As prices at the pump climbed over the previous decade, biofuel proponents lobbied to replace oil with home-grown biofuels. Some major environmental organizations — enthralled by the prospect of growing energy instead of drilling for it — threw their weight behind the effort.
America’s prairies are shrinking. Spurred on by the rush for biofuels, farmers are digging up grasslands in the northern Plains to plant crops at the quickest pace since the 1930s. While that’s been a boon for farmers, the upheaval could create unexpected problems.
Ethanol benefits only those groups that sell the raw material comprising it and the politicians who receive their donations while wreaking immeasurable harm on the world’s most economically vulnerable and providing little to no environmental advantages.
The RFS mandate affects the prices of two of America’s (and the world’s) most vital commodities—food and fuel. In 2011, 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop was processed into biofuel, rather than food and livestock feed.
U.S. production of corn-based ethanol over the past six years — along with commodity trading speculation — has kept food prices artificially high, which has caused unrest in parts of the world that the Pentagon regards as strategic hotspots.
Environmentalists argue that biofuels made from food, like corn and soybeans, may add as much or even more to greenhouse gas emissions as fossil fuels. Others have criticized the burning of food while there are still millions who can't afford to eat.
As the mandate increases and more U.S. agricultural land is devoted to growing biofuel feedstocks instead of food, we will likely continue to see a rise in food prices worldwide.
Congress enacted a Renewable Fuels Standard that called for the production of 500 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol nationally by 2012. But now five years have passed, the $70 million has all been spent, and there’s no sign of a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant.
With regular gasoline prices still averaging more than $3.50 a gallon nationwide, the last thing drivers need is car troubles. Yet a new scheme from Washington to boost the ethanol content of gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent could gum up many motorists’ travel plans.