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EPA Walks Back Ethanol Mandates


American energy policy got smarter last Friday, as the EPA announced a plan to cut next year’s biofuel mandates by roughly 16 percent. The new targets reflect a growing understanding of the many problems brought on by annually increasing biofuel quotas, as set out by the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). That law requires American refineries to blend set volumes of biofuel in to gasoline, the majority of which is produced from American corn. Prior to the RFS, 23 percent of our nation’s corn went towards biofuel production. Last year, that number rose to a whopping 43 percent of American corn.

At the outset, the RFS enjoyed bipartisan support. President Bush signed it into law in 2007, and President Obama happily oversaw the steady rise in mandates, touting its ability to boost the country’s energy security while simultaneously saving the planet. But underneath all that lipstick is one ugly pig: corn ethanol doesn’t significantly decrease emissions, and may actually increase them. It has lead to the destruction of land previously tagged for conservation, and raised global food prices (starving the world’s poor and potentially inciting riots).

On top of that, the required volumes have outstripped both supply and demand, forcing ethanol refiners to buy up credits called RINs to make up for the millions of gallons of ethanol the market couldn’t bear.

This biofuel boondoggle is by no means behind us, but the EPA’s decision at least moves us in the right direction.

[Withered corn crop image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • gabrielsyme

    The EPA’s cut is roughly 84% short of what it ought to be.

    The irony is that there’s a far, far better case for prohibiting biofuels than promoting them. As is noted above, biofuels raise food prices, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality due to malnutrition and, indeed, starvation. This homicidal policy should be called by its true name, and must be ended.

  • Corlyss

    Has RFK, Jr. fallen on his sword yet?

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