Corn Ethanol Deadlier Than VW Emissions Scam

Corn Ethanol Deadlier Than VW Emissions Scam


Volkswagen could be fined up to $90 billion for violating the federal Clean Air Act by jerry-rigging diesel engines to burn cleaner on emissions tests. The added air pollution will cause up to 60 premature deaths of Americans a year. But there's a deadlier source of dirty air than VW diesels – one that's actually touted as reducing air pollution: corn ethanol.

You'll recall that last September, Volkswagen was caught manipulating the computer program controlling emissions from about 600,000 diesel cars sold in the U.S. The software scam made it seem that the cars met federal air quality standards, but on the road the emissions were 40 times higher.

An MIT-led study found that the additional air pollution from VW diesels will lead to 60 people dying 10 to 20 years prematurely. Nitrogen oxide pollution from auto exhaust causes respiratory and heart disease, and the relationship between levels of NOx and early death is well established.

But as Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, points out on Bloomberg View, the government's mandate to blend corn ethanol into gasoline also increases emissions of NOx and other hazardous pollutants. A 2010 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that the added emissions from the corn ethanol mandate “are anticipated to lead to up to 245 cases of adult premature mortality.”

That’s four times as many deaths as caused by VW diesels. But while VW's deceit was met with outrage and investigations, the federal Renewable Fuel Standard continues to require blending more and more ethanol into billions of gallons of gasoline a year.

A 2009 study led by the University of Minnesota found that corn ethanol could increase Americans’ health care costs by about $100 million a year. In 2014 the same researchers estimated that when you include health care costs, corn ethanol adds 50 cents a gallon to the price of gasoline.

Corn ethanol is a dirty fuel that is bad for the climate, pollutes our drinking water, and the very air we breathe. It’s time to get outraged, and demand that we stop mandating the use of this dirty fuel.