Slate: The One Issue Republicans and Democrats Can Agree On

July 15, 2013

Ari LeVaux, July 12— While recent Supreme Court rulings on voting rights and same-sex marriage have held the nation’s attention, another decision slipped under the radar. In late June, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s program to raise the maximum ethanol content of gasoline from 10 to 15 percent, thus clearing the way for more ethanol production.  The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill, meanwhile, includes more than $1 billion of support for the ethanol industry. While these developments at the federal level are bullish for ethanol, many states are calling bull.

The fact that most ethanol is made from corn means that an increase in the ethanol content of gas could create, or exacerbate, a variety of problems, like higher food prices and elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Ethanol production has also been linked to the spread of a dangerous form of E. coli.
But while federal support for ethanol appears to be as unstoppable as it is misguided, some individual states have shown the kind of backbone that could lead us toward a smarter energy policy. In June, Florida repealed its Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandated that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol.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.

The Maine House Republicans posted the following on Maine.gov:

“[E]vidence is mounting that ethanol is a failure in virtually every way. It takes more energy to produce it than the fuel provides. Food supplies around the world have been disrupted because so much of the corn crop now goes to ethanol. It costs taxpayers billions of dollars in subsidies at a time when our nation is already $12 trillion in debt. Even environmentalists have turned against it; research shows that ethanol production increases the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.”

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