Minn. should support ethanol reduction

Ethanol reduction should be seen as a win for the environment, not a victory for “Big Oil.”

Last month, the Obama administration proposed to reduce the required ethanol content of U.S. fuel, a move that would cut the amount of biofuels to be blended into gas by nearly 3 billion gallons in 2014.

While interest groups have argued for ethanol and for the Renewable Fuel Standard to mandate an environmentally friendly alternative to oil and gas, environmental groups are skeptical, citing concerns about increased corn production and use of cropland.

Various studies have shown ethanol is actually worse for the climate than gasoline. A recent University of Minnesota-assisted study found E85 corn ethanol has a 23 percent greater negative environmental impact than gasoline. Both the Environmental Working Group and Sierra Club now oppose biofuels.

Concerns about the rise in food prices have also surfaced. In 2009, the Congressional Budget Office found the increase in the use of ethanol was responsible for roughly 10 to 15 percent of the rise in food costs from 2007 to 2008.

Minnesota lawmakers, including Democrat U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and Collin Peterson, oppose the reduction. Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said the RFS program is “vital to rural America’s economic strength,” the Associated Press reported Nov. 15. The support from Minnesota’s delegation isn’t surprising given the industry’s strong presence in the state.

Though various interest groups and rural communities rely on the emerging biofuels market, it’s become clear that ethanol is not a good investment. Farmers may see the ethanol reduction as a win for “Big Oil,” but those interested in curbing climate change should see it otherwise.

Minnesota’s congressional delegation should support the proposed rule and work to repeal the ethanol mandate in its entirety.