Gas prices may have dropped in recent months—and we all have the plunge in the global price of oil to thank for that—but America’s misguided biofuel mandates are costing consumers billions every year at the pump. Robert Bryce writes of this corn ethanol “tax” in the New York Times:
[T]here is…a hidden levy that has benefited a small group of farmers and manufacturers in a handful of states: the corn ethanol tax.The tax is hidden because, on paper, it appears as a clean-energy mandate. Federal law currently requires fuel retailers to blend about 13 billion gallons of corn ethanol per year into the gasoline they sell to the public, making the gas more expensive. This year, that mandate, known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, will impose about $10 billion in additional fuel costs on motorists.
Bryce’s case sticks purely to the economic costs of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), but of course the misguided policy has created a host of other problems. For one, using corn for fuel crimps global food supplies, sending costs rising and effectively starving the world’s poor. These rising costs have even been linked with rioting abroad.What may be most baffling of all is the simple fact that this is not a green policy. At first glance you might believe it to be, with renewable right there in the title and the prefix “bio-” so often appended to descriptions of this corn-based fuel, but studies have shown the kinds of fuel being produced by the RFS are anything but green.This is a policy mess that dates back to the Bush Administration, though it is one the current President was more than happy to continue in order to enhance his green credentials. It’s clear that it has failed, by any metric. Bills to repeal and reform the RFS are working their way through Congress at the moment; we’ll be watching their progress in the hopes that we can find a way to end this biofuel boondoggle.