In 2007, Congress passed a law requiring oil companies to blend corn ethanol into the gasoline supply. The bill, which had bipartisan support, was informed by the idea that homegrown corn would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also weaning the country off foreign sources of oil. Sounds reasonable enough. But the environmental consequences of the "ethanol mandate" have been far from all positive, according to a damning AP report released this week:
As a way to reduce global warming, they knew corn ethanol was a dubious proposition. Corn demands fertilizer, which is made using natural gas. What's worse, ethanol factories typically burn coal or gas, both of which release carbon dioxide.
And once you factor in land conversion — and the erosion, pollution and greenhouse gases that come with it — ethanol looks even worse. That's especially the case considering that much of the land converted to corn fields was previously virgin prairie and conservation land.
Ethanol producers, corn growers, and lobbyists are already calling the article a "smear" and have launched what the AP calls an “unusual campaign” to have the story altered. The writers, however, insist they have the government data, interviews and scientific research to back up their claims that ethanol really isn't that green after all.
In any case, the article underscores a basic fact: all sources of energy, "clean" or not, come with environmental costs. Required reading, check it out here.