Get Rid of Ethanol Exchanges Too

Commentary by Marita Noon - Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of Obamacare. If it were front and center of the newscycle, as Obamacare is, most would also have the same repeal-or-revise attitude regarding ethanol mandates as the two are marching hand-in-hand. In addition to the odd collection of opponents—conservatives and unions in opposition to Obamacare; and environmentalists and big oil, auto manufacturers and anti-hunger groupsoppose ethanol—there are numerous other similarities.
      Healthcare for all sounds like a good idea, after all who wants to tell a mother holding a sick child that she can’t get care? Likewise, homegrown fuel that will increase America’s energy independence, sounds good—especially when the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was passed by Congress as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
     While both Obamacare and the RFS were passed by Congress, the particulars are left to government agencies to regulate. With the RFS, the EPA has missed statutory deadlines for issuing RFS volume requirements and then released rules mandating that refiners use 4 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel in 2013. Yet, according to the EPA, only 142,000 gallons have been available for refiners to blend so far. Reports indicate that for 2014, the target for cellulosic biofuel would be 23 million gallons—despite the fact that the fuel is virtually nonexistent.
     While the Obamacare exchanges have not been working as expected—with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina reporting only one person enrolled after 24 hours, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius admitted to Jon Stewart that if someone doesn’t participate “they pay a fine.” Guess what? Even though there isn’t enough cellulosic ethanol to meet the EPA mandates, refiners are required to blend it into gasoline—and, if they don’t, they pay a fine.
     Obamacare has created a whole new set of problems such as doctor shortages,reduced work hours, and sticker shock. The RFS, also, brings a host of unintended consequences:
•Ethanol reduces miles per gallon—At a time when the White House has upped the MPG a vehicle gets (known as the CAFE standards) it is also mandating the use of ethanol, which lowers MPG.
•Ethanol mandates have devastated the dairy industry (and turkey growers are none too happy, either)—In rural California, dairy farmers have been deeply affected by the rising cost of feed (which has jumped as much as 240 percent since 2005) brought on by mandated ethanol blending by the RFS.
•Ethanol damages small engines and outdoor power equipment—In my bookEnergy Freedom, I have an entire chapter on ethanol. For it, I interviewed Abe at K & S Services Center in Albuquerque, NM—which specializes in small engine service and repair. He told me that 85 percent of the repairs they do are caused by fuel problems. Read full column