TribLIVE: Mandating the impossible

September 30, 2013

Wayne Winegarden, September 27 – The average price of gas remains historically expensive around $3.60 per gallon. What you may not realize is that lawmakers in Washington could help alleviate your “pain at the pump” simply by getting out of the way.

In late July, a congressional hearing was held on government-mandated renewable fuel standards (RFS). The consensus among industry analysts and experts was that the RFS policy is driving gasoline prices higher. The policy also is distorting energy markets and imposing economic burdens on millions of Americans in ways that lawmakers never predicted.

In 2005, the government established the RFS policy, which was revised in 2007. The RFS policy requires refiners to blend a predetermined quantity of biofuel, such as ethanol, into their petroleum-derived gasoline.

Since the RFS standards were last revised, the nation's energy landscape has changed dramatically. Billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas reserves have been discovered in the United States while, at the same time, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been declining.

Back when the RFS was established, demand for gasoline in 2010 was forecast to be in the neighborhood of 160 billion gallons annually. Thanks in part to the boom in natural gas production and improvements in automobile fuel efficiency, gasoline consumption was actually only 130 billion gallons in 2010 and has remained around that level since.