Professors Sebastien Pouliot and Bruce A. Babcock with Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) have released a new paper, “Impact of Ethanol Mandates on Fuel Prices When Ethanol and Gasoline are Imperfect Substitutes“. The authors note papers that consider the two transportation fuels “equal” have been of limited use in informing current policy debates because the short-to-medium-run reality is one of sets restrictions on how ethanol can be consumed in the U.S.
The authors’ objective of the paper was to improve understanding of how these restrictions change the findings of existing studies. The paper estimated the impacts of higher ethanol mandates using a open-economy, partial equilibrium model of gasoline, ethanol and blending whereby motorists buy one of two fuels: E10, which is a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, or E85 which is a high ethanol blend. The model is calibrated to recent data to provide current estimates.
The authors find that the effects of increasing ethanol mandates that are physically feasible to meet on the price of E10 are close to zero. In other words, White House fears of higher RIN prices due to higher gas prices are unfounded. The report also shows the impact of the size of the corn harvest on E10 prices is much larger than the effects of mandates. However, increased mandates can have a large effect on the price of E85 if the mandates are increased to levels that approach consumption capacity. These findings show that concerns about the consumer price of fuel do not justify a reduction ethanol mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
The 2014 RFS rule is currently under review with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).