The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

December 18, 2013

Our View: Be sensible on ethanol mandate

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

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The facts suggest the Renewable Fuels Standard benefits rural America job creation, gasoline consumers and the environment. A peer-reviewed study by Argonne National Laboratory concluded that corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent compared to petroleum based gasoline.

The Department of Energy estimates every 1 billion gallons of ethanol produced creates 10,000 to 20,000 jobs and save consumers about $35 billion a year in fuel costs.

Can there be a reasonable middle ground here? We think so. Gasoline consumption is down so it seems keeping ethanol a constant percentage of that consumption level is reasonable. But according to the Energy Department, gasoline consumption is down only about 4 percent since 2005, so 10 and 15 percent reduction in the ethanol use is out of sync.

The RFS was not only approved with widespread support because it would help us break out imported fuel addiction — a word Texas oilman George W. Bush used — but also diversify the choices American consumers have at the pump. Ethanol and other renewable fuels create healthy competition for oil.

The goal was also to help give investors some confidence that new renewable fuel technologies could produce marketable products that would offer a return on investment.

Ethanol is not a perfect renewable fuel. Far from it. But it has shown investors that renewable fuels can work and find strong positions in the marketplace. It is helping pave the way for cellulosic renewable fuels, which will be derived from raw products that have much less environmental issues than those associated with the energy needed to produce corn.

It’s academic that corn ethanol requires corn and therefore increases demand and the price of corn. So others who chose to buy corn are faced with a higher price. This impacts consumers of food and livestock producers who use corn for feed. But the increases are consistent with normal fluctuations and could be explained in part by other factors that impact the price of corn such as the weather.

In the end, curtailing the ethanol requirement in such a major way doesn’t make business or environmental sense.

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