House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and more than 60 other lawmakers voiced strong opposition to the nation's ethanol mandate on Wednesday in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.
"The combined effects of this ethanol mandate have created a hidden tax on every American," the Virginia Republican and dozens of other lawmakers from both parties wrote. "Simply put, in its current state, the [Renewable Fuel Standard] has run out of gas."
The letter argues that none of the policy goals that the mandate sought to achieve when in was passed in the 2005 energy law has been met.
"By diverting 35 percent of the corn harvest to fuel additive, the RFS has raised the cost of livestock production, increased food price volatility and insecurity, decreased fuel efficiency, damaged small engine equipment, hurt the environment, and chipped away at household budgets."
Goodlatte has been a key opponent of ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard in Congress. Backed by the oil industry and refiners, he has called for significantly reforming or repealing the EPA program altogether and has introduced bills over the years to eliminate the program or change it to limit the used of corn-based ethanol.
Goodlatte's letter follows a big push by Democrats and Republicans from corn states to pressure Pruitt to reconsider a proposal to reduce the size of the biofuel targets in the next two years.
Pruitt sent a letter to the senators, including Iowa Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, assuring them that he would act within the confines of the law that mandates that refiners blend 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels into the nation's gasoline and diesel fuel by 2022.
Pruitt also said he would work with them to approve higher blends of ethanol from the current 10 percent blends to 15 percent.
Goodlatte's letter pressed Pruitt to "continue to acknowledge that the RFS has significant pitfalls and costs in future rulemaking."
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, representing the ethanol industry, put out a fact sheet ahead of the letter being released Wednesday. The fact sheet offered a point-by-point response to each of the letter's claims.
"American families and our economy have shouldered the direct and indirect costs of the petroleum monopoly for far too long," the trade group said. "While members of Congress who receive millions in campaign contributions may be OK with that, most people are not."
It also pointed out that food price volatility is less under the Renewable Fuel Standard than in the previous two decades. "As ethanol is mostly used to replace petroleum-based octane components (not 'gasoline') the claim of lower fuel economy is without merit."