Senators propose bill to cut corn ethanol mandate

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and eight cosponsors on Dec. 12 introduced the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2013. The bill would eliminate the corn ethanol mandate within the Renewable Fuel Standard (R.F.S.), which requires annual increases in the amount of renewable fuel that must be blended into the total volume of gasoline refined and consumed in the United States.

Cosponsors of the bill are Richard Burr of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jim Risch of Idaho and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

“I am pleased to join Senator Coburn and others on a bill to eliminate the federal corn ethanol mandate from the Renewable Fuel Standard, while maintaining provisions designed to grow the low-carbon biofuel industry,” Ms. Feinstein said. “Under the corn ethanol mandate in the R.F.S., roughly 44% of U.S. corn is diverted from food to fuel, pushing up the cost of food and animal feed and damaging the environment. Oil companies are also unable to blend more corn ethanol into gasoline without causing problems for automobiles, boats and other vehicles. I strongly support requiring a shift to low-carbon advanced biofuel, including biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol and other revolutionary fuels. But a corn ethanol mandate is simply bad policy.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 4.6 billion bus of corn out of a total U.S. supply of 11.9 billion bus was used for the production of ethanol and byproducts during the 2012-13 marketing year.

“The time to end the corn ethanol mandate has arrived,” Mr. Coburn said. “This misguided policy has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, increased fuel prices and made our food more expensive. Eliminating this mandate will let market forces, rather than political and parochial forces, determine how to diversify fuel supplies in an ever-changing marketplace. I’m grateful my colleagues on both sides on the aisle are prepared to take this long-overdue step to protect consumers and taxpayers from artificially high fuel and food prices.”

The R.F.S., first enacted in 2005, requires refiners and blenders to use 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2013. More than 13 billion gallons of this total will be met by the use of corn ethanol, a level that will increase in subsequent years.

In mid-November, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed 2014 renewable fuel standards that for the first time would reduce the volume of ethanol refiners must add to the fuel supply relative to targets established under the R.F.S. The E.P.A. proposed that 15 billion to 15.52 billion gallons of ethanol be added to the fuel supply in 2014 compared with 18.15 billion gallons as targeted by current law.

The proposal from Ms. Feinstein, Mr. Coburn and others drew support from several groups, including the American Bakers Association.

“The corn-based ethanol program and the Renewable Fuel Standard continue taking their toll on the baking industry and consumers,” said Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A. “Corn-based ethanol has accelerated the decrease of wheat acreage in the U.S. over the past 30 years and tightened food supplies around the world. … This legislation is a step in the right direction. The American Bakers Association looks forward to working with members of Congress to facilitate change.”
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