For the first time in years, there is an emerging consensus that the biggest racket in national politics deserves to end.
Earlier this month, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and 10 other Republican senators held a luncheon summit at the White House with President Trump with the goal of drastically reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard, the federal mandate that annually funnels $13.5 billion from the wallets of American fuel and food consumers into the coffers of agribusiness giants.
Before the national nightmare of Obamacare, there was the RFS, the most sweeping and intrusive federal intervention in the American economy undertaken in modern history. Enacted under President George W. Bush in 2005 and expanded in 2007, the RFS requires that biofuels, mainly ethanol, be increasingly mixed with gasoline in greater proportions each year until 2022.
Every November, the EPA is required to announce that it is mandating even higher levels of ethanol in our fuel supply. Recently, the Trump Administration and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt bravely defied cronyism by freezing the current RFS levels for 2018 — a first step in relieving Americans of this Washington-built burden.
What was the thinking behind this monumental government directive, this freakish experiment in state-planning that arbitrarily picked winners and losers? Its proponents — namely Big Corn and hard-line environmentalists — argued that using more ethanol rather than gasoline would benefit the environment, boost the economy, and bolster national security by reducing our reliance upon foreign oil.
Twelve years later, we have three empty checkmark boxes.
Burning ethanol adds more hydrocarbons to the atmosphere than burning gasoline and, in turn, creates more air pollution. Meanwhile, fertilization from increased corn acreage is driving nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into lakes and streams. Blends excessively high in ethanol are destroying engines and fuel systems while the forced diversion of corn into the fuel markets is raising the cost of food.
Further, American energy independence came about due to the revolution in domestic oil production, and had nothing to do with ethanol or the RFS at all.
There’s simply no disputing the RFS has failed to deliver on every single one of its promises.
And yet the biofuel increases have kept coming, despite the fact that Americans are driving less and modern motor vehicles are more fuel efficient. The result of injecting more biofuels into the smaller amounts of fuel being consumed is that in 2016, the overall percentage of ethanol in transportation fuel sold in the U.S. exceeded 10 percent.
With almost all U.S. gasoline now being sold as E10 (10 percent ethanol by volume), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the only way to increase ethanol in the fuel supply is to push the content to 15 percent ethanol (E15) or higher — a 50 percent increase in ethanol compared to E10.
Particularly affected are the consumers whose vehicles and small engines are only engineered to operate on E10, or fuel with no ethanol at all. Motorcycles, marine engines, and lawn mowers cannot perform properly on fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol. In fact, they can suffer fuel system and engine damage, and their warranties may be voided.
On the other side, a market has sprung up in Renewable Identification Numbers, the certificates refiners must buy if their ethanol output is below the EPA mandate. The biofuel mandates and the RIN market have distorted the U.S. fuel marketplace, and the consumers are the ones who suffer.
Still, the most stunning aspect of the RFS story has been the recent turn by America’s leading conservationist organizations against the legislation: Mighty Earth, National Wildlife Federation, American Forests, and Sierra Club, just to name a few.
It’s always important to go by the numbers, and the numbers now clearly paint an ugly picture: RFS is not only bad for business, it’s terrible for the environment.
When the Left and Right line up against a major federal initiative, you know it’s time for serious change. Alongside the tax overhaul, this seemingly wonky reform has the potential to be one of the Trump Administration’s signature achievements.
With billions of dollars in payoffs to big agriculture and shameless speculation on RIN certificates by Wall Street titans, the corporate welfare program that is the RFS has become needs to end. There are currently bills in Congress that offer solutions. For those Americans who have been fighting to drain the Swamp, direct your ire at and attention toward the biofuel ruse of the century.
Dr. Wayne Allard, a former U.S. senator, currently serves as the vice president of Government Relations for the American Motorcyclist Association and spokesperson for Rethink Ethanol.
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