More than 7 million acres of wildlife habitat have been lost due to the federal Renewable Fuel Standard for ethanol. (Pixabay)

Ethanol Program Fuels Unintended Consequences for Wildlife
by Eric Galatas

DENVER – U.S. farmers have plowed under more than seven million acres of wildlife habitat, mostly to grow corn needed to produce ethanol gasoline, according to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation.

David DeGennaro, an Agriculture Policy Specialist and the report’s author, said the federal energy mandate passed by Congress in 2005 has put critical ecosystems at risk.

“And in Colorado, it requires 42.5 gallons per mile driven of water to produce a gallon of ethanol,” he explained. “So it’s a huge water consumption in a part of the country that really can’t afford to be using this excess water.”

The federal Renewable Fuel Standard requires plant-based ethanol to be blended into gasoline, and farmers responded in an effort to take advantage of rising commodity prices. DeGennaro said the destruction of native prairie, wetlands and forests happened in spite of a law meant to prohibit widespread land conversion because the EPA failed to enforce the rules.

Collin O’Mara, the Federation’s president and CEO, said before the mandate about nine percent of corn went toward fuel, and today it is about 40 percent.

“Four out of every 10 bushels of corn that we grow in America are being used for fuel, not for food, not for export, but for fuel,” he said. “It’s forced folks to look for new places to grow corn, and the places that have been hit the hardest are wildlife habitat, most of which are very important to sportsmen.”

O’Mara said row-farming has taken over important wildlife habitat, impacting waterfowl, monarch butterflies, bees and other pollinators, grassland nesting birds such as the prairie chicken, and mammals such as the swift fox.

“As we’ve seen this insatiable government-created demand increase and increase, wildlife and sportsman are the two that are losing out over and over again,” he added. “This policy, while very well intentioned, has created just disastrous unintended consequences.”

The report’s recommendations call on Congress to revise the federal mandate to lower the demand for corn, and to repair some of the damage that has been done on the landscape.

Via Public News Service – CO

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  • Markus1

    This is almost a textbook case for mismanagement by government. Corn prices are very low now largely because of expansion of corn production in Brazil, Argentina, and Australia. This will make it impossible to end the gasohol fiasco because of the political clout of the corn producing states. When the gasohol law was passed it clearly produced big profits for corn producers. The big price became the norm, and now it is a necessity.
    I think the 2005 law also limited imports of ethanol for fuel. I am pretty sure that Brazilian ethanol is cheaper than US made.
    Agricultural products seem to be uniquely vulnerable to regulatory capture where our government makes laws and policies that favor producers over the national good. These government mandates become wrapped in the flag and very hard to change. I am thinking of sugar where for years we had policies that were supposed to hurt Castro but wound up raising the price of a consumer staple for everyone while shielding a small producer community.

  • dduck

    Sad, I thought ethanol was killed, as it should be.

    • dduck

      But the current government was wrong on that and the EPA was wrong on fracking. Hope these areas improve under Trump . 🙂