Letters to the Editor Regarding Robert Bryce’s Op-Ed, “End the Ethanol Rip-Off”

Source: By Letters to the Editor NYT • Posted: Friday, March 20, 2015

To the Editor:

Re “End the Ethanol Rip-Off,” by Robert Bryce (Op-Ed, March 10):

The notion that the Renewable Fuel Standard is somehow a hidden tax is a strange assessment for a policy that is reducing costs for taxpayers and consumers. The fuel standard has lowered gas prices and reduced the enormous costs borne by relying on a single, volatile fuel source — petroleum.

Contrary to Mr. Bryce’s claims, blending 10 percent ethanol into gasoline has saved consumers roughly six cents per gallon since the bipartisan law passed in 2005. And thanks to the fuel standard, at least $47.2 billion worth of imported crude was displaced by clean, homegrown fuel in 2012, according to the Energy Department. With domestically produced ethanol in our fuel supply, America has significantly reduced the overall demand, and the corresponding cost of gasoline.

Far from a rip-off for motorists and taxpayers, the fuel standard is an economic payoff.



The writer is the director of transportation at the American Council on Renewable Energy.

To the Editor:

Robert Bryce wrote a superb article on the ethanol rip-off of the motoring public, but I was very surprised that he didn’t say anything about E85 and E15.

Blends of 85 percent ethanol, called E85, are already on the market in areas of the country, meant to be used by “flex fuel” vehicles that are specially built to use such fuel. That means that the hidden tax is even more egregious for those owners who choose to avail themselves of this fuel.

However, plans for the widespread sale of E15 (50 percent higher ethanol concentration than the currently ubiquitous E10) for ordinary vehicles are also in the works. Beyond what Mr. Bryce noted for E10 as damaging to small engines, research by the Environmental Protection Agency and others has shown that E15 can cause severe detrimental effects on older vehicles as well as power boats.

Most damning about these ethanol blends is that their production from corn uses more fuel than they save, despite the false initial premise that it was meant to make us less dependent on foreign oil.

Other countries (such as Brazil) use sugar cane, a plant that grows fast and can be converted to ethanol easier and therefore with less energy than the ethanol provides, providing an energy profit. But here in the United States we have chosen corn, for dubious reasons, which has a negative energy profit. So why are we still using corn-based ethanol blends, except for the profit of our corn industry?


Somerset, N.J.

To the Editor:

Robert Bryce’s calculations of the “cost” of the Renewable Fuel Standard are at odds with the fact that even without the standard, approximately the same amount of ethanol would be blended into the fuel supply to meet octane requirements.

Eliminating the fuel standard won’t save consumers money, and it won’t address problems caused by corn ethanol. Without the standard, though, we’d see a real risk to investment in advanced biofuels — cleaner, nonfood alternatives coming on line now that address the shortcomings not just of corn ethanol, but more significantly of oil itself.

As the new Oil Climate Index released by the Carnegie Endowment highlights, we need to move quickly to tomorrow’s fuels. Oil is getting dirtier every year, and the country will not be well served by complacency bred of a temporary dip in gas prices.



The writer is a senior scientist with the Clean Vehicles Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists.