Fixing the Ethanol Mandate
The corn ethanol mandate, officially called the Renewable Fuel Standard, was passed into law with good intentions. Lawmakers wanted to replace gasoline and other fuel enhancers with cleaner alternatives produced here at home. Unfortunately, corn ethanol has been anything but the silver bullet it was promised to be, and better alternatives have been slow to materialize. It is time for Congress to realize that the ethanol mandate is broken.
The good news is that there are ways to fix the policy so that we develop the cleaner fuels of the future that work for family farmers and protect our water, wildlife habitat, and health. And with interest growing among senators and representatives from both parties, the time is ripe for smart policy solutions. Here are some ways Congress should change the mandate to make it work better for us all.
- Reduce the mandate. We have seen the disaster that 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol has caused on the landscape. Rather than requiring even more biofuel in the future, the mandate should ramp down, with corn ethanol playing less of a role as more sustainable fuels come online.
- Support cleaner alternatives. Fuels made from sources other than food crops need better assurances and a structure that allows them to compete with cheaper corn ethanol while the industry matures.
- Effectively prohibit land conversion. The existing prohibition in the law has proven ineffective in preventing the loss of millions of acres of habitat. Stronger guidelines need to be built in, as well as protections against using invasive species as fuel crops.
- Fund habitat protection and rehabilitation. Recognizing that the law has led to the destruction of habitat and has polluted our waters, funding should be established to help farmers and other landowners conserve grasslands and other habitats, and restore some of the lands that have been plowed.
Members of Congress are already discussing these changes among the many other options available. Check back here for updates on specific policy proposals and how they would impact our natural resources.