With the Iowa caucuses today, the one state with stakeholders who actually support our federal biofuel policy will be making its voice heard. But while some (but not all) politicians pander to the Corn Belt state by supporting the ethanol mandates that require vast swathes of corn crops to be used for the production of biofuel, just about everywhere else in the country a consensus is growing that this policy, enacted under the Bush administration in 2007 and carried out by President Obama, is a failure. The New York Times reports:
[B]eyond the borders of a state with outsize importance in the selection of presidents, ethanol may be losing its grip on the body politic. Energy policy experts, advocates in the fight on poverty and even other farmers say a law that has been a boon for Iowa has been a boondoggle to the rest of the country. The ethanol mandate has driven up food costs while failing to deliver its promised environmental benefits. Rising domestic oil production and a global energy glut have all but nullified the pitch that ethanol would help wean the country off foreign oil.
And now a powerful coalition including oil companies, environmentalists, grocery manufacturers, livestock farmers and humanitarian advocates is pushing Congress to weaken or repeal the mandate. As soon as this week, the Senate could vote on a measure to roll back the Renewable Fuel Standard, just days after the Iowa caucuses close and the issue largely goes to rest for another four years.
This will all come as no surprise to regular TAI readers, as we’ve been covering this biofuel boondoggle for years. These biofuel mandates, the vast majority of which are met using ethanol distilled from corn, find that unique sour spot in public policy, ticking off just about every box you wouldn’t want to tick: They’re bad for the environment, they cost consumers at the pump, and they even raise global food prices, hurting the world’s poor. A study published by scientists from the University of Tennessee this past October found that corn ethanol could lead “to a sharp and overall increase of [greenhouse gases].” Some high-profile greens have themselves recently started critiquing the mandate.
The facts are clearly stacked against corn ethanol, but that hasn’t stopped politicians desperate for votes from embracing the dubious “green” fuel in stump speeches. There’s a word for that: pandering.