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Everyone to EPA: Stop fooling around with food prices

Posted Oct. 12, 2012 / Posted by: Michal Rosenoer

In November, the EPA will make a decision that could mitigate the higher food prices and job losses we're seeing across the country and abroad right now thanks to our federal biofuels mandate–the Renewable Fuel Standard. In August, eight states and more that 150 members of Congress asked the EPA to lower the mandate because it diverts almost half the corn grown in the U.S. for ethanol—a fuel that the EPA’s own data shows is actually worse for the climate than traditional gasoline—and away from the food or feed markets. By shrinking the supply of corn, the RFS raises food prices for consumers in the U.S. and around the globe. This year especially, with drastically lower corn harvests due to the worst drought the U.S. has seen in 50 years, the biofuels mandate is making sure that the ethanol industry “eats first” at the expense of the public and the environment.

Friends of the Earth along with thousands of other citizens, industry groups, corporations, environmental groups, and anti-hunger advocates supported the states’ petitions to lower the corn ethanol mandate. The RFS is causing severe economic and environmental harm by driving up food prices, polluting the air and water, and exacerbating climate change. Waiving the RFS shouldn’t be a question – there’s nothing “renewable” or sustainable about a policy that severely harms public health and our natural resources.

Here's just a taste of what folks had to say to the EPA:

Environmental and hunger groups:

The economic harms associated with corn ethanol are compounding the well-documented environmental damages it causes. A 2011 report by the National Academy of Sciences, for example, noted that RFS-mandated corn ethanol has higher lifecycle GHG emissions than gasoline…undermines biodiversity, increases emissions of harmful air pollutants, accelerates soil lose, and poses a variety of threats to water quality.

23 academics from MIT, Stanford, the Universities of California, and more:

Corn ethanol production at the levels mandated by the RFS poses a serious threat to both food security and climate stability, while also failing to meet other stated objectives. Recent studies have confirmed that corn ethanol in particular is failing to reduce the price of motor fuel…and is causing much more environmental and societal harm than benefit.

National Taxpayers Union:

With budgets already stretched thin, American families shouldn’t have to pay the price for RFS mandates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 consumers spent, on average, 13 percent of their annual budgets on food. For poor families, this makes up an increasingly large proportion of their annual income, making this one more instance where the burden of government policy falls on the shoulders of those who can least bear it.

National Turkey Federation:

One turkey company in California has already filed for bankruptcy citing high feed cost, and we fear that a lack of EPA intervention will lead to additional bankruptcies within the turkey industry, significant employee layoffs, and increased meat prices for consumers as increased grain prices make their way through the system…this means more hard-working Americans out of work, and when they go to the grocery store, higher prices to put food on their tables.

Competitive Enterprise Institute:

The big picture is that the RFS pre-allocates billions of bushels of corn per year to ethanol production regardless of any unexpected and significant changes in crop yields, corn stocks, and corn prices that may occur. This is an obvious recipe for disaster unless managed by an agency that is willing to adjust the blending requirements when circumstances warrant.

Everybody from the animal agriculture industry and tax groups to anti-hunger advocates and environmentalists agree - the RFS is a broken policy. The EPA needs to act now by waiving the biofuels mandate and Congress needs to reform the RFS to protect the public and the environment for the long term.

Environmental Comments to EPA on RFS waiver petitions 2012 (Letter)

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