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The Renewable Fuel Standard: A Classic Case of Environmental Fallacy [Part 3]

Cody Davis
Contributor: Cody Davis
Posted: 06/23/2013

This means that consumers have to use more ethanol to travel the same distance as drivers filling up their tanks with gasoline. The information below, which was produced by the EPA and the Energy Department, demonstrates the real costs to consumers – lowered fuel economy.

Flex-fuel vehicles that can run on either gasoline or E85 get significantly fewer miles per gallon when using low energy ethanol fuel blends. Because of this, drivers filling up their tanks with ethanol fuel blends are making more visits to the pumps than consumers that use gasoline.

Nevertheless, the RFS is forcing automakers to manufacture more and more ethanol-capable vehicles. As of now, only about 5 million vehicles on U.S. roads can safely run on E85, a significantly less efficient fuel compared to gasoline.

Environmental Impacts

Volatile fuel prices in the U.S. have reduced consumer demand for both gasoline and diesel. Furthermore, the average fuel economy of vehicles being sold in the United States has steadily improved in recent years.

Because of this, evidence suggests that the renewable fuel standard is actually doing little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, recent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions related to climate change "are the result of a decrease in vehicle miles traveled and improvements in vehicle fuel economy, not the renewable fuel standard."

Based on a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences and data from the Environmental Protection Agency, the API has also concluded that corn-grain ethanol almost always produces more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline.

Furthermore, while one gallon of gasoline requires five gallons of water to produce, one gallon of ethanol can take up to 170 gallons of water.

Lastly, large areas of grasslands and wetlands are being converted to generate biofuel feedstock growth in order meet the heightened demand of corn created by the RFS mandate. This demonstrates a disruption of the ecosystem for the purposes of furthering a detrimental fuel blend obligation.

Repealing the Renewable Fuel Standard

Ethanol proponents argue that ethanol is a cheap, renewable energy source that reduces pollution and our dependence on foreign oil. As you can see, there is plenty of evidence to refute such claims.

Section 211 of the Clean Air Actgrants the EPA the authority to relinquish the renewable fuel standard requirements if executing them "would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, a region, or the United States."

Because of the damage the RFS is causing consumers, the environment and the economy, state-level officials have begun repealing the act, and energy proponents are encouraging Congress to evolve the mandateto reflect market realities.

The Renewable Fuel Standard & Environmental Fallacy

Although it is the undeniable social responsibility of every individual to protect the Earth and its atmosphere, the renewable fuel standard represents an environmental fallacy executed by the EPA, supported by Congress and tolerated by Americans.

However, by failing to accept the full context of their efforts - whether it’s due to influential political alliances, environmental conservational hubris, or simply by good intentions - ethanol proponents are hurting Americans while taking advantage of the government support the RFS mandate provides them.

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Cody Davis
Contributor: Cody Davis
Posted: 06/23/2013