Kandrevas (Courtesy: Michigan Legislature)
Classic American cars. Ski boats and pontoons. Harleys. Snowmobiles.
Theyíre all a part of what makes our Pure Michigan life so special.
But theyíre all also threatened by a broken federal policy known as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which annually increases the amount of ethanol to be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply despite its harmful effects on engines of all sizes.
Enacted in 2005 and dramatically revised in 2007, the RFS was pitched as a solution to rising gasoline demand and foreign oil imports at the time. But demand has fallen since the 2008 global economic slowdown ó hitting a 13-year low in June 2013. And because of a domestic energy renaissance, oil imports have fallen to their lowest levels since 1986. Nonetheless, the EPA has continuously refused to adjust ethanol targets, putting RFS mandates ahead of the safety and convenience of American consumers and manufacturers.
Our nationís fuel market is at its breaking point and cannot tolerate higher levels of ethanol-blended gasoline. Most vehicles, boats, motorcycles, small engine equipment and retail infrastructure are incapable of handling fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol. Yet, the EPA recently permitted the sale of 15 percent ethanol (E15) in gasoline despite the serious risk to vehicles manufactured before 2001, marine engines, as well as smaller engines, like those in lawnmowers. Condensation created by E15 can damage engines and result in corrosion, rust and deterioration of fuel system components.
Newer vehicles manufactured since 2001 arenít immune either. Both automakers and the AAA have warned against E15 use due to safety concerns and potential engine damage. The risks associated with gasoline blended with anything over E10 are so great that Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Toyota, Nissan, Volvo and BMW have all said their warranties would not cover anything over E10 use in vehicles that the EPA has green-lighted, due to its potential to harm engines.
To make matters worse, higher ethanol fuel blends (like E15) have less energy content than regular gasoline, deliver lower fuel economy and cost consumers more money at the pump. Ethanol contains 33 percent less energy per gallon than gasoline and forces Americans to fuel up more frequently as the level of ethanol in our gasoline supply increases.
But the gas station isnít the only place Americans will be paying more. With 40 percent of U.S.-grown corn allocated to ethanol production, our nation has reached the point where more corn goes into gas tanks than to animal feed and food. This practice of converting food into fuel drastically restricts corn supplies, leading to higher prices that also affect many of the items on our grocery lists.
Higher corn prices have already led to higher prices for other commodities. In fact, beef, pork, eggs and fish prices increased a collective 79 percent since 2005.
Subsequently, the average U.S. family of four saw a $2,000 increase in food costs last year due to higher corn prices brought on largely by the RFS.
The wide-reaching consequences of the RFS have rallied a number of diverse organizations, including auto manufacturers, refiners, dairy, livestock and poultry farmers, and environmental groups to call on lawmakers to rethink this policy.
During August recess, Washington leaders promised to further explore bipartisan solutions to ethanol mandates and RFS problems. I hope they hold true to their word to prevent any further harm to our engines or our pockets.
State Rep. Andrew Kandrevas, D-Southgate, serves Michiganís 13th District.