The Washington Times reports that an odd fellowship has arisen between green groups, who a decade ago touted the federal government’s ethanol mandate and the EPA’s renewable fuel standards, and Sen. Ted Cruz, who has long been a critic of these mandates and has long argued that the program needs an overhaul.
For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS), Jillian Melchoir explained them in a 2015 policy focus for IWF:
In 2005, Congress mandated the use of renewable fuels as part of the energy Policy act and in 2007, as part of the energy Independence and Security act, Congress voted to greatly expand this Renewable Fuel Standard, requiring the use of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, including both corn ethanol and so-called cellulosic biofuel (made from non-edible plant parts like grass, wood and cornstalks), to be blended with transportation fuels.
In 2005, green groups were excited about RFS and ethanol production because they claimed these measures would reduce carbon emissions, preserve land and help fight climate change. Yet none of that happened.
But RFSs have had an impact. As Jillian Melchoir noted in the policy focus:
1) The RFS mandate has led to increased fuel costs, which has led to higher costs for goods and services, as shipping costs have increased and manufacturers are simply passing this cost onto the consumer.
2) The RFS mandate has also increased the tax burden on Americans as the federal government gives tax credits for the use of biofuels. American taxpayers make up for that loss of tax revenue and because RFS have increased food costs, taxpayers have shouldered the added burden of more public spending on SNAP and other food welfare program.
3) There are also real concerns about the impact of RFS on the environment. Instead of improving the environment, green groups now see that ethanol production emits carbon and biofuels can emit smog-creating chemicals, which may mean they are often no more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels. In addition, many green groups are worried about the conversion of land into cornfields which has disrupted habitats and led to other serious conservation issues.
Clearly the RFS mandate needs to be reformed. Perhaps this unlikely coalition will make those reforms a reality.