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World’s Biggest Lobbies in Ethanol Deathmatch

Two of America’s most powerful lobbies, oil and agricuture, are squaring off this week over the future of biofuels. A new study released yesterday by an affiliate of the American Petroleum Institute suggests that E15, a biofuel/gasoline blend, is bad for your car. The Wall Street Journal has more:

Auto makers and oil companies stepped up their campaign against gasoline blended with extra ethanol, releasing a study Tuesday that said the fuel could cause cars to break down on the road. . . .

A study by the Coordinating Research Council—a group backed by Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., among others—said testing showed E15 could cause erratic fuel-gauge readings and check-engine alerts. . . . In worst-case scenarios, the ethanol causes components to swell.

We should keep in mind that this study is being released by a council with a vested interest in seeing ethanol destroyed. That said, it’s certainly plausible that tampering with the fuel of a car might cause some problems.

But ruining car parts are the least of ethanol’s problems. Studies have shown that using corn for fuel is neither green nor cost-effective. Worse, it drives up global prices for corn, starving the world’s poor.

And yet, over the past six years the U.S. has continued to increase its allocation of corn for fuel use. In 2012, 40 percent of U.S. corn went towards producing biofuels. Compare that to 2006, when just 19 percent of corn was used for fuel. Keep in mind that we’re actually producing fewer bushels of corn now than we were back in 2006. Check out this graph to see how billions of dollars in subsidies can prop up an industry incapable of surviving on its own.

At the moment, big oil has the momentum in this fight. Last week, an EPA production quota for a more advanced biofuel was struck down. And as the science slowly coalesces against ethanol, the WSJ notices that Big Ag and its odd bedfellows, the greens, are “facing growing political headwinds.”

Lets hope those headwinds reach gale force sometime soon. Corn-based ethanol fails every metric a fuel could hope to pass. It is the archetypal pig in green lipstick.

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