An idea whose time has come, gone, and circled all the way back ’round again.
Typically, when supply disruptions roil markets, political leaders can’t do much about it. But in the coming food crisis, the U.S. actually has a powerful policy lever. With a single bold move, the Biden administration could free up food supplies while also reversing a policy blunder that hurts consumers, increases greenhouse-gas emissions, and damages ecosystems across the U.S. It would require some political courage, but Biden could move to suspend—and push ultimately to repeal—the Renewable Fuel Standard.
nacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the RFS program was meant to increase U.S. fuel supplies and promote green-energy innovation by requiring that transportation fuel, heating oil, and jet fuel contain growing portions of renewable biofuels. In 2007, Congress expanded the program and set even more ambitious targets.
But problems emerged from the start. For one, the program is mind-bendingly complex, delineating four types of biofuels, setting annual targets for each, and awarding refiners various credits for meeting their “Renewable Volume Obligation.” The EPA has the authority to change or waive these rules at whim, making the program “unpredictable and arbitrary,” writes Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow Mario Loyola in The Atlantic. According to one estimate, RFS “compliance alone is adding about 14 cents to refiners’ cost per gallon of gasoline and diesel.”
Though mostly invisible to the public, the RFS program affects the lives and pocketbooks of all U.S. consumers and has remade the face of American agriculture. Today, roughly one-third of U.S. soybean oil production is used to make biofuels. Corn-based ethanol has an even bigger footprint. Virtually every gallon of gasoline sold in this country contains 10 percent ethanol, the maximum allowed by law. (A small number of gas stations also sell E85, an 85 percent ethanol blend that can only be used in specially designed engines.) Growing the corn to make all that ethanol requires a staggering 38 million acres, an area larger than the state of Illinois. If used to grow food for human consumption, Loyola writes, that acreage could feed 150 million people.
By diverting about 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop to ethanol production, the RFS program drives up food prices across the board. Since corn is a critical livestock feed, higher corn prices have inflated meat prices. The cost of ground beef has climbed almost 100 percent since the program began. Wheat and rice prices have also gone up as many farmers shifted to growing corn instead. As Loyola concludes, “The ethanol program functions as a hidden food tax—the most regressive of all taxes.” Those effects are felt not just in the U.S., but around the world.
So, just your typical Big Government dumpster fire, then— unforeseen consequences strewn extravagantly across the landscape; costs far outstripping any meager benefits; the whole disastrous burden plopped squarely onto the usual shoulders: those of the Normie schlubs who will be required to pay for it all, of course and as always.
Get the sugar out of our gas tanks and back onto the dinner table where it belongs, I say. Just think of the engine damage that will be averted by ditching this piss-water fuel, if nothing else. As for those costs I mentioned, well…
Given all those costs, one would assume the RFS program must have some powerful benefits that justify its continued existence. But recent research shows the mandates don’t even achieve the two things they were meant to accomplish: reducing fossil-fuel use and cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. If anything, it worsens these problems. Planting, fertilizing, and harvesting corn and then processing it into ethanol requires lots of energy. Researchers debate whether the resulting gallon of ethanol contains a bit more energy than went into it or a bit less, but the balance appears to be a wash at best. Rather than replacing fossil fuels, then, the RFS program simply converts those fuels into a more expensive form. Corn ethanol also backfires when it comes to reducing emissions. According to the new DOE study, “the carbon intensity of corn ethanol produced under the RFS is no less than gasoline and likely at least 24 percent higher.”
I repeat: your typical, Mark 1 Mod 0 Big Goobermint boondoggle. No less, no more.
Whatever the political challenges, reforming the RFS program is the right thing to do.
Damned skippy it is…which is another reason why it ain’t happening.
“RFS is a misuse of hyper-productive American agricultural land,” Smith says. “Food inflation domestically and the potential for food shortages in other countries should make it obvious that agricultural lands should be used to produce food.” This would be a good time for President Biden and his team to remember that Obama-era mantra: never let a crisis go to waste.
Okay, you’re just being silly now. Biden’s minders are perfectly happy to keep the ethanol, and for them, what’s not to like about it? It damages internal combustion engines both large and small; its various detriments subtly discourage automobile ownership and use; it helps keep the price of gasoline artificially inflated; and it serves as a properly-bended knee to demonstrate a becoming fealty to the Enviro-nuts, who are much too useful to risk giving offense to. Somewhat related:
The average price of one gallon of regular gasoline in the United States rose by a dollar, to $3.31, during Joe Biden’s first year in the White House. Now, supercharged by war in Ukraine, the price has soared to $4.27 per gallon. That average, though, is misleading. The actual price of gas at the pump varies widely by state, with nearly a $2-per-gallon difference between the costliest and the least expensive states. While some of those differences have to do with geographic factors that affect distribution costs, state policies—including taxes and regulations—also play a significant role in the vastly different burden consumers face around the country.
The highest gas prices are found disproportionately in high-tax, heavily regulated Democratic states, while the lowest gas prices show up in so-called red or purple states. California leads the way at a whopping $5.78 per gallon, followed by Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Illinois, Connecticut, and New York among the lower 48 states (Hawaiian and Alaskan geography make any comparisons with the rest of the country difficult). At the bottom sits Kansas, at $3.81 per gallon, followed by Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Iowa.
Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of assholes.
The price of a barrel of oil accounts for about 56 percent of the cost of this gas. Taxes on average compose about 15 percent of the price, and distribution and marketing costs amount to the rest. State gas taxes are an obvious culprit, but extraordinary fuel standards beyond the national level force up prices, too—as do regulatory constraints on building pipelines and refineries, which inflate distribution costs.
There are several ways we might think of all this:
- Just deserts
- Getting what you voted for—good and hard
- Reaping what you’ve sown
- What goes around, comes around
- Hoist on your own (enviro-nut) petard
Now isn’t that FUN? Feel free to post your own in the comments. Don’t be shy, you’ll enjoy it. Meanwhile, who’s really behind this latest spurt of fuel-ish frenzy, anyway? Take a wild guess.
President Joe Biden and prominent Democrats blame Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, alleged oil-company collusion and even COVID-19 for today’s sky-high gas prices. They refuse to take responsibility for this monumental mess of their own design.
Revealing either an Olympic-grade lack of self-awareness or a perjury-strength talent for lying, President Biden said: “It’s simply not true that my administration or policies are holding back domestic energy production.”
While running for president, Biden repeatedly promised to do exactly this.
“I guarantee you,” Biden told New Hampshire voters on Sept. 16, 2019. “We’re going to end fossil fuels.”
Follows, a long timeline of shitlib quotes vowing to kill off the fossil fuel industry, each item with the price per gallon at the time it was excreted parenthetically appended at the end. It’s a handy, helpful reminder that can be printed out and waved under their noses whenever they start in lying about it again.