Ethanol Mandate is Bad For Humans (and other living things)

Reason #2,983,712 To Not Trust The Government or Environmentalists

The EPA delivered a report on the effects on the environment when ethanol is substituted for fossil fuels.  The report is more than 4 years late, running afoul of federal law, and isn’t pretty.  For the environmental crowd.  The rest of us are laughing our butts off.

It seems that, like a lot of regulation, there are some rather terrible unintended consequences that come from using ethanol.

How about increases in Nitrous Oxide emissions which are more harmful to humans than greenhouse gas emissions?

How about killing fish?

How about erosion and de-nutrification of farmland?

Yep.  All of those and more.

In a 159-page study titled “Biofuels and the Environment: The Second Triennial Report to Congress,” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that ethanol derived from corn and soybeans is causing serious harm to the environment. Water, soil and air quality were all found to be adversely affected by biofuel mandates.

“Evidence since enactment of [the Energy Independence and Security Act] suggests an increase in acreage planted with soybeans and corn, with strong indications from observed changes in land use that some of this increase is a consequence of increased biofuel production.

How on earth did we get here?

Well, back in 2005, a GOP-led Congress, under George W. Bush, passed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Act that that requires oil refineries include a certain amount of ethanol in their fuel mix. The law was passed with the intention of aiding in climate change efforts.  The RFS Act also required the EPA to conduct studies on the effects of the mandate every 3 years.  Except this report is 4 years late.  It was supposed to be released in 2014.  It didn’t get released until June 29th of this year.

From the get-go Big Oil and Big Auto hated it.  Big Oil said that the law wouldn’t make any difference.  Big Auto said that the law would require less safe cars, and that ethanol would end up shortening the life of the average engine, leading to costly repairs.

Big Corn, on the other hand, LOVED this law.  Who wouldn’t want a federal mandate that required a product made with the raw material you supply?

The general public, like the general public does, just got on with it, putting up with the increased price of tortillas (because corn production was being diverted to ethanol) and increased cost of engine repairs.

After 13 years of this special mandate, are things better?

In short, probably not.

Air quality modeling “suggests that production and use of ethanol as fuel to displace gasoline is likely to increase such air pollutants as PM2.5, ozone, and SOx in some locations,” read a section of the report pertaining to air quality. While traditional gasoline contains more CO2, ethanol-based fuels have more nitrogen oxides (NOx), which can be more harmful to human health. NOx can exacerbate asthma by causing inflammation of the respiratory airwaves, with long-term exposure resulting in decreased lung function. 

Why do you think we no get so many air quality alert days in Houston?  It’s not CO2 causing this.  It’s the NOx from ethanol.

How about the water supply? Surely producing ethanol is cleaner that big, bad gasoline.

Apparently not.  Greater biofuel production results in more harmful algae blooms and hypoxia. While most algae is harmless to water, some forms — such as the kind produced in Lake Eerie from biofuel feedstock — has emitted toxic chemicals into the water. This harmful algae can consume the oxygen in the water, a process known as hypoxia, killing other wildlife.

So, ethanol kills fish.  What does it do the actual farmland? 

As the demand for ethanol has increased, farmers reacted by planting more acreage.  Which in turn increased the demand for irrigation. And this leads to “grassland-to-annual-crop conversion negatively impacts soil quality because it increases erosion and the loss of soil nutrients.”

Planting all those crops for ethanol ruins (or at least seriously damages) soil quality.

Great.  We are saving the planet by destroying the planet.  Good work, Government.

The Government sucks at doing stuff.

But the corn farmers are happy.


Sandra Peterson
Follow me on Twitter @janevonmises

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 13: A load of corn in a truck trailer waits to be unloaded at the Archer Daniels Midland grain storage facility in Columbus, Ohio, Monday, November 13, 2006. Corn farmers predicted this year's bumper crop in the U.S. The surprise was the surge in prices that came with it. (Photo by Gary Gardiner/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

Ken Webster Jr is a talk radio personality and producer from Houston, TX. He started his career in Chicago on the Mancow show and has since worked at dozens of radio stations all over the country. He’s currently the host of Pursuit of Happiness... Read more


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