Groups Urge EPA to Reverse Course on Biofuels

Discussion
Jun 24, 2008

By George Anderson

A coalition of food and retail industry groups including the American Beverage Association, Grocery Manufacturers Association, International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), National Council of Chain Restaurants, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation and the Snack Food Association have joined together to send a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging it to revise the food-to-fuel mandates included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

According to the correspondence: “Although there are many factors contributing to the sharp increase in US and global food prices – including increasing global food demand, export restrictions, adverse weather and higher energy prices – a significant new factor, and the only factor affecting food and feed prices that is under the control of the Administration, is the federal food-to-fuel mandate diverting food into fuel production. We urge the Administrator to freeze federal food-to-fuel mandates for 2008 and 2009 at the US production level for 2007.”

Demand for corn ethanol and biodiesel has led to a dramatic increase in commodities including soybeans and wheat and the effect can be felt throughout the food chain. Food prices in the U.S. rose nearly five percent in 2007 and studies predict that food price inflation will grow nine percent annually between 2008 and 2012, according to the letter.

Freezing the food-to-fuel mandate would lead to immediate reductions in the price of corn. The groups cited a recent study by FAPRI, which estimated that corn prices have risen 19 percent due to the mandate. Freezing the program at 2007 levels would help to moderate prices and end the upward spiral of food and fuel prices.

While moving away from food stocks to produce bio-fuels, the groups are asking the government “to accelerate the development of bio-fuels that do not pit our energy needs against the needs of the hungry or the environment. In particular, Congress should accelerate the development of cellulosic and advanced bio-fuels derived from fuel feedstocks that do not increase food or fiber prices, hold significantly greater promise to displace traditional sources of gasoline, and improve the environment.”

Discussion Questions: Is it time for the government to change the food-to-fuel mandates in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007? Are there other bio-fuel alternatives that the government and industry could be exploring that would not create a choice between using crops for either food or fuel?

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7 Comments on "Groups Urge EPA to Reverse Course on Biofuels"


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Susan Rider
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Susan Rider
13 years 10 months ago

Absolutely, by using corn, soybeans for fuel we have created many other adverse situations along the food chain. There are several alternatives; switch grass and other plants are viable alternatives. Before settling on anything, we should look at the impact throughout the food and human chain.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
13 years 10 months ago
The bio-fuel alternative that government and industry could be exploring is called American-sourced oil. We’re all familiar with the oil-a-phobic lament, “but new drilling will take ten years to produce additional oil for the refineries and will not be helpful today.” Notwithstanding oil industry sources that place this timetable at 1-6 years, the timetables for significant, NON-SUBSIDIZED delivery from the various alternative energy sources currently subsidized by our tax dollars is far longer. Solar: 20 years to never. Hydrogen: more than 10 years. Reliable electric vehicles that are not fueled by hydrocarbon-fired plants: 25 years. Nuclear: 20-25 years. Fuel cell technology: 12 years to never. Wind power: never. Ethanol: never. Remember, we’re talking about significant and non-subsidized fuel sources. I’ve always wondered why the “not helpful today, and not for ten years” argument applies to oil but not to the other energy sources listed. Oil companies, on the other hand, subsidize the government by paying a significant amount of taxes. They are also more than 70% owned by the public (if you have a company… Read more »
Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.
Guest
13 years 10 months ago
“Is it time for the government to change the food-to-fuel mandates in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007?” The hatching of a chick from the egg is instructive here. The chick has spent three weeks growing and drawing sustenance from the yolk within, and developing the strength for the Herculean task of breaking out into the larger world. Peck, peck, peck…It’s an exhausting task. Peck, peck, peck…. Someone might think it a kindness to assist the hatchling in emergence from the shell by, maybe, breaking the shell FOR them. But this would in reality be the death knell for the hatchling, for it is the struggle to emerge that provides the growth and strength for survival beyond. The energy markets are a disaster exactly because the “government” has done this or that. God help us if we think the government intervention that got us to this point is the way out. It reminds me of the Stalin era comment in Russia, that if you need milk, take your bucket to the radio! That’s… Read more »
Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
13 years 10 months ago

If we had taken all of the money used to subsidize ethanol production from corn to-date and invested it into perfecting methods to get ethanol out of cellulose-based waste products or even non-food cellulose, we’d probably already be there by now.

Ethanol as it is made today is terribly inefficient–from the subsidies that artificially lower the cost of the fuel all the way to the effective “power” of ethanol, which is roughly 3/4 as powerful as petroleum-based fuel. There just has to be a better way.

kevin HOHMAN
Guest
kevin HOHMAN
13 years 10 months ago

Although not an expert on this topic, I have to say that the current conversion of corn to ethanol is not efficient. Besides the impact that this is having on food prices, it is not in any way assisting the environment. I have read that it takes one gallon of fuel to make one gallon of ethanol, so where is the reduced impact on the environment? Also, there are other items that supposedly can be converted, like sugar cane, where there is a positive impact on the environment, i.e. .5 gallons of fuel required to make one gallon of ethanol.

Finally, I do not see any relief at the pumps as many of the companies that sell gas also refine it, and refuse to allow ethanol to be sold through their retail outlets. The only people who seem to be making money on this are the speculators, and some farmers. If the farmers’ profits are rising beyond belief, why do we continue to subsidize their growing efforts?

Max Goldberg
Guest
13 years 10 months ago

Food-to-fuel was a bad idea from the start, when it was pushed by farm state legislators as a way to prop up the livelihoods of their constituents. The program should be frozen and alternatives immediately explored. There are a number of promising alternatives to corn and soy fuel. The government should undertake a massive program, ala the quest to land a man on the moon, to develop alternative sources of energy to ease the Western world’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Mark Lilien
Guest
13 years 10 months ago

Retailers could help save energy and improve their profitability if they pledged to cease 7-day operations. Any store open 7 days a week is automatically an energy-waster, and if everyone were closed one day a week, no one would lose market share.

Since every industry wants government support, why isn’t there a support price for recycling restaurant fat, grease, and oil? It all could go towards biodiesel fuel. Every restaurant = a small farmer, and the government allegedly wants to support farming, right?

Want to reduce gasoline consumption without hurting the poor or raising gas taxes? End tax deductibility for vehicles whose gas mileage is worse than average

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