The Free Press, Mankato, MN


December 18, 2013

Our View: Be sensible on ethanol mandate

Why it matters: Ethanol has long been a boon to rural development.

Solid bipartisan majorities in Congress in 2005 and again in 2007 enthusiastically supported a mandate for oil refiners to use more renewable fuels in their gasoline.

In fact, we can’t remember the oil companies putting up too much of a fuss either.

But all that appears to have changed as the Democratic administration of President Obama is proposing to lower the amount of corn ethanol used under the Renewable Fuels Standard endorsed far and wide just a few short years ago.

At that time, we were not far removed from the 911 attacks and we were about two years into a brutal Iraq War. Those events led many Americans and their political leaders to believe the sooner we can free ourselves from the dependence on foreign oil the better.

But the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed lowering the mandated use of ethanol by about 10 percent from its original target for 2014 and about 15 percent for all renewable fuels.

Those reductions seem out of line and are not likely commensurate with how much better Americans are feeling about our energy independence. Several Minnesota elected leaders in Congress, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken oppose the change, as do Reps. Tim Walz and Collin Peterson.

The oil industry, of course, is the biggest force pushing the change in standards. A reduction in the mandated use of ethanol would lower costs and increase profits for oil companies. They’ve been proffering a smattering of arguments where it’s difficult to see how they are looking out for anyone but themselves.

They argue that because gas prices are down, and we’re now producing more domestic oil, and fuel consumption overall is down, we don’t really need the renewable fuels mandate. They’d like to see it disappear altogether.

They’ve been joined by some environmental groups who, with some misplaced fervor, have jumped on a bandwagon of thought recently that suggests using a renewable fuel instead of depleting supplies of fossil fuels is better for the environment.

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