Ethanol Is Bad for Consumers, Bad for the Environment, and Does Effectively Nothing for “Energy Independence”

Since the 1970s, the U.S. government has been subsidizing the production of—or mandating the consumption of—corn ethanol. Promoters of the fuel have made many claims about the alleged benefits of corn ethanol, including its lower cost, its ability to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, and its ability to reduce America’s dependence on imported oil. None of these claims is true. Americans have spent a total of $170 billion on federal corn ethanol subsidies and mandates. Since 1982, corn ethanol, a de facto fuel tax, has always cost more than conventional gasoline on an energy-equivalent basis; during 2005–15, corn ethanol averaged $0.98 per gallon and cost motorists an additional $104 billion at the pump. Since 1982, federal subsidies for corn ethanol have totaled $66 billion. Corn ethanol emits more greenhouse gases than conventional gasoline. Americans’ use of corn ethanol has produced greater carbon-dioxide emissions than would the Keystone XL pipeline; ethanol’s carbon intensity is higher than that of oil sands, too. Corn ethanol, which satisfies the equivalent of only 3 percent of U.S. oil demand, has no noticeable effect on America’s “energy independence.” In less than a decade, the U.S. oil sector has increased production by 3.6 million barrels per day, or six times the amount of energy produced by America’s ethanol distilleries—distilleries that required more than three decades of federal subsidies and mandates.

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