Bob Dinneen: Let Them Eat Ethanol!

A recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute (API) finds that the vast majority of Americans are concerned about the negative consequences of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). In a previous post we walked through some of the major results, including the fact that 77 percent of Americans are concerned that higher ethanol blends will damage their engines. The response from the head of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Bob Dinneen, shows his perverse grasp of reality, especially when it comes to consumer choice.

When presented with the poll and its negative assessment of the RFS, Bob Dinneen said:

“Instead of scaring people, Big Oil should invest in the infrastructure to expand choice at the pump. Seriously, they need to stop baking the numbers to shield from the fact that they are losing market share and the only way out is to attack the RFS.”

Dinneen’s remarks would impress George Orwell. The federal government is forcing refiners to put more ethanol into the fuel mix than they would voluntarily choose to do, and—as the poll results indicate—Americans are being forced to put more ethanol into their vehicles than they would voluntarily choose. Contrary to Dinneen’s claim, this doesn’t represent “expand[ed] choice at the pump,” but in fact restricts consumer choice. If the government, say, mandated that all sodas sold in the U.S. contain 15 percent vinegar, that wouldn’t expand consumer choice either.

Moreover, Dinneen should hardly be patting the renewables industry on the back for its growing “market share,” at the same time he is defending the government’s role in forcing that outcome. If Dinneen is so convinced that the American public really wants more ethanol in their vehicles, then he should put it to the market test—not ram it down people’s engines and then explain away clear-cut poll results showing why this is a problem.

IER Senior Economist Robert P. Murphy authored this post. 

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