Friday, December 15, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Ending the folly of corn-based ethanol

Renewable fuels are important to America's future, but growing corn for fuel instead of food never made sense environmentally or economically. Now the Environmental Protection Agency is finally embracing common sense in planning to reduce how much ethanol it requires in the nation's fuel supply. That's a good start toward ending the folly of corn-based ethanol.

The trouble started in 2007 with the well-intentioned Renewable Fuel Standard, which required blending specific and rising amounts of ethanol, much of it derived from corn, into the nation's gasoline. Six years ago, few could have predicted that today's motorists would drive less — and in cars that burn less fuel — or that fracking would create massive new supplies of domestic energy, drastically reducing dependence on foreign oil.

All of those things mean America is in danger of hitting the "blend wall," when federal rules would require the production of much more ethanol than the nation's fuel supply could absorb. With this possibility came a bad idea: Suck up the excess by jacking up the proportion of ethanol in a gallon of gas from 10 percent to 15 percent. Too many cars aren't designed for that blend, and marine engines and lawn equipment in particular could suffer. So the EPA made a smart decision and backed off the ethanol requirement.

Corn-based ethanol is bad for the economy and may be bad for the environment as well. According to an Associated Press investigation last month, the push for ethanol persuaded farmers to plant more and more corn, wiping out millions of acres of conservation land, which released carbon dioxide that had been captured in the soil. Some of the fertilizer sprayed on the corn flowed down the Mississippi River and made the Gulf of Mexico's huge dead zone even worse.

The EPA's proposed rule change, now subject to a comment period, is hardly banishing ethanol. It is simply accepting reality and telling refiners they can cut the amount of renewable biofuels they must blend into the nation's fuel supply by 3 billion gallons next year. This would be the first downward revision since the 2007 law passed.

Ideally, Congress would stop using the power of government to provide a windfall to corn-based ethanol interests, creating the artificial demand that is not driven by the market. But at least this is finally a step in the right direction. Development of renewable fuels needs to continue, but corn-based ethanol is a failure that hurts the progress of other, more promising biofuels. The sooner Congress realizes this, the better for the planet and the pocketbook.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17