The energy bill that has passed the House and awaits a Senate vote removes the EPA’s fuel oxygenate requirement. Congress should be congratulated for acting on the EPA’s analysis from 1999 showing ethanol and other fuel oxygenate additives do not help clean the air, and their recommendation that oxygenate requirements be eliminated.
But choosing to expand ethanol mandates as a renewable energy initiative is a big mistake. Using more ethanol will increase our dependence on foreign oil and impose costs that far outweigh its benefits. Overall, the proposed ethanol mandates will cost Americans $18-23 billion more than they will benefit.
A new Reason report adds up the benefit of increasing ethanol use, and the costs, and concludes that the mandates are bad public policy. Ethanol provides less energy than gasoline, and takes so much more energy to produce and distribute, that the ethanol mandates in the energy bill Congress is considering will substantially increase our use of oil, either domestic or imported.
You can read at a summary of the report “A Federal Ethanol Mandate: Is It Worth It? If Not, Why Is It So Popular?”, or the whole report. The Reason website also has available Congressional testimony of mine from July 2003 on fuel oxygenates in California, and a commentary on how ill-advised ethanol mandates are from Joel Schwartz.
Ethanol does not help clean the air and it is not a renewable energy source. In fact, ethanol used for fuel generates formaldehyde, a toxic chemical. Our environment doesn’t need that kind of “preservation.” Ethanol mandates do nothing but benefit special interests at a very high cost to all Americans.