Americans don’t seem to have a problem with our national biofuel boondoggle. In a national poll conducted by Morning Consult earlier this month, 62 percent of respondents voiced support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—a system of biofuel mandates enacted by the Bush administration that has since expanded under President Obama. 18 percent opposed the RFS, though those dissenters were outnumbered by the undecided, as 20 percent of respondents said they didn’t know or weren’t sure about the policy. Predictably, the biofuel lobby is trumpeting this as a triumph. The Hill reports:
Bob Dinneen, president of RFA, said the results show strong support for the biofuel mandates.“This poll clearly shows that the oil industry’s misinformation, hyperbole, and manufactured angst against the RFS is not resonating with an American public that wants competition for the pump, relief for their wallet, and lower carbon fuels for the planet,” he said in a statement.“Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency should take note of the high level of support for the program and allow the RFS to work at the levels Congress envisioned in 2007,” he continued.
The U.S. biofuel boondoggle isn’t an easy issue to unpack, and this recent poll suggests that the public is misinformed. To keep it simple, let’s run through the bullet points:(1) the corn-based biofuels that make up the vast majority of mandated production aren’t green, and may even raise global emissions;(2) devoting cropland to the production of these fuels raises global food prices, starving the world’s poor (and potentially inciting riots);(3) this system hurts the consumer, and will cost American drivers an estimated $10 billion this year alone;and finally (4) the bureaucratic management of the RFS is hopelessly behind schedule, having failed to release the actual mandates for 2014 and 2015.This boondoggle can be a complicated issue at times, but after a little unpacking it can be boiled down to a simple question: what is it good for? Every stakeholder involved—including the ethanol producers themselves— is frustrated with the RFS. It’s a mess from top to bottom, and it’s not a good sign that voters don’t seem to see that.