Corn should be saved for the kitchen table, not burned as fuel in Americans’ vehicles.
When Democrats controlled Congress in 2007, they pushed through an amendment to the Clean Air Act that now forces Americans to burn increasing amounts of ethanol in their vehicles. This amendment made the burdensome Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) unworkable, requiring refineries to blend gasoline with impossibly high amounts of ethanol and other biofuels or else face steep fines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This big government mandate is disrupting the free market by forcibly redirecting food from the dinner table into gas tanks, and the changing oil market is magnifying the mandate’s more adverse effects.
The RFS rule was crafted with the false assumption that gasoline consumption would continue to rise, but technological innovations and a stagnant economy have left us with a very different reality. Cars have become more efficient and people are driving less in the face of high gas prices, which have caused gasoline consumption to decline in recent years. All the while, the EPA has continued to increase the required percentage of ethanol in our fuel, which increases the risk of corrosion to our engines and fuel supply’s infrastructure.
The worst impact of RFS on the consumer is beginning to be seen at the grocery store. As demand for corn increases because of the government-subsidized ethanol market, the price of food will continue to skyrocket.
Even beef, pork, chicken and countless other food staples are becoming more expensive due to the mandate.
RFS is a ticking time bomb that will inevitably result in a crisis. If the EPA continues to dictate unrealistic levels of ethanol that fail to recognize declines in gasoline consumption, one of two scenarios will occur. Refiners will either be forced to raise the price of gasoline to pay fines to the EPA, or they will be forced to export raw gasoline in order to make a profit, leaving a massive shortage of gasoline here at home. Both options result in costly repercussions that will ultimately be paid for by the Oklahoma consumer.
All evidence shows relief will not come from the White House any time soon. President Obama has the ability to issue refineries waivers and save consumers from these price increases but instead has turned a blind eye to the issue. This passivity is further proof that he is more interested in pleasing his environmental allies than providing the American people with quality energy resources at the lowest price.
The RFS rule is bad policy. I have led the fight in Congress to repeal this burdensome mandate that President Obama is ignoring, most recently by offering an amendment to the Senate farm bill (S.954) that would allow states to opt-out of the EPA’s rule. I will also continue to pursue policies that enable our cars, trucks, and tractors to be fueled by domestic fuels like natural gas that improve efficiency and affordability without competing with our food supply or threatening our national security.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is senior member of Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.