Kill The RFS

Corn Is Food, Not Fuel

Posted: November 23, 2012

Since August, Americans of all political beliefs and walks of life have tried to persuade the federal Environmental Protection Agency to waive its renewable fuel standard. The RFS requires adding ethanol, which is produced from corn, to gasoline. The reason? It is driving up the price of corn. And that drives up the price of food.

Congress created the RFS in 2005. The purpose, in part, was to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. One would think a better idea is exploring for more oil here, but alas, no one ever accused the powers in Washington of common sense. No, said the nation’s political elites, we will add corn juice to gasoline!

After months of pondering the issue, the EPA, in all its wisdom, said it will not relent. So burn the corn we must. In 2013, 13.8 billion gallons of ethanol will be added to the nation’s gas tanks. In 2014, it
’s 14.4 billion. EPA avers that turning corn into fuel does not increase the price of food.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-6th, is not happy. Mr. Goodlatte is among the 155 congressmen and 34 senators who oppose the mandate and think the EPA’s reasoning is a jug of moonshine. “[T]he federal government is once again choosing to put more ethanol in gas tanks rather than food on the table,” he said. “In the debate over ethanol, the government is picking winners and losers. Livestock and food producers, as well as consumers of these products, are on the losing end.”

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling explained the problem in this newspaper in October: “Corn is the No. 1 ingredient in poultry, dairy and hog feed. But this year, we saw one sixth of the country’s corn crop destroyed by drought.” So with nearly 17 percent of the nation’s corn crop destroyed, EPA advises thusly: Burn corn.

Noting that a veritable cornucopia of Americans oppose this insanity, Mr. Goodlatte backs legislation to eliminate it: H.R. 3098, the Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination Act. Congress should pass that bill for one simple reason: It might force the Obama administration to stop its anti-domestic energy policy that increases our dependence on foreign oil and surely inspired EPA’s refusal to end its burn-the-corn policy.

For instance, the Obama Administration has done everything it can to inhibit the production of domestic oil, from nixing the Keystone Pipeline to blocking offshore drilling in waters off the Commonwealth. That certainly hasn’t reduced dependence on foreign oil.

Yet the national oil supply is abundant. By 2020, one oil executive claims, North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation alone could provide about 10 percent of the nation’s daily production. And more shale lies just beneath the surface across the country. The United States sits on more oil than the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. As ABC News reported two weeks ago, some 3 trillion barrels of oil below Utah and Colorado awaits extraction. Humankind has used just 1 trillion barrels in all of history, mostly during the past 100 years. That oil is not fully accessible at a profitable price just yet, but it is there. With the right incentives, oilmen will get it.

Even if EPA is correct that the RFS does not boost food prices, domestic oil can be had if this administration drops its policy of trying to drive up the price of gasoline to $9 a gallon, and instead encourages the oil industry to develop the technology to exploit this nation’s massive oil reserve. We needn’t turn corn into gasoline to be freed from foreign oil.

Whatever the intent of the RFS in 2005, it’s time to drop it. Mr. Goodlatte is right, and constituents in his district should support his bill. It’s time we put our corn back where it belongs: in the grocery store.

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