It’s one of the cheesiest anti-oil PR campaigns I’ve seen: a “promoted” twitter account called @TheOilyBird, a snarky oil company h8r. Enviros and greenies retweet @TheOilyBird’s oil industry bashing, without bothering to look at its source.
The source is an entity called Fuels America, which as Maley points out is a consortium of ethanol industry and Radical Green groups. They defend the renewable fuel standard (RFS) by noting:
But right now, the RFS is under attack. A series of misguided assertions seek to blame this forward-looking energy policy for a recent spike in the price of corn, one of the many crops used for renewable fuel production. Make no mistake: corn prices are going up because the United States is suffering the worst drought since the Dust Bowl, not because of the RFS. While this drought is certainly harming rural communities, dismantling or slowing down the RFS would cause even greater damage.
Ah yes, blame it on the weather. After four years of subpar yields, it’s natural that corn prices would be high. But the question is whether the ethanol mandate is bringing farmers to the decision to grow corn rather than soybeans or wheat, both of which also enjoy solid prices. If it weren’t for the artificial demand for corn, though, perhaps prices would be somewhat lower – there’s no doubt the demand for ethanol plays a part, although supplies could also be higher than they otherwise would be.
As it stands now, farmers are desperate enough for land to grow crops on that they are plowing under former golf courses, tearing down unneeded outbuildings, and otherwise maximizing their acreage for growing. Obviously a percentage of this activity is to get in on the bonanza of ethanol subsidies, which, if the EPA has its way, may even stretch the mixture to an E30 blend of 70% gasoline and 30% ethanol – a point where cars would have to be specifically engineered for the blend.
Yet ethanol is a less-efficient, more corrosive alternative to straight gasoline in its current configuration. Drivers fret about the loss of fuel efficiency and those who have small motors, particularly boaters, have become painfully aware of the hazards of E15 fuel in their engines. Many go out of their way to locate ethanol-free gasoline stations to do their refueling.
I would also contend that rural communities are suffering more harm from regulations which preclude growth in their areas – such as the anti-sprawl initiatives exemplified by PlanMaryland and our septic bill with its tier maps – then a drop in corn prices would provide. Since corn is also a significant staple in American diet as well as feed for millions of farm animals, a drop in the per-bushel price would eventually be reflected in less expensive trips to the grocery store.
If ethanol is good enough to stand on its own merits, one would think the ethanol filling stations would soon be setting up shop in locations where gasoline stations were being abandoned. But they’re not. So why should we be saddled with an inferior product just to make a small group of farmers happy?