Published October 4, 2011
Washington, D.C. — A new report by the National Academy of Sciences has found that corn ethanol production increases greenhouse gas emissions and damages soil, air, water and wildlife habitat. As well it says advanced biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol are unlikely to prove practical substitutes for either corn ethanol or fossil fuels.
“This report highlights the severe damage to the environment from corn-based ethanol,” said Sheila Karpf, EWG’s legislative and policy analyst. “It underscores just how misguided U.S. biofuels policy has become. It catalogs the environmentally damaging aspects of corn-based ethanol and also casts serious doubt on the future viability of so-called ‘advanced’ biofuels made from other sources.”
During the Congressional debate over the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, the Environmental Working Group argued for provisions to roll back biofuels mandates of production of these renewable fuels that were found to be harmful to the environment. But the Renewable Fuel Standard finally enacted did not include such language.
The report from the National Research Council, a branch of the National Academies of Sciences, concludes that achieving the renewable fuel standard mandate is likely to increase federal spending while further damaging the economy and environment, particularly soil and water.
The report, requested by Congress, concludes that ethanol increases greenhouse gas emissions, pollutes water and uses more water in its production than gasoline. It says that cellulosic ethanol is very unlikely to meet its Renewable Fuel Standard mandates by 2022. Indirect land use changes due to biofuels production will zero out any potential benefits of lower greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels and may actually increase them in both the short- and long-term.
To date taxpayers have spent $23 billion between 2005 and 2010, or $6 billion a year, subsidizing corn-based ethanol without significantly reducing reduction in America’s use of fossil fuels. The report is yet another reminder that significant reforms to the renewable fuel standard are critical, including the addition of strict and enforceable environmental safeguards.
“The Renewable Fuel Standard has always been about corn, corn and more corn,” Karpf said. “The fact is, it won’t bring energy independence, protect our air or combat global warming. As our country faces record national debt, it is time to put American taxpayers and our soil and water ahead of entrenched special interests.”
American farmers have diverted 40 percent of corn production from food and feed to fuel. Land once used for soybean production has been converted to corn to meet the demand for biofuels set out in the RFS. The new report provides more evidence that corn ethanol production continues to raise food prices around the world and harms the planet by releasing more greenhouse gases than regular gasoline.
Link to report:
**Hear more from EWG’s Sheila Karpf on the biofuels mandate and the ethanol lobby’s dwindling support in Congress at 11am (EST) today on The Diane Rehm Show.