RFS Roundup: The Environmental Devastation of the Ethanol Mandate

May 15, 2015

Every week now it seems, new scientific evidence floods in, verifying what most environmentalists already know: biofuel mandates, like the Renewable Fuel Standard put into law in the hopes that replacing gasoline with corn-derived fuel would benefit the environment, are actually causing widespread environmental harm. Yet, despite this mountain of inrefutable scientific research, this irresponsible, environmentally harmful and—by the EPA’s own admission—‘unrealistic’ mandate remains law, thanks to the powerful and deeply entrenched ethanol lobby.

The following scientific studies, all released within just the last two months, demonstrate a few of the unintended consequences of biofuels mandates like the ethanol mandate. Here is the rundown:

University of Wisconsin-Madison News – Plowing prairies for grains: Biofuel crops replace grasslands nationwide

In short: University of Wisconsin-Madison found that seven million acres of grassland were converted to plant corn crops for ethanol production between 2008 and 2012, which “mimics the extreme land-use change that led up to the Dust Bowl in the 1930s,” the study’s author, Tyler Lark, said. “Most new cropland was planted to corn that may ultimately fill our gas tanks…we could be, in a sense, plowing up prairies with each mile we drive.”

The Washington Post – Wasting the Savanna

In short: A new Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs paper has revealed that, in an effort to grow crops to meet fuel mandates, farmers are converting vast amounts of Africa’s ecologically sensitive and biologically important savannas into factory farms to produce biofuels. African savannas are home to an immense diversity of animals and converting just half of Africa’s savannas “would increase the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere for more than 50 years.”

NOAA – ­Quantifying the emissions from a large ethanol refinery

In short: A new study from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that “ethanol emissions [from a major U.S. ‪‎ethanol refinery] are 30 times higher than government estimates,” and these emissions can contribute to the formation of ground level ozone, a pollutant that can negatively affect human health—a frightening finding for anyone who lives near one of the 229 ethanol production facilities in the United States. 

Damning findings all around, but will the Obama administration heed the science and listen to calls from members of his own political party—Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT) and Jim Costa (D-CA)—who are calling for reform? Environmentalists everywhere ought to hope the answer is yes. Click here to take action.