August 23, 2013

Charles Lane was correct [“The ethanol mandate’s coming car wreck,” op-ed, Aug. 20] that Congress will do anything to avoid placing taxes on gasoline to reduce fuel consumption and pollution. However, he was incorrect in blaming ethanol, specifically the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), for problems in the gasoline marketplace.

While raising questions about the RFS, Mr. Lane, perhaps inadvertently, made a strong case for the program. He wrote, “The ethanol industry grouses that the whole mess with the RFS and RINs” — tradable credits known as Renewable Identification Numbers — “could have been avoided but for the refusal of ‘Big Oil’ to invest in the production and distribution of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, or 85 percent ethanol ‘flex fuel.’

“I suppose they have a point — if you think it’s plausible that any industry would have willingly invested billions of dollars to help sell a competing product,” Mr. Lane concluded.

That’s right. In a market in which ethanol producers have to rely on our competitor for access to the consumer, we’re not going to make progress without policies like the RFS to expand competition.

Bob Dinneen, Washington

The writer is chief executive and president of the
Renewable Fuels Association.

Charles Lane deserves praise for pointing out that an increased gas tax makes more sense than the complicated and costly trading of Renewable Identification Numbers. The Highway Trust Fund may become insolvent in 2014 because revenue has fallen short of estimates. At current levels, the fund would be in the red by more than $100 billion by 2022.

The 18.4-cent per gallon federal fuel tax has not changed in 20 years, losing value to inflation while the maintenance costs of our aging roads and bridges increase. It’s time to adjust the fuel tax. Two congressionally authorized expert commissions, as well as the Simpson-Bowles commission and the 2011 “Gang of Six” on the national debt, have concluded that additional user-based revenue is needed for America’s highways. A full range of revenue options, including raising the gas tax and indexing it to inflation, must be considered. 

Greg Cohen, Washington

The writer is president and chief executive of the American Highway Users Alliance.