Two House bills that aim to alter the ethanol mandate have yet
to go before the full chamber, but that's not stopping the debate
over ethanol from continuing to churn.
The bipartisan legislation to alter the ethanol
mandate is sponsored by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) and
has the backing of livestock and industry groups. His legislation
aims to do away with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and cap the
amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at
"The federal government's creation of an artificial market for
the ethanol industry has quite frankly triggered a domino effect
that it hurting American consumers, energy producers, livestock
producers, food manufacturers, and retailers," Goodlatte stated
when he introduced the two bills in early April.
But Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, believes ethanol has helped
reduce imports of foreign oil. "We're ten percent of our nation's
gasoline supply right now. So we've had significant reductions," he
states. "If you look just a few years ago, our country was
importing about 60 percent of our liquid petroleum needs; today
that's down to around 40 percent."
Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels
Association, has made
similar comments to American Family News.
However, Sterling Burnett, senior fellow for the nonprofit,
Center for Policy Analysis, does not see it that way.
"We have reduced our dependence on foreign oil considerably, but
that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Renewable Fuel
Standard," he argues. "It has everything to do with the new
fracking technologies that have improved our oil production in the
U.S. and a significant recession that we went through where our
energy use declined. That's why we are no longer importing as much
oil as we used to."
Burnett adds that a study by the National Center found that
displacing only five percent of the U.S. demand for gasoline and
diesel with ethanol would require more than 20 percent of U.S.
Are we putting food in our fuel tanks?
It's one of the ongoing arguments with ethanol - in particular,
corn-ethanol - but is its usage tantamount to putting food in fuel
tanks? And is that driving up food costs?
Greg Krissek, director of government affairs at ICM, Inc. and
interim-executive director of the Urban Air Initiative, says
ethanol does not mean putting food in fuel.
"Because of the presence of the ethanol industry, we are
providing significant more amounts of food, primarily through
animal feed, to the livestock producers," Krissek says. "About
one-third of the bushel becomes the actual ethanol, and one third
remains as a high-protein feed with less starch in it, which is
actually better for the animals."
Even so, livestock producers and industry groups claim
corn-ethanol is driving up food prices, something Pam Johnson on
the National Corn Growers Association disputes, telling Agri-Pulse even though some sectors of
the nation's food supply have seen increases, prices in many other
sectors that rely on corn - including milk, turkey, and pork - have
But that isn't stopping livestock producers and industry groups
from backing Representative Goodlatte's legislation.
So - which side is right? The National Center's Sterling Burnett
suggests: "I say you trust the industries that are affected by it.
I haven't followed turkey prices, but pork prices have gone down
because we're getting more and more of our pork from China
Is the ethanol industry creating jobs?
Growth Energy's Tom Buis says the ethanol industry is creating
more than 400,000 jobs at home that cannot be outsourced. "You have
the direct jobs at the plants, but you also have a lot of indirect
jobs in the transportation sector, in the farming industry, in the
equipment manufacturing and the distribution, the retailing and all
those sectors," he argues.
In March, the New York Times published an article titled "Days
of Promise Fade for Ethanol." The writers pointed out that nearly
ten percent of the nation's ethanol plants have stopped production
over the past year, in part because the drought that has ravaged
much of the nation's crops pushed commodity prices so high that
ethanol has become too expensive to produce.
Bius disputes that article, adding that a bigger part of the
idling is due to the industry having more capacity to produce than
it is allowed to consume in the marketplace.
But NCPA's Sterling Burnett questions whether jobs in the
ethanol industry would just as easily be jobs in another
"Would they be in the oil and gas fields?" he wonders. "Would
they be working in computer programming and engineering? Would they
be farming other crops? - because a lot of these jobs are
just moving from one crop to the other crop."
Both the RFS Flexibility Act (HR 3097) and the RFS Elimination Act (HR 3098) are currently in committee in the