Ethanol law has become a mandate to nowhere

Research continues into the elusive formula for cellulosic ethanol (AP)

Sunday’s column, available on houstonchronicle.com:

We’re squabbling about legislation that clearly hasn’t worked.

Last week, the oil and ethanol industries traded barbs over the future of a 2005 law that requires blending the corn-based additive in gasoline.

The American Petroleum Institute, the mouthpiece of the energy industry, released a report that found the Renewable Fuels Standard will drive up gasoline prices and shave as much as $770 billion from the country’s gross domestic product in the next two years.

“The RFS is bad policy for anyone that drives a car, transports goods, or purchases products that rely on gasoline – in other words, virtually everyone,” the institute’s Robert Greco told reporters last week.

Ethanol’s impact on gasoline prices, though, remains less of a factor than the price of crude oil, and while gasoline prices have been rising, they are still lower than they were a year ago.