Bob Goodlatte: Fixing a badly broken ethanol policy
Common sense would tell you that if something is broken, it should be fixed. However, once again common sense has not prevailed within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Just a few days ago, the EPA denied a waiver of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for this year. The EPA’s decision to deny much-needed relief to American livestock producers, food producers, and consumers was extremely disappointing. With a steep decline in corn production this year and a sharp increase in corn prices, the economic harm of the RFS is undeniable.
The EPA has the authority, by law, to reduce the required volume of renewable fuels in any year based on severe harm to the economy or environment of the United States. This summer, one of the most severe droughts in nearly 50 years dried up corn crops across the nation and sent prices soaring. And our badly broken federal ethanol policy is only making it worse.
For several years, growing federal ethanol mandates have diverted increased food and feed stocks into fuel and tightened supplies for livestock and food producers. In 2012 alone, the Agriculture Department estimates that roughly 42 percent of the corn crop will be used to make ethanol – more than the amount of corn used to feed livestock and poultry in the United States.
In 2011, Virginia poultry, dairy, and hog producers used roughly 98 million bushels of corn as feed. For many farmers and businesses in the Sixth District, rapid increases in the price of corn weigh heavy on their bottom line making it difficult to stay in business. But it doesn’t stop there – higher corn prices are ultimately reflected in the price of food on grocery store shelves.
A broad coalition of agricultural organizations, food producers, restaurants, grocery stores, environmental organizations, hunger groups, and consumer groups as well as 156 Members of the House, 34 U.S. Senators and several Governors, joined me in asking the EPA to use their power to waive the RFS. In total, the EPA received more than 29,000 public comments regarding the waiver. The EPA’s analysis of their decision even states that the comments were “statements generally in support of the requests for a waiver.” Yet, the EPA still refused. This decision has proven that the waiver provisions currently in law are inadequate and the policy is not working as intended.
In the debate over ethanol, the government is picking winners and losers. Livestock and food producers as well as consumers of these products are on the losing end. I now turn to my colleagues in the House and the Senate to take up legislation to address this ongoing problem. I support a complete elimination of the RFS and have already introduced legislation to do just that. It is evident that Congress must fix this broken ethanol policy in order to help protect consumers, producers, and the American economy.
Bob Goodlatte represents the Sixth District in the United States House of Representatives.