Senators' bill cuts corn ethanol from Renewable Fuel Standard

Senators' bill cuts corn ethanol from Renewable Fuel Standard

Senators cite rising food costs as reason to abandon corn ethanol mandate; suggest more focus on alternative biofuels

Two U.S. Senators are again working up a bill to eliminate corn ethanol mandates in the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., rolled out the bill proposed bill, The Toomey-Feinstein Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015, this week. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., is also a cosponsor of the measure.

The RFS requires annual increases in the amount of renewable fuel that must be blended into the total volume of gasoline in the U.S. The Senators say that the mandate for corn ethanol, however, drives up corn prices and the cost of both food products made from corn and meat produced using corn as feed.

Senators cite rising food costs as reason to abandon corn ethanol mandate; suggest more focus on alternative biofuels

Related: Ethanol groups not pleased with rekindled RFS Reform Act

"The RFS requires fuel suppliers to blend millions of gallons of biofuels -- most often corn ethanol -- into the nation's gasoline supplies," Toomey said in a statement. "It drives up gas prices, increases food costs, damages car engines, and is harmful to the environment."

Toomey said the mandate is representative of the government "using corporate welfare to shower money on a favored industry."

Feinstein discussed the "blend wall" issue. "Our infrastructure has a ceiling for the amount of corn ethanol that can be used, and we're rapidly approaching it. Companies are physically unable to blend more corn ethanol into gasoline without causing problems for many gas stations and older automobiles," her statement said.

She said the mandate has stunted the growth of environmentally-friendly advanced biofuels like biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol.

"Once the mandate for corn ethanol is gone, the RFS program will be able to focus on those fuels that best reduce greenhouse gas emissions and don't compete with our food supply," she said.

Related: Commodity leaders vow to boost, protect crop demand

The Senators' bill was announced the same day as the opening of the Growth Energy Executive Leadership Conference in Phoenix, Ariz. The group's CEO, Tom Buis, said it has several flaws.

"The authors of this legislation fail to understand the actual process of how ethanol is produced. Only the starch is removed, while all of the valuable components – the fiber, oil and protein are returned to the food chain in the form of a high protein animal feed," Buis said, addressing food vs. fuel claims.

Related: EPA Official Unable to Share Release Date for 2014 RFS Final Volumes

He said food prices aren't driven by ethanol production, but rather by oil costs, citing a World Bank statistic that blames crude oil prices for 50% of the increase in food prices since 2004. Buis also addressed corn production.

"2014 yielded a record corn crop and the price of corn dropped precipitously throughout the harvest, even as food costs increased," he said.

"Nearly identical legislation has been introduced in the past and has always failed to gain any traction since a majority of senators understand the importance of homegrown, American renewable fuels," he added.

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