With drought and other market conditions exposing Washington's wasteful ethanol favoritism like never before, the Environmental Protection Agency should waive this year's Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) — and Congress should repeal the RFS law.
The Department of Agriculture bought about 42 percent of the drought-reduced corn crop to meet this year's RFS requirement for blending ethanol into vehicle fuels. Livestock producers, their feed costs spiking due to corn's scarcity, favor the RFS waiver that the EPA is considering. Yet Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, former governor of ethanol epicenter Iowa, supports the status quo.
Corn ethanol's a losing energy proposition, taking more to produce than it yields as fuel. There would be no U.S. ethanol market without the RFS mandate and stiff tariffs on cheaper foreign alternatives, which raise Americans' food costs by diverting U.S. corn to ethanol production.
With the EPA allowing blended fuel to contain 15 percent ethanol, up from 10 percent, damaged engines, voided warranties and lower fuel efficiency add to the pain of taxpaying motorists, boaters and power-tool users. And meanwhile, development of more economically sensible biofuel sources, such as switchgrass, languishes.
Today's supply-and-demand situation exacerbates the glaring downsides of corn ethanol and government market intervention on its behalf. The EPA should never again mull an RFS waiver; rather, Congress must end this market-distorting political sop to corn producers.
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