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EWG's Scott Faber Urges Congress to Reform Biofuels Policy

Contact: 
(202) 667-6982
ssciammacco@ewg.org
For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Washington, D.C. – Congress should reform the federal biofuels program known as the Renewable Fuel Standard by reducing the requirement to blend corn ethanol into gasoline and ending corn ethanol’s exemption from important environmental standards, EWG Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber told a Senate panel today.

“The RFS is not providing a powerful enough incentive for the development of low-carbon, second-generation biofuels to offset the negative impacts of conventional biofuels such as corn ethanol,” Faber said.

Faber’s remarks came during testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works at an oversight hearing on renewable fuels policy. His testimony highlighted the damage that increased corn ethanol production has done to the environment, economy and consumers since Congress expanded the federal requirement to blend corn ethanol into the gasoline supply in 2007.

Read Faber's full testimony here.

“The rapid expansion of corn ethanol production has increased greenhouse gas emissions, worsened air and water pollution, driven up the price of food and feed and may damage many engines,” Faber said.

Despite these harmful effects, corn ethanol has been allowed to saturate the market at the expense of promising alternatives that do not pose environmental challenges, increase food prices or require costly infrastructure improvements, he observed.

Faber pointed to findings by the National Academy of Sciences that called into question corn ethanol’s potential to reduce carbon emissions and detailed the harm that increased corn production is doing to air and water quality. He noted that the corn ethanol mandate has encouraged rapid conversion of wetlands and grasslands to corn fields, releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases and intensifying the use of nitrogen fertilizers that pollute waterways and dirty the air.

Faber added that increased corn ethanol production has boosted the demand for corn and contributed to driving up the price of basic commodities. These increases are ultimately passed on to consumers at the grocery store, he said. The prospect of blending more ethanol into gasoline to satisfy the requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard prompted automakers, the American Automobile Association and the U.S. Coast Guard to warn that higher blends can harm engines, pose safety issues and void warranties.

“There’s a real-world limit on the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline,” said Faber. “We need to divert more of that limited pool to second-generation biofuels.”

Faber urged Congress to “level the playing field” for new low-carbon fuels by forcing corn ethanol producers to meet the same greenhouse gas reduction requirements imposed on alternative fuels.

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