There Are Smart Biofuels, and There Are Dumb Ones, Too

To meet mandates set out by a 2007 law, American refineries are blending in progressively larger amounts of ethanol distilled from food crops, specifically corn. On paper, that may sound great—we’re boosting domestic production of transportation fuels through agriculture, a seemingly green process—but in practice corn-based ethanol is a policy disaster. Because it competes with corn’s primary use (feeding people), it raises global food prices, starving the world’s poor. Worse, it’s contributing to greater monocultures in our heartlands, killing off honeybee populations and eroding soil quality. Maybe most damningly, corn biofuels have been shown to actually increase greenhouse gas emissions, destroying their “green” justification. No wonder so many stakeholders want to see this farce ended.

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