Time for Real Ethanol Policy Reform

Nicolas Loris /

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval to increase the amount ethanol blended into gasoline from 10 percent 15 percent has been controversial. A previous decision by the EPA in October 2010 made the 15 percent blend allowable (but not required) in passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and SUVs that had a model year of 2007 or newer. The EPA recently extended the allowance to include vehicle model years 2001 to 2006. Extending the vehicle list to model years of 2001 and newer just three months after the initial waiver has raised a number of concerns with regards to its impact on vehicle operations and consumer safety, which is why Representative John Sullivan (R–OK) introduced an amendment that would block funding for the EPA to implement the program. Sullivan remarked:

My amendment is about consumer safety, plain and simple. The EPA has completely ignored calls from lawmakers, industry, environmental and consumer groups to address important safety issues raised by the 50 percent increase in the ethanol mandate waivers issued over the last two years.

In a free market, fuel producers and users should be allowed to make their own fuel decisions without federal bureaucrats and powerful special interests deciding that for them. Unfortunately, when it comes to ethanol policy, the U.S. is anything but a free market. And that is the context in which Sullivan’s amendment must be understood. The reality is that his amendment is really a reaction to the bad policy currently governing the U.S. ethanol industry.