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Unintended Consequences: US Ethanol Revolution Causes 'Ecological Disaster'

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page.

A new investigation has revealed that the United States' ethanol mandate is severely harming the environment without producing enough tangible benefits.

Since the Obama administration began implementing the ethanol mandate - requiring a certain level of the biofuel to be added to the gasoline supply - the Associated Press found that the damage done by the program has dwarfed any suspected benefits, many of which failed to materialize in the first place.

Since President Obama took office, roughly five million acres of land set aside for conservation have been lost in the drive to harvest more corn for ethanol, the investigation found. Farmers have plowed into land previously unused for farming, releasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the air that would take native plants decades to reduce naturally.

Billons of pounds of fertilizer were also used on land, some of which has leaked into drinking water, rivers, and has expanded the Gulf of Mexico's dead zone, which can no longer support life.

"This is an ecological disaster," said Craig Cox with the Environmental Working Group to the AP. Cox's group, once a White House ally, now opposes the administration's ethanol policies.

The effectiveness of ethanol as a reducer of carbon dioxide emissions has also been greatly exaggerated, according to the investigation, making it unknown whether or not ethanol could ever be improved enough to help combat the effects of global warming. On top of this, the price of corn has more than doubled since 2010.

As a result, the ethanol industry has come under fire from a surprising coalition of oil companies who oppose the mandate and green groups who consider corn-based ethanol to be a net harm to the environment.    
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