AAA Slams ‘Outdated’ Federal Ethanol Mandate

Yesterday, AAA called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to lower the 2014 ethanol mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). AAA’s statement comes in response to a recently leaked draft copy of the EPA’s 2014 requirements, in which the agency weighs decreasing the total biofuel mandate.

EPA’s leaked draft proposes reducing the total renewable fuel requirement to 13 billion gallons in 2014, down from 16.55 billion gallons this year. As AAA President Bob Darbelnet explains:

“It is just not possible to blend the amount of ethanol required by current law given recent declines in fuel consumption, and it is time for public policy to acknowledge this reality. The EPA should lower ethanol targets immediately as part of the proposed 2014 RFS rule to support consumers and promote alternative fuels.”

As we have mentioned on these pages before, the federal ethanol mandate harms Americans. An increase in the RFS coupled with a decline in demand for gasoline could force the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline above 10 percent—more than automakers have certified their engines to use. As most cars are not made to run on higher ethanol blends, this could cause “voided warranties and vehicle damage,” as AAA puts it. Moreover, if the ethanol mandate is not lowered, many refiners will not be able to meet the requirements and will be on the hook for significant fines, meaning an increase in gasoline costs for Americans.

Though EPA may lower the overall mandate, their leaked draft still proposes unrealistic cellulosic biofuel volumes. According to the draft, EPA would raise the cellulosic mandate from 20,000 gallons of actual production last year, to 23 million gallons in 2014. This is particularly egregious, as only 220,000 credits of cellulosic ethanol have been generated this year, despite EPA’s requirement to produce 6 million gallons.

As AAA correctly stated, it is impossible for refiners to meet the mandate as it currently stands. Not only is the RFS a burden on refiners, but it is also damaging to Americans as it will lead to higher gasoline and car maintenance costs. While the possibility of a decrease in the RFS mandate is encouraging, it is a far cry from the simple fix need the RFS really needs—no more mandates.

IER Press Secretary Chris Warren authored this post.

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