Biofuels Mandates Ravage the Land

November 12, 2013

The Renewable Fuel Standard failed.

Corn-belt proponents of the eight-year-old ethanol mandate promised that ethanol would be a boon for the environment, but this week, the Associated Press exposed the environmental realities of the policy.

Earlier this year, the Renewable Fuels Association — the ethanol lobby — admitted that the policy was intended to raise the price of corn. That may just be the one thing the policy was successful at.  While corn prices are down for the year, prices are significantly higher than they were pre-policy. So much so that farmers began grabbing whatever land was available (including at least one cemetery) to take advantage of a government-backed crop with mandated demand.

In 2005, before the policy was enacted, 11.4 million acres of corn were grown in the United States. Today, that number has swelled to 27.5 million acres.

Using government satellite data — the best tool available — the AP identified a conservative estimate of 1.2 million acres of grassland in Nebraska and the Dakotas alone that have been converted to fields of corn and soybeans since 2006. Across the country, that number is much higher.

“Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama’s watch.” Two million more acres were lost in President Bush’s last two years.

Further, there is no proof that using corn ethanol is actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions, once you consider the full lifecycle. In fact, research suggests quite the opposite. While the inferior fuel may burn cleaner from your car’s engine, getting to that point isn’t actually worth the effort.

“Plowing over conservation land releases so much greenhouse gas that it takes 48 years before new plants can break even and start reducing carbon dioxide. For an ethanol policy to work, the study said, farmers could not plow into conservation land.”

So beyond just raising food prices and damaging engines, ethanol has failed to deliver on its foundational promise: “saving” the environment. Congressmen from both sides of the aisle have come together, urging EPA to reform the mandate. If yours isn’t one of them, contact him or her today and demand change