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EWG Comments on Ethanol Regulations

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For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to reduce the amount of corn ethanol blended into gasoline is a small step in the right direction, EWG said in comments submitted to the agency today.

Under the federal program known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, EPA proposed late last year to reduce the amount of ethanol blended into the nation’s gasoline supply in 2014, but EWG argues that even greater cuts are needed to foster development of second-generation biofuels that are better for the environment and do not compete with food needs.

 EPA’s proposal seeks to address the so-called “blend wall” – the limit on how much ethanol the gasoline supply can absorb due to infrastructure and market constraints. That limit is approximately 10 percent of the nation’s gasoline consumption – about 13 billion gallons a year. In its current form, the RFS mandates blending of a higher amount, which prompted EPA to propose a revised standard. Ethanol is predominantly made from cornstarch.

“EPA recognizes that corn ethanol has saturated the marketplace, and its proposed reduction to the total renewable fuels mandate appropriately addresses the constraints posed by the blend wall,” wrote EWG. Because of the problems corn ethanol causes, however, this reduction is insufficient, EWG says.

EWG’s comments focus mainly on the environmental harms of corn ethanol detailed in testimony delivered before Congress by Scott Faber, EWG’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. These include the rapid conversion of wetlands and grasslands into farmland in order to grow corn and the resulting damage to water and air quality identified by the National Academy of Sciences. Despite those consequences, much of corn ethanol production is exempt from the RFS’s minimum requirement for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“So as long as the playing field remains unequal, the incentive to develop the innovative fuels of the future will be limited,” wrote EWG.

EWG’s full comments are available here.

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