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EPA Relents on Unworkable Ethanol Mandate


The EPA will extend the deadline for ethanol producers to meet this year’s mandated 16.55 billion gallons of biofuels by an extra four months, it announced yesterday. It also said next year’s targets will be lower than those demanded by the 2007 Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) law.

The 2007 RFS charted a course for drastically ramping up biofuels, mostly made with ethanol derived from corn. But the law didn’t anticipate slowing demand for gasoline, or difficulties in blending more and more ethanol into transportation fuel (above a certain threshold, or blend wall, ethanol is alleged to have damaging effects on engines). This lack of foresight and an unwillingness to do anything about it have forced ethanol producers to buy up credits, called RINS, for the ethanol that they’re unable to produce. The price of these credits has skyrocketed this year as producers have scrambled to reach the too-high targets.

Worse, the biofuels being produced were mostly derived from corn, a highly inefficient energy source that isn’t actually green. This expansion of corn ethanol has driven the global price of corn up, starving the world’s poor, and has been linked to increases in global riots. It’s one of those unique policies that is fractally wrong—misguided at every resolution.

The EPA’s decision to extend this year’s deadline and curb next year’s targets is a move in the right direction. We’re glad to see (however belatedly) the agency bowing to reality and working on dismantling the biofuel boondoggle. But this is only the first step. Congress still has two bills to vote on that would reform or repeal the RFS. The EPA just applied a bandage, but this policy needs some legislative surgery.

[Withered corn crop image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Pete

    You have to wonder how much money these EPA fools have cost society.

    And their supposed ‘good intentions’ are no excuse for their stupidity.

    • Andrew Allison

      Not just money. The result reduction in basic food-stuffs borders on the criminal.

  • rheddles

    Not just money, food for hungry and poor people. In time this will be seen as an indictment just as progressives’ embrace of eugenics and segregation is now.

    • bpuharic

      Segregation was strongest in the conservative south, with Jim Crow and routine lynchings. Racism was part of Southern Baptist theology until quite recently. And they’re no progressives.

      • Tom

        And yet, when MLK and crew went north to Chicago, they said it was “a whole ‘nother level of racism.”

        • bpuharic

          Yeah. No Bubba sheriffs to sic the dogs on ’em.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Where in the Constitution is the Federal Authority for this invasive agency granted? It certainly tramples all over States rights and the 10th amendment.

  • S.C. Schwarz

    Once the Supreme Court agreed that CO2 was required to be regulated under the Clean Air Act the EPA, in essence, gained complete authority over the US economy. The only limitation is political: If the EPA, an executive agency under the control of the president, goes so far that a Republican president, a Republican house, and a 60 seat Republican majority in the Senate, are elected, then the CAA could be amended. Short of that Congress, the Constitution and the courts are irrelevant. As long as they’re smart, and move slowly, they’ve won.

    Game over.

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