EPA Ignores Inconvenient Facts; Fails to Look Out for the Environment

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August 18, 2016

A breaking report from the Office of the Inspector General shows that the EPA hasn't been following the law where ethanol mandates are concerned. For years, the agency hasn't been tracking the environmental impacts of the RFS, something they are required to do by law. 

By not doing its job, the EPA has denied the President, Congress and its own leadership critical information about the RFS, information that would certainly reveal the need for drastic policy reforms.

Had the EPA followed through with its obligations, it would have encountered these inconvenient facts:

  • RFS isn't helping emissions:
    • …for some biofuels, indirect emissions—including from land use change—can lead to greater total emissions than when using petroleum products.” – “Transport,” In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group
    • Other fuels, such as corn ethanol..., are more damaging than conventional vehicles when air pollution impacts are considered alone or when air pollution and climate impacts are considered together.” – Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, November 2014
  • RFS is causing environmental problems of its own:
    • "Irrigation water applied to corn acres rose from 15.4 million acre-feet in 2008 to 17.9 million acre-feet in 2013, paralleling the dramatic increase in corn production during that same period – from 84.5 million to 93.7 million acres." – Corn Remains King in USDA Irrigation Survey, National Geographic, February 2015
    • Our results show that rates of grassland conversion to corn/soy across a significant portion of the US Western Corn Belt are comparable to deforestation rates in Brazil, Malaysia, and Indonesia… Historically, comparable grassland conversion rates have not been seen in the Corn Belt since the 1920s and 1930s, the era of rapid mechanization of US agriculture... The Western Corn Belt is rapidly moving down the corn ethanol and soy biodiesel pathway, with an estimated net loss of ∽528,000 ha (1.3 million acres) of grassland from 2006 – 2011.” – Recent land use change in the Western Corn Belt threatens grasslands and wetlands, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 17 January 2013

Not only has the EPA been caught dropping the ball, but Argus reports that the EPA doesn't even expect to complete a study on the air quality impacts of the RFS or have determinations on whether additional actions and policy changes are required until 2024!

And yet the American people are supposed to trust this agency to unilaterally administer the program starting in 2022?

The time for ignoring science has passed. A policy that’s fallen short of its own environmental and climate goals for more than a decade is in need of scrutiny, and it turns out the agency in charge might need a healthy dose as well.

Tags epa environmental protection agency ghg greenhouse gas emissions conservation land ethanol mandate renewable fuel standard inspector general rfs corn ethanol