Congress needs to revisit Renewable Fuel Standards

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It is not surprising that the ethanol lobby has come out in full support of the RFS; the government mandate props up dirty and dangerous biofuels by requiring their use in the nation’s gasoline supply at much higher levels than would occur without the mandate. The policy benefits the biofuels industry by creating a demand for corn ethanol — the most common biofuel in the nation—at the expense of the public health and our natural resources.

Since the RFS was established in 2005, food prices in the United States have increased 17 percent. As the mandate increases and more U.S. agricultural land is devoted to growing biofuel feedstocks instead of food, we will likely continue to see a rise in food prices worldwide.

The environmental consequences are also significant. Producing biofuels to fulfill the RFS will require more water, fertilizer, pesticides and energy over the coming years. This reckless policy is driving the conversion of wildlife habitats and forests to farmland, compounding air and water pollution, and decreasing soil quality around the country. It is also worsening climate change, which will increase the occurrence of droughts and other catastrophic weather events. The EPA’s own data shows that most corn ethanol production results in more greenhouse gas emissions than traditional gasoline.

The ethanol lobby wants us to ignore the impacts of its cash cow policy, but the RFS and the dirty biofuels it supports are increasing food prices and causing irreversible environmental harm. Congress needs to take the lead and revisit the RFS immediately.

Rosenoer is a biofuels policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth