Feinstein, Toomey propose bill to repeal ethanol mandate

A bipartisan duo of U.S. senators have introduced a bill to eliminate the corn ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015 was introduced Thursday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., is also a co-sponsor. The bill is similar to one introduced at the end of 2013 by Feinstein and then-Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

"A significant amount of U.S. corn is currently used for fuel. If the mandate continues to expand toward full implementation, the price of corn will increase. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that would mean as much as $3.5 billion each year in increased food costs. Americans living on the margins simply can't afford that," Sen. Feinstein said in a statement. "Our infrastructure has a ceiling for the amount of corn ethanol that can be used, and we're rapidly approaching it. Companies are physically unable to blend more corn ethanol into gasoline without causing problems for many gas stations and older automobiles."

With approximately 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop used to make ethanol fuel, the senators and others have expressed concern about the mandate's impact on food prices.

"The RFS requires fuel suppliers to blend millions of gallons of biofuels -- most often corn ethanol -- into the nation's gasoline supplies. It drives up gas prices, increases food costs, damages car engines, and is harmful to the environment," Sen. Toomey said in a statement.

The rise of 15-percent ethanol blends, also known as E15, also poses challenges for the boating industry as research has  shown it to damage marine engines. While it is illegal to use E15 in a marine engine, there continue to be serious concerns about misfueling and mislabeling as boaters fill up at roadside stations -- as the majority do, according to a BoatUS survey of its members.

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Earlier this month, a bipartisan bill to eliminate the Renewable Fuel Standard was also introduced in the U.S. House.

3 comments

  1. "The rise of 15-percent ethanol blends, also known as E15, also poses challenges for the boating industry as research has shown it to damage marine engines. While it is illegal to use E15 in a marine engine there continue to be serious concerns about misfueling and mislableing as boaters fill up at roadside stations — as the majority do, according to a BoatUS survey of its members."

    The part that states: "WHILE IT IS ILLEGAL TO USE E15 IN A MARINE ENGINE" Please provide reference to that law, for review. That seems like an incorrect and misleading statement. Brunswick has taken the position that they will deny warranty claims if E15 use is detected, while the other major manufacturers have issued no such statements. All that is really needed is an exemption for 'seasonally used' items, which would include boats, rv's, lawn and yard equipment, etc.

  2. It seems to me that the legislation you're talking about is just another band-aid. It won't fix the underlying issues that make it seem like a good idea. What we need to do is:
    1. Stop trying to patch the leaks and look at the causes and see what we can do about fixing them.
    2. If there is good reason to continue use of ethanol in fuel, then charge the excess to the fuel side, not the food side. And as far as the food side goes, corn, and particularly its derivatives, is excessively used in food. There are other, healthier ways to sweeten food, and frankly, we really don't need such a high level of sweetness anyway.

    As for addressing the underlying issues rather than the symptoms, the current environmental standards are adequate for now. I'd like us to make the environment much cleaner, but we've come a long way. Let's leave it as is for a decade or so and put our efforts into building a good public transportation system. That would reduce the wear on our roads, reducing the need and cost of repairs, let alone continual widening; it would build community as people travel together; it would reduce road rage and general dissatisfaction with the daily commute; and it would leave more resources for leisure use, like boating. True, this will require changing the public view on personal vehicles, but honestly, not every high school student needs to drive to school, and with few exceptions, people who live and work in cities don't need to drive everywhere. We changed the public view about wearing seatbelts (my daughter won't even turn the car around in the driveway without hers); we can change the view that every US citizen is entitled to use his/her own car.

    Another cause - engines that are still less efficient than they could be. I propose that we average out the cost of compliance with each year's new standards over, say, the last decade, then freeze all new environmental requirements for manufacturers for the next decade IF they apply that amount (adjusted for inflation, of course) toward new, cleaner, better technology. Huge fines if they fail to do so, and for those who don't develop new technology because of their type of mfg, the amount that would be going toward better technology goes toward a general fund to further support cleaner technology or fund the administration of the program. Of course there would have to be guidelines and oversight, given that people make up companies, and companies are, therefore, sleazy and greedy and not to be trusted any further than you would a toddler with a Sharpie.

    And maybe even start making the decision makers personally responsible and unable to hide behind corporate walls. But that's just a dream, I know. The other is definitely doable and might stop the downward spiral we're in.

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