The renewable fuel standard (RFS), with all its controversy pitting the Midwest corn-belt against the rest of the country, now raises a critical question: Are we going to continue to shell out money for ethanol that’s no longer needed?
What’s more, the mandate has left the environment worse off and has offered little of any value to consumers. As evidence, we have only to look at the effect ethanol has had on driving up food costs. Since the law’s passage, the price of corn has more than doubled, especially driving up the cost of meat and dairy products.
This has cast much-needed attention on the impact that higher food costs are having globally. Corn is an important food source, particularly for lower-income people. For years, many poor countries relied on food exports from the United States, but due to the ethanol mandate’s economic impact, they’ve had to cut back on food imports. That may seem minor, but the damage to poor countries is real and measurable. It was over higher corn costs that riots broke out a few years ago in Mexico. And a cutback in food exports has led to famine in parts of Southeast Asia and Africa.
More and more people who are concerned about world hunger are speaking out about the ethanol mandate. And there is evidence the mandate may be losing its once powerful political hold, in that a coalition of opponents, ranging from oil companies and grocery manufacturers to environmentalists and humanitarian groups, are calling on Congress to roll back or repeal the mandate.
Here at home, eliminating the RFS would lower gasoline costs. Because ethanol produces less energy than gasoline, a motorist filling a car tank with E10 (90 percent gasoline, 10 percent ethanol) gets fewer miles per gallon than if the motorist were using straight gasoline. This means that automobile owners need to fill their tanks more often, resulting in higher costs.
Another one of the unintended consequences of ethanol is the effect that increased corn production has had on some of America’s most endangered habitat for ducks and pheasants, monarch butterflies and honey bees. Some 200 million acres of grassland prairie has already been lost, and the remaining 30 million acres is in danger of being plowed under for production of corn ethanol.
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