The Bad Buzz around Biofuels

September 1, 2016

You may have heard some buzz around the unintended consequences of the Renewable Fuel Standard, but this latest news really stings.  

A new study from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) shows that the “continual increase in biofuel crops” — plantings of corn and soy — has led to America’s Northern Great Plains “rapidly changing to a landscape that is less conducive to commercial beekeeping.”

This is a huge problem, as bee colonies that spend the summer in the Dakotas go on to “provide pollination services for crops such as almonds, melons, apples and cherries elsewhere in the U.S.”

The Northern Great Plains have traditionally provided “habitat for honey bees in a part of the country that supports more than 40 percent of the U.S. colony stock.” The radical “conversion of pasture, conservation grasslands and bee-friendly cultivated crops to biofuel crops likely impact both managed and wild pollinators.”

Our recent analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that since 2005, when the RFS was first passed by Congress, U.S. plantings of corn and soy have skyrocketed — with 50 percent more acreage committed to these biofuel crops in the Dakotas alone. This has a clear impact on critical ecosystems.

The EPA may think the harms caused by the RFS is none of its beeswax, but environmental groups, consumers and academics see it differently. Bumbling ethanol mandates have already proven to be a disaster for our economy, engines and environment. With even more buzz around the policy’s harm to our wildlife, the need for Congress to reform the RFS is clearer than ever.