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SunSentinel: Rick Watson: Smart solution needed for Renewable Fuel Standard

Monday, November 18, 2013

Unfortunately, the recent government shutdown has kept many important policy issues from receiving the attention they deserve. One such policy in immediate need of adjustment is our nation’s Renewable Fuel Standard, which continues to put American businesses and consumers in harm’s way.

In its current form, the RFS forces gasoline refiners to mix increasing amounts of ethanol into the U.S. gasoline supply. If the mandate endures, refiners could be forced to blend dangerous levels of ethanol into gasoline — putting the nation’s engines at risk. Most vehicles, boats, motorcycles, small engines and retail infrastructure are incapable of handling fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently permitted the sale of 15 percent ethanol (E15) in gasoline despite the serious risks to engines, including vehicles manufactured before 2001.

Contractors and builders rely heavily on the transportation of important equipment, supplies and staff to complete our jobs in a timely manner. So when the Coordinating Research Council recently released a study that found 25 percent of cars approved to run on E15 by the EPA experienced engine damage and even failure, the impacts of the RFS really hit home. The engines and fuel tanks of the heavy-duty trucks used to transport many of our necessary tools could deteriorate more quickly when exposed to higher levels of ethanol and require expensive repair or replacement.

As the RFS drives more than 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop away from food growth to fuel production, prices of key food items have spiked, putting Americans’ bottom line at further risk. According to a recent study conducted by the National Turkey Federation, corn prices have risen 64 percent since the RFS was implemented in 2005. Rising corn prices have triggered higher price points for many grocery items as it remains a critical staple in the feed fed to animals, as well a main ingredient in many of our favorite foods.

Since the RFS was expanded in 2007, prices for cereal and bakery products in the United States have risen 77 percent; while prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs have increased 78 percent.

If we continue down this path, the RFS will continue to cripple small businesses and industries, including building, contracting, manufacturing and transportation companies and the thousands they employ across Florida. The Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida believes the RFS is in need of serious reconsideration and reform.

Rick Watson is general counsel of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida.

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