As ever with the RFS, EPA released a rule that confused many and pleased nobody. But the arguments put forward against it by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) – the ethanol lobby’s top cheerleader – are particularly muddled and misleading.
To begin, RFA’s cheerleader-in-chief Bob Dinneen tries to deflect attention away from his industry’s own shortcomings and onto that tired trope of bashing Big Oil. According to Dinneen, the ethanol industry receives no subsidies while Big Oil receives plenty (even though the oil and gas industry does not receive subsidies, but we’ll leave that for another day). According to Dinneen, the RFS is the only way ethanol can access a market “unfairly dominated” by gasoline.
Nice try. But perhaps whoever signed off on RFA’s statement should have at least read as far as the fourth paragraph, which lauds U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) stand “to fight for ethanol.” Lack of space, presumably, was the reason why they declined to say exactly how USDA fights for ethanol – $210 million to fund new E15/E85/intermediate blend pumps through its Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership. If this is not a subsidy, then what is?
The contradictions continue as RFA praises the Department of Energy’s work on biofuel research, which is ploughing millions of taxpayer dollars into finding ways to bring these new fuels to market regardless of cost and consumer choice. Somehow, RFA missed the inconsistency of claiming the ethanol industry receives no subsidy while simultaneously praising a government department that carries out expensive research and issues hundreds of millions in loan guarantees on its behalf.
Moving on from the inconsistencies in this argument, RFA then tries to paint the RFS rule as a glaring failure for Obama in the run-up to COP21 talks in Paris. In doing so, they completely ignore the mountains of evidence that demonstrate just how bad mandating escalating and massive amounts of ethanol has been for the environment. Several academic studies from universities, environmental groups and individuals who initially praised the mandate are now raising concern over its environmental impacts – from plowing wetlands and grasslands to make way for more biofuel crops to increased levels of pollution from rapidly increased ethanol production.
But the worst part about RFA’s flawed argument in favor of the RFS is how they continually set up their argument with Big Oil as the sole industry against ethanol mandates. To do so ignores the wide range of anti-hunger groups, environmental organizations, outdoorsmen, engine manufacturers and restauranteurs – and many more – that are adamantly opposed to the ethanol mandate.
In their attempt to paint Big Oil as the only group that opposes the RFS, RFA has achieved the exact opposite: they have managed to show that the only beneficiaries of the RFS are the ethanol and biodiesel industries.