US Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced the preparation of legislation that would repeal the corn ethanol mandate under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.
“The ill-conceived RFS forces American motorists to buy billions of gallons of corn ethanol each year,” Toomey said. “This heavy-handed federal mandate drives up the price of [gasoline] and food, damages engines, and harms the environment.”
Feinstein said, “The federal corn ethanol mandate increases the cost of food and animal feed and contributes to climate change and it should be phased out. We need to instead transition to advanced, lower-carbon fuels for our transportation needs.”
Toomey said the RFS, which was first enacted as part of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, will require refiners and blenders to use more than 19 billion gal of renewable fuel this year. Corn ethanol will represent 80% of the total, he said.
Toomey said the requirement creates problems with:
- Corn consumption, since 40% of the US corn crop now is used to produce ethanol, artificially inflating food and feed prices while damaging the environment.
- A “blend wall” that is reached when the RFS mandate exceeds the limit at which ethanol can be blended into the fuel supply, determined to be 10% of total gasoline consumption. Anything beyond 10% ethanol can damage engines, Toomey said.
- Negative environmental impacts from incentivized cropland expansion, which Toomey said interrupts ecosystems via deforestation, habitat destruction, and in some cases diminished water quality or availability.
Associations representing corn ethanol suppliers quickly opposed the idea. “Perhaps Sens. Feinstein and Toomey are confused about the RFS. There is no ‘corn ethanol mandate’ under the program and there never has been,” Renewable Fuels Association Pres. Geoff Cooper said. “Yet the senators are again seeking to bolster the fossil fuels industry by trying to kill one of the most successful environmental and climate policies ever enacted by Congress. We are confident that, as with past attempts, this legislation will go nowhere,” Cooper said.
Meanwhile, an American Petroleum Institute spokesman told OGJ, “Today’s market conditions are profoundly different from those of more than a decade ago when the RFS mandate was first enacted. We continue to urge [the US Energy Protection Agency] to accept this reality and focus its attention on advancing meaningful reform that fixes the RFS and protects the interests of American consumers.”