Ethanol lobby should stand on its own feet

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: July 7 2013 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:30 am in

By Mark Lucas

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The ethanol lobby has been raising a ruckus lately, blaming “Big Oil” for supposedly launching a smear campaign against the federal government’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that brings them so much business. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is that Americans are starting to wake up to the high costs that the RFS imposes on businesses and consumers alike, harming the American economy at the worst possible time.

The RFS is a federal program that mandates energy producers to blend renewable fuels such as ethanol into every gallon of gasoline. The current standard calls for fuel makers to blend 10 percent ethanol into every gallon of fuel produced.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency

(EPA) is now increasing the mandate, encouraging producers to increase its blending of ethanol to 15 percent per gallon through its E15 program.

While this federal encouragement may boost the ethanol

lobby’s profits, it’s bad for all other businesses and American consumers.

E15’s problem is that most automobiles and small engine vehicles such as ATVs, motorcycles, and lawn mowers are not equipped to handle 15 percent ethanol.

Some automakers have even threatened to void the warranty of drivers who use gas with the higher blend because it often damages the engine. In fact, only

4 percent of vehicles on the road today are capable of running such a high blend of gas.

But the problems with the RFS are not just confined to cars.

Fewer than 2 percent of gas stations nationwide are capable of accommodating

so-called flex-fuel vehicles.

It would cost each gas station anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000 to install

new equipment for higher blended ethanol fuel.

In short, millions

of American drivers would have to buy expensive new cars

and thousands of gas stations would have to overhaul their equipment if the EPA and ethanol lobby had their way.

During these tough economic times, America cannot afford E15.

Don’t believe Big Ethanol’s misinformation. Nobody’s out to get them. In fact, the playing field is massively tilted in their favor.

The decision of when and how much ethanol should be blended with gas should be left up to companies and consumers in the market, not government bureaucrats.

When American drivers demand compatible cars for E15, gas companies and stations will supply it accordingly.

In the meantime, the ethanol lobby should stand on their own two feet without corporate welfare courtesy of American taxpayers.

Mark Lucas of Iowa City is Iowa State Director for Americans for Prosperity, www.americansforprosperity.org. Comments: Mlucas@afphq.org

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