An Attack on Ethanol

In what’s sure to have people scratching their heads, it seems environmental groups have joined forces with none other than Big Oil.

Odd bedfellows, indeed.

The groups have banded to form a coalition called Smarter Fuel Future. Their fight is against ethanol, or more specifically the Renewable Fuels Standard, which requires oil processors blend specific amounts of ethanol into each gallon of gas they produce. (http://smarterfuelfuture.org/)

It’s apparent the coalition knows people will be baffled by their partnership – under one tab a large greeting says “We don’t always agree.” And then goes on to say, “But the ethanol mandate affects us all.” The page has quotes saying less-than-flattering things about ethanol from the Environmental Working Group, a longtime adversary of the RFS, just up the page from a quote by the American Fuel and Petro Chemicals Manufacturers.

It’s obvious why big oil doesn’t like ethanol – for every gallon of the biofuel that’s made from corn in the U.S., a gallon of gas isn’t used. Environmental groups believe the amount of fuel and land used to raise corn outweighs any emissions benefit gained by substituting non-renewable gasoline made from oil with ethanol made from corn.

The Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year proposed requiring refiners to blend 14 billion gallons of conventional renewable fuels into gasoline this in 2016, well below a prior requirement established by Congress. (http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-08/documents/420f15028.pdf)

The proposal was met with angst from ethanol producers and corn growers alike.

The Office of the Inspector General of the EPA said yesterday that it will investigate the RFS’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions. For its part, the Renewable Fuels Association, which represents ethanol producers, said in a statement today that it welcomes the review as it will show the positive impact ethanol has on reducing greenhouse gases. (http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-10/documents/newstarts_10-15-15_rfs.pdf)

“For years RFA has been asking the EPA to update their analysis of the RFS’s impacts on greenhouse gas emissions so we welcome this review, as it will give the public a clearer picture of the climate benefits that ethanol is producing today” RFA President Bob Dinneen said in a statement, calling ethanol “a potent weapon in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Farmers depend on ethanol production to eat up much of their corn. Some 39% of this year’s projected corn production is forecast to be used to make ethanol, almost exactly the same amount that will be fed to livestock, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (http://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/wasde/latest.pdf)

The anti-ethanol coalition has spent $500,000 to run a 30-second ad quoting everybody from Al Gore to the National Academy of Sciences, according to Bloomberg. The commercial is set to run 300 times in the next two months.

It also will run ads during the Nov. 14 Democratic debates, the news company reported.

The RFS likely will be a hot topic ahead of next year’s election as politicians first meet in Iowa, the second-biggest corn producer. Both front-runners – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – have said they support the mandate.

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