What if we told you that a government mandate once celebrated by politicians as the first federal policy to tackle global climate change has actually proven to be an environmental disaster serving only to, in the words of leading international environmental organization Friends of the Earth, “worsen global warming at every stage”?
Well…we’d be telling you the story of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS is a government mandate requiring that billions of gallons of biofuels like corn ethanol be blended into America’s fuel supply, and into your gas tank, each year. And it is the quintessential example of well-intentioned government policy gone terribly wrong.
The RFS is so broken, there isn’t even a term strong enough to describe its flaws. So we came up with one: “RFS Broken.”
So how exactly is it broken? The mandate creates artificial demand for corn ethanol, and the government’s appetite for corn increases every year. This new ‘demand’ incentivizes farmers to plow over other cropland, wetlands and even conservation lands– land needed for food production and carbon storage—in order to grow corn for fuel. “It takes a lot of land (and water) to yield a small amount of fuel from plants,” reports the World Resources Institute (WRI), a nonpartisan environmental think tank.
This increased competition for land drives up food costs for consumers without cutting greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, because corn ethanol emissions are right up there with coal in terms of increasing ozone, it worsens air pollution that contributes to air quality-related deaths. Additionally, increased large-scale corn cultivation generates a massive amount of chemical runoff that is directly responsible for transforming once-thriving ocean ecosystems into “dead zones” characterized by the inability to support marine life.
And all of this in the name of propping up a “green” fuel that causes engine damage and translates into fewer miles per gallon than traditional ethanol-free gasoline!
According to WRI, “Biofuels are not a green alternative to fossil fuels.” The RFS isn’t just a boondoggle. It’s broken. RFS Broken.
Watch for more examples of things that aren’t just broken, but RFS broken throughout this year (or send us your own!)