Food to Fuel is Folly Part 2

By Michael Marsh, CEO

Aug. 30, 2013 - - Ethanol makers and their advocates at the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) have done one thing really well. They have done a great job bamboozling lawmakers and some members of the public to believe that ethanol blended into our gasoline is good for the environment.

Sadly, the facts are to the contrary. The consequences to the environment of the Renewable Fuel Standard are devastating and, according to independent research (not funded by the RFA) are likely to boost greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for decades to come.

Today, over 40% of the US corn crop is being siphoned off to make ethanol. Corn acreage to feed this government mandated demand has exploded, not just here in the United States but in other parts of the world as well. The demand for corn to be fed to livestock has not diminished, so the demand for corn to be fed to the ethanol distilleries to satisfy the mandate has required millions of additional acres converted to corn production.

In an article published in the February 29, 2008, edition of Science magazine, Fargione, et al, conclude that, “Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas or grasslands to produce crop-based biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia and the United States creates a “biofuel carbon debt” by releasing 17 to 420 times more CO2 than the annual GHG reductions that these biofuels would provide by displacing fossil fuels.” The researchers go on to state that, “Ethanol from corn produced on newly converted U.S. central grasslands results in a biofuel carbon debt repayment time of ~ 93 years.” Astounding!

Similarly, a separate group of independent researchers writing in the same publication of Science, Searchinger, et al, using different methodology concluded that, “By using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land-use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years.” You see, there are consequences to releasing long sequestered carbon by deforestation and plowing up marginal lands to plant corn.

If you eat or if you use some sort of motorized mode of transportation or if you care about the environment, the Renewable Fuel Standard is contrary to those interests and must go the way of the dinosaur.