An extensive investigation by the Associated Press (AP) confirms what many critics of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program have been saying for years — the ethanol mandate does more environmental harm than good.
The AP article begins with an overview of key findings:
But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.
As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.
Five million acres of land set aside for conservation – more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined – have vanished on Mr. Obama’s watch.
Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.
Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can’t survive.
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All energy comes at a cost. The environmental consequences of drilling for oil and natural gas are well documented and severe. But in the president’s push to reduce greenhouse gases and curtail global warming, his administration has allowed so-called green energy to do not-so-green things.
The ethanol lobby is calling on AP to retract the investigation, describing it as “lazy journalism” at best and an agenda-driven hit piece at worst. I won’t presume to judge motives but there is nothing lazy about the AP investigation. The article is based on “months of work and review of documents, and interviews of experts and people on all sides of the public policy debate about this energy resource,” stated AP vice president and senior managing editor Mike Oreskes.
You can read AP’s response to the industry’s allegations here.