by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Expanded use of ethanol — enabled by President Biden’s lifting a summertime ban on fuels with a 15 percent blend — is a poor answer to high gasoline prices and a refusal to recognize the failures of the corn-based fuel additive. Reuters described the president’s action as a win for the corn lobby, but all others appear to be losers.
Shortcomings of ethanol as an alternative to gasoline have been reported continually since at least 2007 when the U.S. government expanded its requirement that distributors blend ethanol with fuels to reduce dependence on foreign oil. The additive also has been touted as a way to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.
“There is a great danger for the right to food by the development of biofuels,” U.N. human rights advocate Jean Ziegler said at the time. “It (the price) will be paid perhaps by hundreds of thousands of people who will die from hunger.” A year later he called the diversion of food crops to fuel production a “crime against humanity.”
In 2011, Dr. Indur Goklany wrote that the “iron law of supply and demand dictates” that ethanol production “would almost unavoidably increase global food prices” and exacerbate poverty. He calculated 192,000 excess deaths had resulted from the food-to-fuel switch in 2010. …
… The National Wildlife Federation opposes the RFS because expansion of croplands infringes on natural habitat. Trade organizations of the dairy industry and bakeries have objected to RFS’s pressures on corn prices and supplies. Scores of organizations representing millions of people have written in support of RFS reform.
As would be expected, increased farm acreage has led to more agricultural pollution. The Wisconsin study — published in February by the National Academy of Sciences — reports an increase of three to eight percent in water pollutants.
An expansion of the RFS only promises more of the same, according to the Wisconsin researchers