Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Celebrating 10 Years of the Ethanol Mandate


Ten years ago today, President George W. Bush signed into law the ethanol mandate called the Renewable Fuel Standard. Intended to reduce reliance on foreign oil and the emission of climate pollution while spurring production of new types of home-grown fuel, the policy has left a decade’s worth of failure and unintended destruction in its wake.

Lots of people dislike the mandate to blend ethanol and other biofuels into gasoline, for lots of different reasons. In honor of its 10th birthday, I am going to mention my top 10.


 1. More Carbon in the Air – Not Less

The law establishing the mandate sets specific requirements for biofuels to reduce carbon and other climate pollution below the levels of the gasoline they replace. Yet our reliance so far on relatively dirty corn ethanol and soy biodiesel rather than cleaner alternatives means we aren’t getting the promised benefits. The National Research Council projected that using current technology to produce these fuels would actually release more pollution than gasoline through this year. What’s worse, a recent study determined that large-scale land conversion into crop production following the law’s implementation led to the release of as much carbon into the air as an additional 20 million cars on the road each year from 2008 to 2012. Instead of helping combat climate change, the law has made it worse.


2. Less Wildlife Habitat

About that conversion of land to crop production… Researchers from the University of Wisconsin published a study showing that 7.3 million acres of land had been plowed under – an area larger than the state of Massachusetts, and much of it for the very first time. These lands had previously housed a wide range of wildlife species such as ducks and other waterfowl; bobolinks and burrowing owls; bumble bees and monarch butterflies; and swift foxes, prairie dogs, and pronghorn antelope. Now they produce mostly corn and soybeans.

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