Renewable Fuel Standards boosts air quality

September 17, 2018

Re: “Shuck the ethanol mandate,” Editorial, Sept. 9.

The Express-News Editorial Board recently missed the mark, claiming that the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, is bad policy. The RFS has boosted local economies, strengthened U.S. energy security and improved overall air quality.

In many ways, the RFS has been one of our nation’s most successful energy policies.

The Editorial Board cites an outdated and scientifically questionable study to suggest that the RFS has not helped reduce the effects of climate change. But a 2017 report from the USDA shows that corn-based ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent compared to conventional gasoline. Over the course of the 10 years the RFS has been in place, the result is cumulatively 354 million metric tons of carbon dioxide taken out of the air.

The editorial also inaccurately claims the RFS is responsible for driving up food and feed costs. According to the the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, annual average food price inflation has averaged just 2.3 percent since the RFS was enacted in 2005, down from the 3 percent consistently seen for two decades prior to the RFS being passed.

And there’s more than enough corn to go around for food and feed uses. Corn exports are approaching record levels, and the surplus after all demands are met recently reached a 30-year high. U.S. farmers are just beginning to harvest what is expected to be the second-largest corn crop ever, and the past six years have seen the six largest crops in history.

In fact, the World Bank reports that when food price increase, most of the blame falls on higher crude oil prices. In other words, it’s oil, not the RFS, that drives consumer food prices.

The Express-News also claims that the RFS hurts refiners. But refiners are reporting record profits and unprecedented demand.

Even though refineries were already swimming in cash, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued so-called “hardship waivers” to nearly 50 refineries, allowing them to avoid blending the volume of biofuels that Congress required under the RFS. This already has cost ethanol producers and farmers more than $5 billion in economic losses.

The way to reverse the damage is for the administration to implement the RFS in a manner consistent with Congress’ intent, giving drivers a cleaner, lower priced, higher octane option.

Otherwise, the oil industry will continue its near-monopoly at the pump, robbing consumers of a domestically produced alternative that helps boost local economies and clean the air.

Bob Dinneen is president of the Renewable Fuels Association.

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