The Real Cost of the U.S. Ethanol Policy

us-ethanoll-policies-impactA new The Associated Press (AP) probe reveals that the United Sates ethanol mandate is causing significant harm to the environment without producing meaningful, palpable benefits.

The Obama administration began implementing the mandate, which requires that a certain level of biofuel be included in the gasoline supply, according to RT.com. The damage the program has caused, according to the AP, appears to be much greater than any of the anticipated benefits, which have not yet been seen.

Some five million acres of land set aside for conservation are being used to harvest more corn for ethanol use, according to the probe’s findings, RT.com reported. It seems that farmers have plowed into previously unused farming land, which has released enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, so much that it would take native plants tens of years to reduce the toxins naturally.

Also, billions of pounds of fertilizer was used on these land areas and some has seeped into drinking water and rivers, reaching the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone, which can no longer support life. “This is an ecological disaster,” Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) told the AP. The EWG, which was once allied with the White House, is opposed to the administration’s policies on ethanol.

The efficacy of ethanol as a carbon dioxide emissions reducer has been greatly exaggerated, as well, the AP investigation found, which means that ethanol may never be sufficiently improved to counteract the effects of global warming, according to RT.com. Also at issue, the cost of corn has more than doubled in just three years.

The ethanol mandate was signed into law by President George W. Bush prior to the conclusion of his second term. The Obama administration was left with implementing the mandate. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was skeptical about the mandate over planting and harvesting so much corn, which would release enough carbon dioxide to support doubt about any ethanol benefits. “I don’t remember anybody having great passion for this,” Bob Sussman, who worked on Obama’s transition team and recently retired as EPA’s senior policy counsel, told the AP. “I don’t have a lot of personal enthusiasm for the program.”

Industry denies that the ethanol mandate has caused conservation land loss and says data is misleading. “There’s probably more truth in this week’s National Enquirer than there is in this story,” said the Renewable Fuels Association’s Geoff Cooper on a press call, according to the National Journal. Oil companies and so-called “green” groups have expressed dissatisfaction with the ethanol mandate. Environmentalists argue that the plant-based fuel is no greener than fossil fuels and is causing harm to the environment, according to Politico.com.

On the pro-ethanol side: The renewable fuels industry, corn growers, and a number of Midwestern lawmakers. The oil, restaurant, and livestock and poultry industries, as well as environmentalists, all seek an end to the mandate, according to Politico.com.

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