Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Ethanol Is Destroying the Environment

How could it have gone this wrong? We all believe in renewable energy sources. We detest fossil fuels. We know that renewables, like wind and solar and vegetation are clean and nice, good for Mother Nature and good for the environment. If vegetables are good for you, why would they not be good for your car?

Thus reasoned environmental activists when they lobbied for laws mandating certain levels of ethanol in gasoline. Why burn fossil fuels when you could burn corn and soybeans. Besides, Iowa liked ethanol. Iowa held the first presidential primary. Which political candidate in his right mind would dare disparage the deeply held political beliefs of Iowa corn farmers… etc.

Now, the Daily Caller reports that the ethanol mandate is destroying the environment. Who could have imagined such a thing. No one, that is. The nightly news and the cable talk shows have scrupulously avoided reporting on the new EPA study on ethanol.

Here is the Daily Caller summary:

An extensive report from the Environmental Protection Agency found that including ethanol into the U.S. gas supply is wreaking havoc on the atmosphere and soil.

In a study titled “Biofuels and the Environment: The Second Triennial Report to Congress,” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that ethanol derived from corn and soybeans is causing serious harm to the environment. Water, soil and air quality were all found to be adversely affected by biofuel mandates.

“Evidence since enactment of [the Energy Independence and Security Act] suggests an increase in acreage planted with soybeans and corn, with strong indications from observed changes in land use that some of this increase is a consequence of increased biofuel production,” read a portion of the 159-page report. Other findings from the study show: More ethanol from corn has resulted in greater nitrogen oxide emissions, greater demand for biofuel feedstock has contributed to harmful algae blooms, and increased irrigation has placed greater stress on water sources.

Essentially, the study found that biofuel mandates are boosting production of corn and soybeans. Large-scale production of these crops is causing environmental degradation. The EPA also found that — at least in some instances — using ethanol in lieu of gasoline resulted in worse air emissions.

The mandate in reference concerns the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a 2005 law that requires oil refineries include a certain amount of ethanol in their fuel mix. The law was passed with the intention of aiding in climate change efforts. The RFS has proven to be controversial, with oil producers deriding the mandate as costly and unneeded. Corn growers, however, support the mandate as it drives demand for the product. (RELATED: New EPA Chief Will Continue Scott Pruitt’s War With The Corn Lobby)

Will this change anything? Not a chance.


whitney said...

Is it terrible that I think this is funny?

Anonymous said...

The most dangerous person to anything is an advocate. Most are so single minded about their area that they fail to see the negative, which in many cases are far more prevalent than the positive, ramifications of that short term thinking.
The sad part is that we have known about the real damage that ethanol can do. https://auto.howstuffworks.com/fuel-efficiency/alternative-fuels/ethanol-damage-engine.htm In some cases there are fueling outlets where one can buy gasoline sans ethanol which will protect many small engines. Ethanol is dangerous to engines, the environment and to the food supply for both animals and people living at the margins throughout the world.

trigger warning said...

Whitney: Funny like a Three Stooges pratfall. Ya gotta laugh at the idiocy (related: just a few years ago, greenloons were insisting the Colorado River dams be destroyed and the reservoirs drained to restore the "natural flow"; now they want to use "excess" renewable energy to pump water back upriver into Lake Mead so CA will have a baseload "battery" when the wind ain't blowing).

But not really very funny at all when the costs are counted.

The truth is, its even worse than the report claims. Ethanol mandates and the resultant boost to corn prices are wrecking the very successful Conservation Reserve Program (i.e., America's "Soil Bank") as marginal grasslands, windbreaks, wetlands, and critical wildlife habitat are being converted back into newly-profitable low-yield cornfields. Not to mention sucking the Ogalalla Aquifer dry at a rate of over 59 billion gallons of water per year. Much to the delight of Archer-Daniels-Midland, the ag conglomerate and uber-lobbyist, I might add. It got so bad at one point that Mexico had food riots over rising masa prices as a result of what the NYT (2007) called the "tortilla tax".

Even the Pharaohs observed the ancient dictum, "don't burn the crops, stupid". But Progressives must Progress.

Sam L. said...

Progressive: When I hear or see this word, I think of cancer.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

burning food has never made sense to me.

Dan Patterson said...

The Law of Unintended Consequences?

DrTorch said...

They are overlooking even more critical factors.

First and foremost, EtOH leads to increased corrosion rates. Damaged engines, fuel systems and pipelines cost far more to the environment than EtOH will ever save, even w/ the most favorable analysis for using it. This cost is in energy (including fossil fuels), increased pollution, damage to the environment for replacing pipelines, and time.