NTU Endorses Flake Amendment to Stop USDA Overreach

The Honorable Jeff Flake
413 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Flake:

On behalf of the members of National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I write to express our support for your amendment to S. 2012, the “Energy Policy Modernization Act.”  This amendment would prohibit the Secretary of Agriculture from using taxpayer funds to install renewable fuel blender pumps.

Most gas stations in the U.S. carry E10 - a gasoline blend that contains 10 percent ethanol.  Ethanol, a solvent, is highly corrosive and can’t be stored or dispensed through conventional pumps. Higher blends such as E15, E85, and blends in between, require costly new infrastructure to store and blend the correct proportion of ethanol.

In May, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $100 million in grants through the Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership for blender pumps. This move came despite the fact that Congress has repeatedly limited funds for blender pumps on a bipartisan basis and the 2014 Farm bill specifically excluded blender pumps from qualifying for funding under past programs that the USDA has used to support the activity.

Based on his statements at the time, Secretary Vilsack seems to be under the impression that a lack of availability at gas station pumps is what is holding back the assimilation of higher ethanol blends in the fuel market. However, according to AAA, “More than 85 percent of the vehicles on the road today are not approved by manufacturers to use E15, including nearly all 2001-2013 models.” Using higher blends can cause severe engine damage and void a vehicle’s warranty. Corn ethanol also contains approximately ⅓ less energy than gasoline, decreasing a vehicle’s gas mileage and increasing the cost per mile for consumers. Given the significant drawbacks to increased ethanol blends, the failure of E15 to capture more of the gasoline market has less to do with limited availability than it does to lack of demand.

NTU is pleased to endorse your amendment to S. 2012 that would stop the USDA from disbursing $100 million in blender pump grants and urges all Senators to work toward its adoption.

Nan Swift
Federal Affairs Manager