The case against biofuel mandates

ethanolOnce again the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to increase the amount of biofuels in our vehicle fuel tanks. On May 18, it announced it is recommending that 18.8 billion gallons be blended into gasoline and diesel fuel destined for the consumer market in 2017, more than the 18.11 billion gallons mandated for this year.

There are so many things wrong with this recommendation that it’s hard to know where to be begin. First and foremost, this is a political solution to a problem foisted on the American public by a misinformed Congress. In 2005 and 2007, Congress enacted the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) ostensibly to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and to provide incentives for the fledgling ethanol industry.

At the time, gasoline demand was soaring, and the Washington lawmakers thought there was no end in sight. They were wrong. High gasoline prices and the Great Recession reduced demand for fuel, and advanced technologies in the oil patch greatly increased domestic oil production. But by then, the United States had been saddled with a biofuel mandate requiring increasing amounts of biofuels through 2022.

The EPA’s 2017 recommendation ignores the most important concern especially during a presidential election year — the voters.

A Harris Poll conducted in March shows registered voters are concerned about rising levels of ethanol in gasoline. Seventy-seven percent say they worry about the risk of forcing more than 10 percent ethanol (E10) into their vehicles.

Vehicles operating on fuel blends containing more than 10 percent ethanol have been damaged in tests. Plus adding ethanol reduces mileage because the corn alcohol contains about two-thirds as much energy as straight gasoline. As a result, motorists have to fill up more often.

In addition, I am constantly making sure that all gasoline with ethanol has been emptied out of my small power tools. I have experienced major repair costs if I did not. The alternative is to buy straight gasoline for those engines — if you can find it at a reasonable cost. Of course you can buy straight gasoline from major hardware chains. I did — for $24 per gallon.

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