Why the RFS Matters in Election 2016

September 11, 2015

At this moment in the election cycle, Iowa is king.

Presidential candidates are scrambling to win favor with the early caucus state’s ruling special interest (i.e. the corn lobby), which means discussions of corn ethanol production and the federal law that mandates it are plentiful. In fact, the corn lobby is cozying up with each and every candidate at state fairs, town hall meetings and, most concerning, behind closed doors.

But as we move into the second GOP debate of the 2016 presidential election, you may wonder: Why should I care about this issue right now?

Because the federal ethanol mandate impacts your life every day in ways both large and small – and if your preferred candidate doesn’t care about that, then maybe you should think twice about who you’re voting for.

The impact of the Renewable Fuel Standard (the law that mandates corn ethanol is produced and blended into your fuel) extends far beyond wonky energy policy debates. For example:


The Environment…

When it comes to protecting our planet, investing in the right environmental policies is crucial. The RFS is not one of them.

Some of the world’s most respected conservation organizations including the Environmental Working Group, the World Resources Institute and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have spoken out against biofuels policies like the RFS because of the multiple ways these mandates harm our planet.

Not only does the U.S. ethanol mandate sacrifice valuable land resources at an alarming rate for ethanol production, but it also takes a toll on our limited water supply. It takes 1,700 gallons of water to make just one gallon of corn ethanol, and 87 percent of irrigated corn in the U.S. is grown in drought-prone areas.

Furthermore, ethanol refineries are clogging our air supply with smog. Researchers have found that burning ethanol fuel can lead to ground-level ozone pollution responsible for an increase in air quality-related deaths by as much as 80 percent. If we continue on this ethanol-fueled trajectory, the problem will only get worse.

But if candidates’ environmental platforms don’t include repeal or reform of the RFS—or even worse, a candidate bows down to the corn lobby and supports this failed policy—how seriously can we really take their commitment to our environment?

The Cost to Middle-Class Americans…

As the wage gap widens and the middle class disappears, every cent counts, and the RFS is taking a serious toll.

Since its inception, the RFS has been projected to increase fuel costs for Americans an estimated 9 percent—or 26 cents—per gallon over the next three years. What’s more, ethanol blends can be incredibly damaging to your car engine, resulting in the accrual of significant repair costs. This means that every time you fill up your car with an ethanol blend, you are losing money. It doesn’t stop there. Even when you’re shopping for groceries, the ethanol industry is picking your pocket. By increasing the competition for and price of corn, the ethanol mandate has unintentionally been driving up the cost at the grocery store. By 2022, the RFS will increase food costs for Americans by $3 billion annually according to the Congressional Research Service.

Candidates may say they’re committed to helping hardworking families like yours, but can we really trust their promises to ease the burden on middle-class Americans if they are willing to support a policy that drives up the cost of living for consumers?

World Hunger…

When we direct significant agricultural resources away from food production in order to produce fuel for our cars, we all pay the price at the grocery check-out. But the world’s most vulnerable populations pay the highest price. According to respected advocacy organizations like Action Aid, policies like the RFS have significantly exacerbated world hunger. In fact, small farmers across the globe have already been pushed off their land to accommodate large-scale biofuel production thanks to mandates like the RFS, reducing local access to quality livestock and produce and devastating small farmers’ livelihoods.

Can we really take any candidate seriously who supports lining the Iowa corn lobby’s pockets at such a great human cost?


As the 2016 presidential candidates make their case to the American public next week during the GOP debate, there’s no more important time to make your voice heard. Tune in to next week’s debate and make sure to go ON THE RECORD against the RFS.