Report: Ethanol Production Bringing Steep Environmental Costs

An investigation examines the environmental effects of growing more corn for ethanol

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Politicians touted ethanol as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels for years, but a new investigation by the Associated Press finds that the rush to produce more biofuels has caused its own environmental damage.

After years of subsidies to grow more corn needed to produce the ethanol, the AP finds:

“The ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today. As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies.”

During the Obama administration, more than five million acres of land set aside for conservation have been used to grow more corn, according to the report — more land than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined.

The ethanol industry pushed back hard against the report, calling it a “hatchet job” and “rife with errors:”

“We find it to be just flabbergasting. There is probably more truth in this week’s National Enquirer than AP’s story,” said Geoff Cooper, vice president of research and analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association in a press call with reporters Monday criticizing the investigation.

Support for the ethanol industry is seen as inextricably linked to presidential politics. The first presidential nominating contest takes place in Iowa, one of the country’s largest producers of corn, and few candidates in the last few presidential races have been willing to consider reducing ethanol subsidies.