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WCAX: Welch supports new biofuel reform bill

March 24, 2015
In The News

WCAX

 

A move is underway again to reform a federal requirement on biofuels. Specifically the practice of blending corn ethanol with gasoline.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, was checking out the rides at Frank's Motorcycle Sales and Service in Essex. He wasn't there to buy a bike, but rather to drive home a point. Blending corn ethanol into gasoline is a bad idea.

"Current law requires that ethanol be corn based, ethanol be a part of all of our fuel and the corn based ethanol has been a well-intended flop it has just not achieved the goals it was set out to do," said Welch.

The Renewable Fuel Standard was set in 2005 requiring 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel, in this case corn ethanol, be blended into gasoline by 2012. The goal was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Welch says that has not been the case.

"There is enormous evidence now that corn based ethanol actually when you put all the inputs uses more energy than if you didn't use corn based ethanol," said Welch.

Welch is part of a bipartisan group working to reform that mandate. The bill HR704 would do three things:

  • Cap the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline at 10 percent
  • Repeal the mandate for corn based ethanol
  • Encourage the use of alternative advanced biofuels

And there is another reason Welch says why the reform is needed, corn ethanol is brutal on small engines.

So what kind of damage does ethanol do to small engine? Lester Pelky from Franks Motorcycles was happy to show us.

"I am taking some pistons out," said Pelky

Pistons whose rings were turned black and corroded by corn ethanol blended gasoline, not normal wear and tear.

"The effects of ethanol are having a direct effect on the consumer and the consumer is being asked to pick up the bill so to speak for us doing ethanol," said Pelky.

They are bills that can routinely be hundreds of dollars. Welch feels confident that if the bill makes it to the house floor, there is a good chance the ethanol reforms would pass. But whether it will get to a vote is not clear.

The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers is on board with the reform, saying corn ethanol also does a number on snowmobile engines.