The Environmental Protection Agency announced on October 13 that it had approved an increase in the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline from 10 percent to as much as 15 percent. Apparently, the Obama administration’s plan is to forget about ethanol’s negative impact on consumers and their gasoline-powered equipment, ignore the facts when it comes to air quality, and instead pander to the farm lobby.
For months, administration officials have been hinting that the EPA would approve the ethanol industry’s request for an increase in blend volumes. The industry desperately needs a bailout, because it has built far too many distilleries over the past few years. As Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, explained, “We have lots of gallons of ethanol chasing too few gallons of gasoline.”
The EPA is granting them a bailout by allowing ethanol producers to blend more of their corrosive, hydrophilic, low-heat-content fuel into our gasoline. And while the agency’s ruling limits the use of the higher-ethanol-content gasoline to model year 2007 and newer cars and trucks, the move further complicates the American motor-fuel market, which is already the most Balkanized motor-fuel market in the world. Refiners are now producing about 45 different blends of gasoline and multiple blends of diesel fuel. Managing all those different fuels increases costs that are ultimately borne by the consumer.
This latest decision allows the ethanol scammers to continue gorging themselves at the public trough. In July, the Congressional Budget Office reported that corn-ethanol subsidies cost U.S. taxpayers more than $7 billion per year. Those subsidies are larger than those given to any other form of renewable energy.
The collection of groups opposed to this bailout made for a strange coalition. In August, 39 groups — including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute as well as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group — asked Congress to hold hearings about the proposed increase in ethanol consumption. Congressional leaders ignored the request.
That congressional inattention will cost consumers dearly. For years, ethanol-blended gasoline has forced boat owners to pay for expensive repairs to their boats’ fuel lines and tanks — and that was with gasoline containing just 10 percent ethanol. There are 500 million non-road engines (think lawnmowers, chainsaws, and weed-whackers) now in use in America, and none of those engines is designed to run on fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol.
Of course, the ethanol lobby loved the EPA’s decision. Growth Energy, an advocacy group that employs former presidential candidate Wesley Clark, quickly issued a press release applauding the move, but insisted that “much more must be done to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.” That statement implies that subsidies and mandates for corn ethanol have helped cut oil imports. Here’s the reality: They haven’t.