We have all seen the signs on the gasoline pumps proudly proclaiming “Contains Ethanol.” The U.S. gas supply includes this biofuel derived from corn due a bill passed in 2007, the Renewable Fuel Standard. It mandates that the nation’s gasoline contains a certain portion of corn-based ethanol, courtesy of America’s heartland.
At the time, politicians thought they were helping to curb climate change, while also supporting American farmers. But a decade later it’s become clear that the legislation has had unintended consequences, with some leaders going so far as calling it a “well-intended flop.”
A group of Democrats have introduced a bill to fix the “flop,” as reported in the Washington Examiner, because “it actually doesn’t cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, it expands them…[and] it’s had a significant impact on overplanting in fragile areas of the corn belt,” says Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt), one of the sponsors of the proposed replacement, the Greener Fuels Act.
If passed, this bill would cap the current corn ethanol mandate at 9.7%, with a total phase-out of the program by 2023. It would also provide incentives for other biofuels that are “truly renewable,” and funding for farmers to convert corn acres to pasture or wildlife habitat.
In an interesting twist, the bill would help refiners in Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) home state of Texas, who are plagued by high prices for the ethanol credits currently required to comply with the existing mandate.
It’s hard to say where this might go in the current political climate, but it’s definitely a hot one. Remember, almost 250 million pounds of pesticides were applied on the nation’s corn crop in 2016 alone, so anything that impacts how much corn American farmers grow has important implications.
We will keep you posted as this story develops.
John Siciliano, “Democrats call ethanol mandate an environmental ‘flop’,” Washington Examiner, March 8, 2018.