As it does every fall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it is mandating even higher levels of ethanol in our transportation fuel supply while ignoring market realities and the negative impact of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard on American consumers.
The Renewable Fuel Standard, enacted under President George W. Bush in 2005 and expanded in 2007, requires ever-increasing amounts of biofuels to be mixed with fossil fuels each year until 2022. And the EPA has been issuing mandates each November for more biofuels, particularly ethanol.
These biofuel increases keep coming despite the fact that Americans are driving less (according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners) and modern motor vehicles are more fuel efficient. The result of injecting more biofuels into the smaller amounts of fuel being consumed is that in 2016, the overall percentage of ethanol in transportation fuel sold in the United States exceeded 10 percent, according to Ethanol Producer Magazine.
With almost all U.S. gasoline now being sold as E10 (10 percent ethanol by volume), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the only way to increase ethanol in fuel supply is to push the content to 15 percent ethanol (E15) or higher. That’s a 50 percent increase in ethanol, compared to E10.
Particularly affected are the consumers whose vehicles and small engines are only engineered to operate on E10 or fuel with no ethanol at all. Motorcycles, marine engines and lawn mowers, to name a few, cannot perform properly on fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol. In fact, they can suffer fuel system and engine damage, and their warranties may be voided.
The American Motorcyclist Association is part of a broad coalition whose members are negatively affected by federal mandates to produce more and more ethanol fuel. In addition to motorcyclists, they represent small engine owners, fishermen, hunters, boat owners, livestock owners, environmentalists, nutrition agencies, water quality agencies and businessmen.
Concerns in this group range from engine damage — noted above — to water and air quality to feed costs and beyond.
On the business side, a market has sprung up in Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN), the certificates refiners must buy if their ethanol output is below the EPA mandate.
The biofuel mandates and the RIN market have distorted the U.S. fuel marketplace, and the consumers are the ones who suffer.
Meanwhile, the ethanol industry continues to push the EPA to approve E15 blends for year-round sale, something that could result in more air pollution during the summer months at fueling stations. The industry is seeking an exemption from clean air standards.
We believe the Renewable Fuel Standard needs to be rethought and revamped. And we have solutions. There are bills in Congress that would address these issues.
This is a case in which free markets — not mandates — would better serve the needs of the American consumer.
Contact your member of Congress and let them know that, for the benefit of consumers, the ethanol fuel program needs to be changed to meet the various needs and concerns of the American consumer.
• Dr. Wayne Allard, DVM, is a former U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Colorado. He is now vice president, government relations, of the American Motorcyclist Association. Please follow @ama_riding.
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