Letter: Let’s not pretend biofuel is helping environment

From: Noel Taylor


Like Kris Tom in his recent letter, I have no love for oil lobbyists. Unlike Kris Tom, I’ve looked at the ethanol issue as one that isn’t just two-sided. It’s been clearly established that ethanol produces less energy and thus is less efficient in an internal combustion engine (read here “gets worse mileage”), that it causes blended fuels to attract water and grow bacterial sludge (read here “requires aftermarket fuel treatments”), and that it costs far more to produce than either the “savings” its supporters claim or the petroleum it replaces. In fact, its production still cannot be sustained without extensive subsidies from the taxpayers.

It’s also clearly established that the U.S. fuel market’s need to blend ethanol into its fuel has evaporated — pun intended — ever since our country became an overall petroleum exporter. In other words, the U.S. does not need the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This “minor detail” makes the thought of our fuel dollars going to middle-eastern terrorists a non-issue from which no ethanol-fueled salvation is required.

Another “minor detail” that Tom overlooks is that every motorcycle ever sold in the U.S. is at risk for engine damage from E15, and the newer ones would have their warranties voided by using a fuel blend greater than 10 percent ethanol. As a motorcyclist, I’m sick of hearing “don’t mess with the RFS” in paid radio advertisements. Tom likely was just as sick to hear that the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works announced on July 21 of this year that there will be no vote on the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act (S.517), likely for this very reason. This is an active concern among the 6.7 million motorcyclists in the US, and the American Motorcyclist Association regularly lobbies to eliminate the RFS, again for this very reason.

Finally, Tom’s claim that corn used for ethanol doesn’t increase the cost of food ignores the facts. Oxfam and the UN continue to document the negative effects upon the third-world poor. Tufts University research published in 2012 cited a $1.5 million dollar cost to Mexico alone. In 2013, the National Chicken Council published data showing a $2,000-per-family increase in food costs in the U.S. traceable directly to the RFS by the fact that the RFS required the use for ethanol of 40 percent of our nations’ corn production that year, greatly increasing the cost of chicken feed. In 2014, Forbes published a report on corn ethanol that refuted every claim in favor of the RFS and painted a picture of environmental mayhem from it instead. To Tom and his compatriots, I ask the question that report asked, “Can we please stop pretending biofuel made from corn is helping the planet and the environment?”