Boost in Corn Ethanol is Wrong Choice for Clean Air and Land Use

WASHINGTON – The Obama Administration’s proposal to increase the mandate for dirty corn ethanol in gasoline will make air pollution worse and push farmers to grow corn for fuel instead of food, EWG said.

The Administration announced today that for 2017 the Renewable Fuel Standard will require blending 14.8 billion gallons of corn ethanol with gasoline. That’s an increase of 300 million gallons over 2016, bumping up against the 15 billion-gallon limit set by the law.

Although the Renewable Fuel Standard is supposed to promote fuels that cut the emissions that cause smog and climate change, studies show that the increased use of corn ethanol actually results in more pollution. The law also encourages the illegal conversion of vulnerable prairie grasslands to grow corn.

“The Administration’s decision continues a wrong-headed policy that promotes a fuel that is bad for the environment, rather than pushing the market toward better renewable fuel options,” said EWG Research Analyst Emily Cassidy.

A recent study by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that native prairie habitats in the Midwest are being plowed up to grow more corn. The conversion of vulnerable land to grow corn is prohibited by the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“Ethanol producers have broken the law by destroying valuable grasslands to grow more corn for ethanol,” said Cassidy. “The Renewable Fuel Standard needs to be reformed to prevent further destruction of grasslands, which increases climate-warming carbon emissions.”

The recently introduced bipartisan Food and Fuel Consumer Protection Act introduced by Reps. Bill Flores (R-Texas), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.) would cap the corn ethanol mandate at about 14 billion gallons and prevent further environmental damage from the fuel.

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