers to work together under intense scrutiny, several members of Congress are finding common ground around the need to address the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), an inflexible policy that has failed to meet its stated goals while picking winners and losers and causing numerous unintended consequences on the food industry, environment, consumers, and taxpayers.

As a growing crowd of policymakers recognize this opportunity to take meaningful steps toward mitigating the wide-reaching consequences of the RFS — the policy requiring increasing levels of biofuels to be blended into gasoline — it’s clear that the corn ethanol lobby fears losing its 15 billion gallon government mandate that has propped up the industry since 2005.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker (R), for example, recently stated in this blog that “the RFS has driven a 19 percent reduction in American dependence on oil from unstable regions of the globe; while also providing alternatives at the pump that reduce GHG emissions by 20 percent.”  Yet, countless experts — including the government’s own Energy Information Agency (EIA) — tie America’s lowering dependency to increased domestic energy production, better fuel economy, and Americans driving less due to the recent recession.

What’s more, the corn ethanol that is forcing its way into the marketplace is likely increasing greenhouse gas emissions, according to the National Academy of Sciences.  In fact, corn-based ethanol nearly doubles GHG emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years, according to researchers from Princeton University and Iowa State University. With the RFS accomplishing the exact opposite of what it was intended to do – decrease GHG emissions – can it really be advisable to let the “RFS run its course,” as Schweiker suggests?

Contrary to claims that the RFS “places no burden on the federal budget,” corn ethanol, the most widely produced biofuel in the U.S., has cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars over the past 30 years.