Politics might make strange bedfellows, but when environmental and industry advocacy groups hop into the sack together it gets our attention.
This is precisely what’s happening with a newly launched advertising campaign that challenges the pork-driven, pay-to-play U.S. Congress to put aside the influence – critics say bribes – of the huge contributions from agribusiness and stipulate that “objective” scientific testing be conducted before allowing an increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline. (See How a Bad Bush Administration Energy Policy Begets More Bad Policy?)
At stake here is not only the fuel economy, operating cost, and performance of your vehicle, but also potentially huge negative effects on all small engines, powering everything from lawn mowers, to outboard motors, to weed whackers, to chain saws – to name but a few.
Taxpayers currently subsidize corn ethanol at the rate of 45 cents a gallon, or roughly $6 billion last year.
From an automotive perspective there are two clear central issues:
- The first is how to decrease emissions and our dependence on imports of foreign oil from terrorist supporting countries.
- The second is a subset of the first: what if the biofuels we are using — ethanol, biodiesel, natural gas — really cause more emissions than they save?
That’s why how the EPA calculates the “life cycle emissions effects” is of such concern to the currently subsidized businesses, the agricultural lobby and various clean air special interest groups.
The U.S. is under Congressional mandate to use increasing amounts of renewable fuels because of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. EPA is responsible for revising and implementing regulations to ensure that gasoline sold in the United States contains a minimum volume of renewable fuels. The Renewable Fuel Standard program will increase the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into gasoline from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. At one point, the goal under President Bush was 35 billion/2017.