There's more than one train wreck underway due to Congress' attempt to manipulate markets that are better left alone. One of those wrecks is the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Congress passed the standard in 2007, when President George Bush pushed for the legislation to help the United States reduce its reliance on foreign oil.
The idea, also pushed by the U.S. agriculture industry, was to mandate that refiners supplement the nation's gasoline supply with ethanol, displacing with U.S. grown corn some of the oil from foreign sources needed to make gasoline.
And, to establish an advanced biofuels industry, the law mandates that besides corn-based, an increasing amount of ethanol be made from cellulosic materials — a fancy term for "other than corn."
The Bush administration and Congress believed that such centralized planning of the nation's motor vehicle fuel market would reduce the nation's reliance on imported oil while cleaning the environment because ethanol-added fuel burns cleaner than strictly oil-based fuel.
In the meantime, advances in hydraulic fracturing allow oil and natural gas drillers to retrieve more American-sourced oil and natural gas. And stricter fuel efficiency regulations and a slow economy reduced the nation's demand for gasoline. With better fuel efficiency and more use of natural gas for power generation, the nation's carbon emissions are at their lowest levels in years.
But the renewable fuel standard keeps ratcheting up the amount of biofuels to be added to the gasoline supply. Farmers are growing more corn than ever.
The Associated Press reported that increased corn farming may actually be increasing greenhouse gas emissions in addition to polluting streams and destroying native grasslands. Meanwhile, Americans are paying higher prices for food because the law inflates the price of corn and higher prices for gasoline because of the mandate.
It's another example of a well-intentioned government program that results in unintended consequences, causing things to get worse instead of better.
Congress should dump the entire renewable fuel standard and let the marketplace naturally work. We'd all benefit through reduced fuel prices, reduced food prices and less harm to the environment.