- The Washington Times - Friday, May 20, 2016

The Environmental Protection Agency’s move to add more ethanol to gasoline will wreak havoc on lawn mowers, snow blowers, boats and even cars, say critics.

Mixing an additional 700 million gallons of ethanol and other biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply to meet a goal of 18.8 billion gallons in 2017 will raise the biofuel percentage to 10.44 percent, or past the “blend wall” after which car engines can be damaged, said Heartland Institute research fellow Isaac Orr.

“It’s hard for anyone to argue that the renewable fuel standard has been a good policy, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to increase the amount of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply means this train wreck of a policy will continue for at least another year,” Mr. Orr said in a Thursday statement.

“Owners of small engines like lawn mowers, snow blowers, and boats are hurt by ethanol mandates because ethanol is hard on these engines,” he said.

Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, called the 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard “a success story that has driven biofuel production and use in the U.S. to levels higher than any other nation.”

“This administration is committed to keeping the RFS program on track, spurring continued growth in biofuel production and use, and achieving the climate and energy independence benefits that Congress envisioned from this program,” she said in a Wednesday statement.

Ethanol is popular with lawmakers in farming states like Iowa, but the mandate faces increasing opposition from others, including some environmentalists, who object to clearing more land for farming in order to grow the corn-based fuel.

Free-market champions say the standard no longer makes sense because oil and natural gas have become so plentiful thanks to advances in extraction technology, starting with hydraulic fracturing. The ethanol mandate also raises the cost of fuel.

At the time, Congress was attempting to reduce emissions as well as U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Since then, the United States has become the world’s largest producer of natural gas and doubled its oil production, sending prices plummeting.

The EPA’s proposed increase is lower than the statutory volume imposed by Congress in 2007, but the amount is still too high, said Chet Thompson, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers.

“While we support the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) continuing use of its statutory waiver authority to reduce the unrealistic mandated biofuel volumes for 2017, the proposed volumes still go beyond marketplace realities,” he said in a statement. “EPA’s proposal threatens to force consumers to use more biofuel than vehicles, engines and fueling infrastructure can handle.”

The agency plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed increase June 9 in Kansas City. Comments will be accepted until July 11.

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