EPA Finally Spills the Beans on True Cost of Obama's Biofuel Mandate


Few federal boondoggles are quite as untouchable as ethanol. Since the oil crises of the 1970s, getting fuel from corn and other similar sources has been consistently pushed by politicians, even though it’s expensive and wasteful.

That ratcheted up during the Obama years, when alternative fuel became one of the hot items on the progressive agenda.

So, how has that worked out? Rather predictably, if you’re familiar with the effects of biofuels on the environment already or even have a rough idea how it’s produced. (Hint: It’s not the “miracle fuel” liberals like to pretend it is.)

In late June, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a report called “Biofuels and the Environment: The Second Triennial Report to Congress.” It immediately displaced “Sharp Objects” and “Crazy Rich Asians” from the top of the bestseller lists; a cinematic adaptation with Ryan Gosling and Amy Adams is soon to begin production. Yet, somehow, we missed it.

The 159-page report is just the sizzling summer read you’ve no doubt been looking for. It’s the sequel to a blockbuster 2011 report which found that biofuel was harming the environment.

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Warning! Spoilers ahead!

As it turns out, that hasn’t changed at all in 2018.

The 2011 report determined three things in regards to biofuels: “Current environmental impacts from increased biofuels production and use … are negative but limited in magnitude,” “(p)ublished scientific literature suggests a potential for both positive and negative environmental effects in the future” and that “goals for biofuels production can be achieved with minimal environmental impacts if existing conservation and best management practices are widely employed, concurrent with advances in technologies that facilitate the use of second-generation feedstocks.”

There hasn’t really been any significant movement in any of those things in seven years.

Do you think we should stop biofuel subsidies?

“Reports and data published since the 2011 Report have increased the confidence in the conclusions of that report,” the new report reads.

“Research also generally confirms the expected environmental and resource conservation impacts of increased biofuel production and use, given the increased production of biofuels from corn grain and soybeans observed since the 2011 Report was published. There has been an increase in U.S. acreage planted with soybeans and a modest increase in U.S. acreage planted with corn … with strong indications that some of this increase is a consequence of increased biofuel production.

“There has not been a significant increase in cellulosic feedstocks (e.g., corn stover, perennial grasses, and woody biomass) since the 2011 Report was published,” the report adds.

“As a result, the environmental impacts continue to be primarily those associated with increased production of corn and soybeans, the associated conversion to fuels, and end use.”

This means that biofuel mandates are driving the production of more corn, soybeans and the like specifically for the production of biofuel. This isn’t good for the environment in a number of ways.

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For instance, water quality has been reduced by biofuel; harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie and other locations possibly caused by increased phosphorous from biofuel production have emitted toxic chemicals into the water and reduced oxygen levels. Then there’s soil degradation and increased water use from irrigation.

So, does biofuel reduce emissions, at least over fossil fuels? Well, uh, nope.

Basically, as the 2011 report concluded, ethanol production and use might actually worsen air pollution as well as the “greenhouse gases” global warmists are so afraid of.

The report states over and over again that these effects can be mitigated. However, it doesn’t give any concrete hope that these suggestions are being implemented. It reaches the same conclusion that a report seven years ago did. It doesn’t particularly give any hope that they’re going to be put into place — and, even if they are, there’s still a matter of cost.

Will any of these suggestions be put into place so that biofuel doesn’t harm the environment more than its fossil fuel counterparts? Will it be cheap enough for the average consumer to use? Will the left stop using biofuel as a pie-in-the-sky promise to voters the same way politicians (most notably Barack Obama) have used it for years?

Look for answers to all these questions in “Biofuels and the Environment: The Third Triennial Report to Congress: This Time, It’s For Keeps™,” coming soon to a bicameral legislature near you. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers here, but the answer is probably a solid no to all three of those questions.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture