Are Ethanol Refineries Making Your Air Dangerous to Breathe?

June 4, 2015

On this World Environment Day, let’s, you and I—and the federal government—take a minute to think about how we can take better care of our earth. We’ve got an idea.

Ethanol mandates, which were established by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and require increasing amounts of ethanol to be added to the gas you pump into your car, have had an alarmingly destructive ripple effect on our environment. These earth-greedy mandates are increasing smog and polluting our air—and there’s major evidence to back it up.

A study released by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last month studied emissions from a major ethanol plant in Illinois. Researchers found smog-causing emissions at this plant were 30 times higher than government estimates. If that’s true for some or all of the nation’s more than 200 ethanol refineries, a lot more smog-forming emissions are being created by these plants than nearby residents originally bargained for. What’s more, for some states that are struggling to control smog levels as it is, ethanol refineries could make it nearly impossible for them to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) federal standard for ground-level ozone (a measurement of pollution) should these standards be made stricter, as expected.

Plus, with the RFS mandating increased production of ethanol through 2022, refineries will spill more and more pollution into the air each year—potentially making air quality worse and worse every year in areas with ethanol plants.

Air quality is not simply a quality of life issue—it’s a life issue—because smog can be deadly. Researchers at National University of Singapore and Northwestern University found that burning ethanol fuel can lead to ground-level ozone pollution responsible for an increase in air quality-related deaths by as much as 80 percent.

It’s as simple as this: Ethanol mandates are not good for the environment, and the resulting pollution they cause is not good for you or your family—a double whammy.

Federal rules that mandate the refining and burning of ethanol fuel are doing the exact opposite of what they were intended to do. With study after study showing the devastating environmental impacts of this earth-greedy fuel, ethanol mandates—and the Ethanol Lobby that pushes them—aren’t fooling anyone. The RFS is a broken policy.

Congress has the real power to fix this policy. If you want to stop the negative effects of this policy on your environment and your health, write, call, tweet or meet with your legislator.