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Report Finds Ethanol Mandate Creates Carbon Pollution

Millions of acres of uncultivated habitat have been converted to cropland to grow corn and other products used to produce ethanol. Photo: Westend61/GettyImages

by Mark Richardson

AMARILLO, Texas –new report examines how the expansion of cropland in Texas and other states under the federal ethanol mandate has contributed to climate-change pollution. The mandate originally was enacted to cut energy imports, reduce pollution and lower fuel costs.

But Collin O’Mara, president, and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, says in addition to generating pollution, the measure has caused the loss of millions of acres of uncultivated land.

“In the years following enactment of the mandate in 2007, more than 7 million acres of wildlife habitat were plowed under,” he says. “This is grasslands and wetlands and other habitat that threatens monarch butterflies, bees, ducks and other wildlife.”

The report, produced by the University of Wisconsin, ranks Texas second in the nation for its release of more than 2.7 million metric tons of carbon. Across the country, the ethanol mandate has caused the release of 115 million metric tons of carbon, the pollution equivalent of putting 20 million more cars on the road each year.

Seth Spawn, the lead author of the report, says cropland expansion, no matter the cause, is having profound impacts on the land and the carbon that it holds.

“For so long, we’ve heard about the importance of tropical rain forests as an important carbon reserve, this research shows now is the time to also recognize the importance of the less charismatic carbon reserves here at home,” he explains.

O’Mara says the ethanol mandate has not lived up to its original goals.

“These findings should serve as a wake-up call to all elected officials and EPA administrator Pruitt that it’s time to that we have to act with purpose and urgency to fix the ethanol mandate and to confront climate change to protect our health, our environment, our economy and wildlife,” O’Mara adds. “Delay is only going to make the problem worse.”

He says after initially announcing plans to scale back the ethanol mandate, the EPA recently did an about-face and set the 2018 standard at or above current levels.

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