Mandated Ethanol Fuel is Bad for California Consumers and Small Business

Ethanol-jpg   By Andrew Ysiano

Californians pay more at the pump than residents of any other state – a whopping $4.8 billion more than the rest of the nation. That means the average California driver forks over $201 more for gasoline than other drivers nationwide.
California, with its “car-mandatory” culture, is the largest consumer nationwide of ethanol, which the federal government mandated be blended into fuel since 2005. Adding ethanol to California’s fuel supply is an expensive process, costing 40 percent more to produce than traditional gasoline.
And when consumer’s fuel up with ethanol blends at the gas station, they’re getting a product with 33 percent less energy than pure gasoline, resulting in fewer miles per gallon and more trips and money spent at the gas station.
Californians rely heavily on keeping their automobile engines safely and efficiently fueled, with 1.54 million workers driving longer than 60 minutes to work. But with higher ethanol percentages in our gasoline supply, we run the risk of paying for engine misfires, stalling, metal corrosion, rubber swelling, combustion, oil or fuel leaks, and damaged valves, rubber fuel lines and gaskets. In short, a whole lot of unintended consequences for a policy that was supposed to clean the air.
Equally of concern, California is in the 4th year of a historic drought. We’ve all read about the excessive amount of water used by farmers to grow almonds or residential water wasters at their Beverly Hills mansions. Well, the amount of water needed to produce one gallon of ethanol is staggering – 1,700 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol.
Finally, and what’s also relevant for many low-income families, is that the more corn used for gasoline production, the less for food such as bread, cereals, tortillas, syrups and cooking oils.  So, Californians get hit with a double whammy – higher fuel prices and higher food prices.
It’s hard to rationalize why California businesses, taxpayers and families should be footing the bill for an expensive and broken ethanol fuel mandate when we are already dealing with a number of other financial burdens.
Thankfully, one of California’s leaders is playing an important role in an effort to end the mandate. Earlier this year, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) joined forces with Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) on an amendment to repeal the corn ethanol portion of the mandate. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s going nowhere in Congress, where lawmakers from the Corn Belt fiercely protect the mandate.
Californians, particularly those of us in the Central Valley, can play an important role in making sure our elected officials hear calls for ethanol mandate reform. It’s imperative that we make our legislators aware that we’re done paying for this expensive policy. We can definitely make our members of Congress know that we’ll keep this this issue in mind when making voting decisions in next fall’s general election.
It’s high time for California to address not only the high price of fuel but also the underlying reasons behind our high fuel prices. Ending the ethanol requirement is a step in the right direction. It may not be popular in Iowa but it certainly should be in California and for hard-working families and small businesses.

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