All farmers know that it is crucial to become an expert at planning, preparing for conditions and forecasting future harvest yields. While natural weather patterns make that job difficult enough, an unelected federal agency makes that job even more difficult.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a reputation for causing extreme uncertainty for farmers due to burdensome and unnecessary regulations. Specifically, a dark shadow has been cast on the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for Kansas farmers after 2022.
The RFS was created by Congress in 2005 to encourage demand for renewable fuels by requiring that a certain volume of ethanol and biofuels be blended into gasoline. This mandate fostered a strong corn ethanol industry in Kansas and amplified Kansas’ corn production. However, mandates often serve to distort the marketplace by artificially creating demand. Members of Congress have had input on the mandate thus far and have been able to reduce levels of uncertainty, but the EPA will take full authority over the RFS after 2022 with the power to remove corn ethanol from the mandate completely.
This news is alarming considering that the EPA has already begun reducing the gallon amounts of corn ethanol required for blending into fuel in 2016 and 2017 proposed rules for the RFS in hopes of increasing demand for costly advanced biofuels. It’s clear that the EPA is trying to shift away from corn ethanol use to accelerate drastic and aggressive plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Further, the EPA recently proposed that renewable identification numbers (RINs) count toward electric vehicles, which would significantly reduce the RINs available for corn ethanol. These decisions were made with little regard to the effects they will have on our farmers.
This is just another example of the EPA causing extreme uncertainty for farmers in the marketplace. If the EPA is allowed to take over the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2022, the future of corn ethanol looksverybleak.TheEPA’s proposals would also reduce consumer choices and likely increase prices for all.
To elude this imminent threat, we should consider a free market for fuels after 2022. The Renewable Fuel Standard helped establish a strong corn ethanol marketplace, but the industry no longer needs a mandate to succeed. Allowing the RFS to expire would free the corn ethanol industry from the EPA’s control and allow it to compete on a level playing field in an open market setting. This would not only spur domestic development, but it could also increase demand from emerging international economies, fueling growth for the entire U.S. economy. Furthermore, a free market for fuels would correct the distorted marketplace and provide certainty for all parties involved. The agriculture community is much better off without the burden of the EPA’s regulations and mandates.
Kyle Abbott, 1732 Kenmar St., is a Kansas State University alumnus and former energy policy researcher . His family owns a farm in north central Kansas.