Did we just hear the death knell for corn ethanol? Congress may finally be coming to its senses about one of the biggest green policy failures in America, as two bills were introduced yesterday to fix the corn ethanol mandate. Reuters reports:
The legislation would eliminate corn-based ethanol targets, which make up the vast majority of the biofuel mandate. It would also cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline at 10 percent, while requiring the government to set targets for cellulosic ethanol use at levels of actual production.Refiners have been required to buy credits for cellulosic biofuels, made from sources such as grasses, wood chips and agricultural waste, even though the fuel has not been commercially available.
To this point, US farmers have been diverting more and more of their corn crops towards ethanol refineries to satisfy EPA mandates stemming from the 2007 Renewable Fuels Standard. In 2006, before that standard went into place, just 23 percent of America’s corn crop went towards producing ethanol. That number rose to 43 percent last year.Corn ethanol fails every test a biofuel could hope to pass. It doesn’t lower emissions; it raises them. It also raises the global price of corn, starving the world’s poor and possibly inciting riots. But EPA mandates are propping up this boondoggle. Producers are scrambling to snatch up biofuel credits to meet the federally-mandated quota this year because neither supply nor demand will be sufficient to produce the more than 13 billion barrels of ethanol required.The bills working their way through Congress will also addresses the ill-conceived mandate for corn ethanol’s big brother: cellulosic ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol is considered an “advanced” biofuel, and it actually passes most of the tests that corn ethanol fails so miserably. But cellulosic ethanol still isn’t ready for mass production: there has been virtually no commercial production of the fuel, despite EPA quotas requiring nearly 20 million gallons since 2010.We’ve been agitating for a reform to this short-sighted green policy failure, and we’re not alone in recognizing its folly. It’s past time for our country to kill corn ethanol. These bills could be the fatal blow we’ve been waiting for.[Withered corn crop image courtesy of Shutterstock]