With leaders of Vermont's environmental community at his side, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) renewed his commitment to reform the federal ethanol mandate in the new Congress that convenes in early January. Joining Welch were representatives of the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Lake Champlain International, and Vermont Natural Resources Council. Speakers highlighted the harm to the environment resulting from a federal corn-based ethanol mandate.
Welch will reintroduce the bipartisan Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Reform Act, which will reform the corn ethanol mandate while continuing to promote advanced biofuels, as well as the bipartisan Food and Fuel Consumer Protection Act, which would cap the maximum volume of ethanol blended into the transportation fuel supply at 9.7 percent.
"Despite its initial promise, the RFS has been a well-intended flop," Rep. Welch said. "In addition to driving up the cost of feed for struggling dairy farmers, increasing the cost of food for working families, and ruining small engines, the Renewable Fuel Standard is wreaking havoc on our environment. I look forward to working with environmental leaders to build on our momentum and kick off the new Congress with a renewed sense of urgency to stop the environmental degradation caused by this misguided federal policy."
The announcement comes as the National Wildlife Federation is expected to unveil a new study this week in Washington that will detail the harm inflicted on the environment by the RFS mandate, including the destruction of sensitive crops and habitats and the deterioration of water quality. Contrary to the claims of corn-based ethanol advocates, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the RFS mandate is unlikely to meet its statutory goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions due its over-reliance on corn-based ethanol fuel blends instead of climate friendly advanced biofuels.
"Thank heaven leaders like Peter Welch are stepping forward to say what scientists have known for years: it makes no sense to use corn to fuel our cars. It wrecks the landscape and the climate, and keeps us from making a decisive turn toward clean electricity. Time to end this big payoff to big ag!" said Bill McKibben, Senior Advisor and Co-Founder at 350.org.
The RFS is the last of three federal incentives that have supported the expansion of the ethanol industry. In December 2011, Welch and other House RFS reform leaders were successful in eliminating a federal tax credit for blending ethanol into gasoline and a 54 cent per gallon tariff on imported ethanol.