Media No Longer Gassed About Ethanol

Despite the current pressure of economic hardships that all citizens are feeling, the government decided to take another shot at consumers Wednesday.

USA Today Reports “the government said Wednesday that gasoline now may contain up to 15% ethanol — grain alcohol, usually from corn in the U.S. — instead of just 10%.” This increase has struck a controversial chord with many groups. The alleged benefits of ethanol have been an ongoing debate and Wednesday’s decision has stirred the conversation once more.

With this increase ethanol backers continue to argue that the move to biofuel will “[C]ut U.S. dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change, help corn farmers and provide U.S. jobs.” Each time they tout these benefits without the evidence of results ethanol proponents lose more and more of their following. It is getting to the point where even the media won’t defend the government’s unfounded mandates for bio-fuel as they once did.

A BMI report from 2008 found that, ” In the last two years, the networks have run 69 stories about corn-based ethanol. Much of the early coverage of ethanol was positive, declaring the fuel “the wave of the future.” But as grocery prices started to rise, the media started connecting the dots. Since January 2007, 34 of those stories – a little less than half overall – mentioned a connection between ethanol production and increased food prices for American consumers.” In the years since, the media has continued the trend of correctly attributing inflation in food prices to ethanol as the government continues to mandate an increase in the presence of biofuel.

It’s not just the media. Few are able to turn a blind eye to the downfalls of ethanol. From rising food costs and increased carbon emissions to lower fuel efficiency and new reports of engine damage, ethanol is burning through American resources. With such a list of grievances, ethanol promoters are acquiring a motley crew of opponents. USA Today writes “Opponents – an unlikely alliance of environmentalists, food companies, small-engine makers, oil companies and more – say using more corn-based ethanol could damage engines, push up grocery prices and increase air pollution.”

Some of these opponents were quoted in the article. Nathanael Greene of the Natural Resources Defense Council stated "Burning ethanol can cause toxic air pollutants to be emitted from vehicle tailpipes, especially at higher blend levels like E15." David Champion head of auto testing at Consumer Reports magazine says "Ethanol is corrosive to rubber products and some plastics. The higher you push (ethanol) concentration, the greater the chance, especially on older cars, you'll have fuel leaks, and possible fires.” It was also mentioned that “ethanol contains just 66% of the energy that gasoline does, so fuel mileage could drop slightly using E15.”

Despite so many voices crying foul Congress and the EPA do not appear to be easily swayed. “EPA said Wednesday's move is the first of a number of actions that are needed ... towards commercialization of E15 gasoline blends. Congress required fuel refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels, mostly ethanol, into auto fuel by 2022.”

Like this article? Then sign up for our newsletter, The Balance Sheet.