ENERGY should involve an “all of the above” strategy that includes traditional and alternative sources. That hasn't been the federal government's approach to promoting ethanol in gasoline, and impending regulations don't allow much room for traditional non-ethanol fuel.
Federal standards require biofuel production to increase from 15.2 billion gallons this year to 36 billion by 2022, which basically forces adoption of E-15 fuel (which has up to 15 percent ethanol). Most gas today has no more than 10 percent ethanol.
The mandate is problematic. Ethanol fuel reportedly damages engines, especially in older cars. The federal government has approved E-15 only for vehicles no older than 2001 models; automakers suggest it should be used only with the newest models. A report by the National Association of Convenience Stores predicts E-15 will require “new vehicles on the road.” Low-income workers could be effectively forced to buy new cars if E-15 becomes standard.
Many underground storage tanks aren't certified to hold fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol; E-15 is more corrosive. Ironically, environmentalists who tout disproved claims about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing to water supplies are supportive of ethanol fuel blends that can eat through storage tanks and poison wells.
A new report by ActionAid USA, an international anti-poverty agency, determined that 40 percent of all U.S.-grown corn is already being used for ethanol fuel mandates, up from only 5 percent in 2000. This has driven up the cost of food. As a result, numerous governors and members of Congress, as well as the director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, have petitioned the federal Environmental Protection Agency to waive the renewable fuel standard for 2012 and 2013. They believe a reprieve will lower food prices for all.