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Time to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard

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The idiocy of federally mandated corn-based ethanol production is so plain that even a liberal Democrat now has joined the chorus of conservative voices advocating its end.

Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont called for repeal of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for corn-based ethanol at a Washington event focused on that mandate, The Hill newspaper's RegWatch blog reports. And his rationale certainly is familiar to those on the opposite end of the political spectrum who've long opposed this RFS.

The standard raises food and livestock-feed prices — and adds 5 to 10 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline, according to The Wall Street Journal — by diverting 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop to production of ethanol that's blended into gas. Ethanol takes more energy to produce than it yields as fuel, offsetting supposed environmental benefits, and those ethanol-gasoline blends reduce performance of and can damage engines.

Absent this RFS, the corn-based ethanol market wouldn't exist — which is a sure sign that it shouldn't. To his credit, Mr. Welch is among lawmakers who've introduced legislation to repeal the corn-based ethanol standard. And he thinks momentum for doing so is growing.

Still, every RFS — the one for corn-based ethanol and those for other, more exotic, even less economically viable biofuels — should go. Especially with technological innovation making domestic oil and natural gas newly abundant and affordable, Uncle Sam should not be artificially propping up any not-ready-for-prime-time “alternative” energy source.

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