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Congress and the ethanol lobby square off on the corn ethanol mandate

Posted Aug. 1, 2012 / Posted by: Michal Rosenoer

As the drought continues to wreak havoc on our corn crops, the Renewable Fuel Standard – our federal mandate for corn ethanol and other biofuels – has come under fire. Due to the mandate, we’re currently using 40% of our corn in the U.S. for fuel instead of food. Today, the USDA designated more than half the counties in the country as natural disaster areas, and with corn yields plummeting, food prices are spiking to levels paralleling those seen during the 2008 food crisis. Now more than ever, it’s obvious that using corn for ethanol is a dangerous and dirty business.

Tomorrow, two competing press events will take place to discuss the implications of lowering the Renewable Fuel Standard’s corn ethanol mandate.

The first event will be hosted by Congressmen Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Steve Womack (R-AR), and Mike McIntyre (D-NC). They will be urging EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, to reduce the RFS to help ease corn supply concerns and protect consumers, livestock producers, and the economy against rising corn prices. The Congressmen will have a letter from over 130 bipartisan members of Congress supporting a reduction in the RFS for 2012. The event will take place at 10:30am EDT at the House Triangle.

The second event will be hosted by Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, and Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, the two largest ethanol lobby groups in the country. Their press conference will cover what they refer to as “the unnecessary calls to waive the RFS.” The event will take place at the National Press Club at 12pm EDT. No doubt these two corporate lobbyists will be pushing to maintain their highly subsidized and polluting fuel, despite recent data from MIT showing that corn ethanol is both failing to lower gas prices and oil imports.

This summer's drought has highlighted corn ethanol’s inability to provide the U.S. with a safe, secure source of energy. The administration and the ethanol lobby alike have pushed biofuels as a national security solution to our oil dependence, but as is, corn ethanol is only meeting  10% of our transportation fuel needs while wreaking havoc on food prices and the environment. When yields fall like they have this year, the corn ethanol mandate prioritizes fuel over the public and our natural resources.

The problems with using crops for fuel will likely be more common in the future.  Scientists believe that droughts and high temperatures are the new normal due to climate change, meaning that corn yields are likely to remain erratic. Not only does climate change mean that corn ethanol cannot be a stable energy source, it also exacerbates the problem. EPA’s data shows that most corn ethanol actually adds more GHG emissions to the climate than gasoline, exacerbating climate change.

EPA and Congress should be protecting the public from climate change, not exacerbating it by green-lighting more polluting corn ethanol.

We need to reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard and re-examine all federal supports for dirty and dangerous corn ethanol.

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