As a concerned member of Florida's Hispanic business community, I am compelled to voice my concern about federal regulations that hinder the growth of our economy. That's why I join a diverse group of industries, NGOs and consumer advocates in their concern that the nation's Renewable Fuel Standard is hampering our economy, environment and safety.
Enacted at a time of heightened demand for gasoline and steepening foreign oil imports, the RFS was meant to buttress American energy security and ensure access to reliable, environmentally friendly fuels by requiring annually increasing amounts of biofuel to be blended into U.S. gasoline. Unfortunately, truly advanced biofuels never emerged and corn-based ethanol has been allowed to dominate the biofuels market.
Ethanol now accounts for 80 percent of the biofuel blended into the U.S. gasoline supply — a dangerous market share that threatens our vehicles, environment and wallets. In order to ensure the mandate was met, the Environmental Protection Agency recently allowed the sale of E15, gasoline that is 15 percent ethanol by volume. The problem? Most vehicles and retail infrastructure cannot tolerate this fuel blend as it can lead to engine damage. In fact, only about 12 million out of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads today are approved by manufacturers to use E15 gasoline, according to AAA. Unfortunately, vehicle damage is just the beginning of the mandate's terrible consequences.
A study has found that the RFS could decrease U.S. GDP by $770 billion by 2015, impacting many of Florida's businesses and consumers, while placing increased pressure on our economy.
This federal mandate was intended to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions, but has not delivered on this promise. To the contrary, the EPA's own analysis has shown that lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of corn ethanol were higher than those of gasoline in 2012 and will be higher still in 2017.
To make matters worse, the RFS has driven up food prices since its implementation in 2007 at a devastating cost to consumers. As food growth and fuel production are increasingly pitted against one another, demand for corn has caused the commodity's price to skyrocket. As corn is a key ingredient in many supermarket items, the rising price of this food staple has led to a $2,000 increase in food costs for the average U.S. family of four.
Shouldn't Congress be focused on fixing broken federal policies like the RFS in order to make our economy more consumer- and business-friendly? The Florida Legislature sure did when it repealed the state's own renewable fuels standard last June over similar concerns. Fortunately, the EPA has taken short-term steps toward fixing the nation's RFS by proposing to lower the amount of biofuel to be blended in 2014. I fully support this, but we need a long-term solution that ensures the federal government is supporting safe, environmentally friendly and economically sound fuels.
The writer is president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.