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The US biofuel mandate is good for farmers but it harms the environment | Opinion

The US biofuel mandate is good for farmers but it harms the environment | Opinion

If you have pumped gas at a U.S. station in the past decade, biofuel has been added to your tank. The federal Renewable Fuel StandardThe RFS is a requirement that almost all gasoline sold in the United States must contain 10% ethanol, a fuel made from plant materials, mainly corn.

Biofuel lobbyists are urging to take action due to the recent increase in pump prices This target should be increased to 15% or more. Some policymakers call for reforms at the same time. A bill has been introduced by a bipartisan group, which would allow for the removal of the senate from being divided. Eliminate corn ethanol from the mandate.

In response to the Sept. 11 2001 attacks, the RFS was established. It promised to improve energy security, reduce carbon dioxide emission, and increase income in rural America. Although the program has seen some success in the agricultural industry, it has failed to deliver on its other promises. Some scientists even found that the program was not working as promised. Include meAccording to the study, biofuel use has increased over CO2 emissions.

Current law sets a goal of producing and using 36 million gallons worth of biofuels each year by 2022. This figure is part of the approximately 200 billion gallons that motor vehicles in the United States burn each year. Drivers used a total of 3.4 billion gallons of biofuels in 2019. Only 20 billion gallonsRenewable fuels are mainly soybean biodiesel and corn ethanol. The pandemic caused a decline in energy consumption and a decrease in usage in 2020. The 2021 tally is still not complete but the program is still far from the 36 billion-gallon goal. I believe it is now the right time to end the RFS or to greatly reduce its impact.

 

Many farmers enjoy higher profits

The RFS’s greatest success is in increasing the income of corn and soybean farmers, and other agricultural businesses. It has also helped to build a substantial domestic biofuel industry.

The Renewable Fuels AssociationThe RFS is estimated to have been worth approximately $2.5 trillion according to the trade group for biofuels. More than 300,000 new jobs were createdIn recent years. Two-thirds are located in the top ethanol-producing States: Iowa and Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana. Most politicians with national ambitions consider Iowa a prudent place to be, given its key role in the presidential primaries. embrace biofuels.

The RFS reduces the use of some petroleum and shifts some income away from oil to agribusiness. However, biofuels’ contribution to U.S. energy security is minimal compared to the gains from Hydraulic fracturing allows for increased domestic oil productionThis, of course, can cause severe environmental damage. Ethanol in fuel can cause severe environmental damage. Other risksAll inclusive Small engines can be damagedAnd Emissions from fuel fumes are higher.

Consumers have enjoyed a greater appreciation for biofuel use. Variable but not significant effectPump prices. The world oil market lacks leverage for renewable fuel policies. Biofuel mandates at the penny level are not equal to the volatility of oils dollar-scale.

Biofuels do not have carbon-neutral properties

Biofuels are believed to be good for the planet because they are carbon neutral. This implies that the CO2 produced when they burn is offset by the carbon that feedstocks such as corn and soybeans absorb. This assumption is embedded in computer models that are used to evaluate fuels.

This modeling showed that there were modest CO2 emissions prior to the passage and adoption of the RFS. Corn ethanolAnd soybean biodiesel. It promised greater benefits Cellulosic ethanolA more advanced form of biofuel would be made from non-food sources such as crop residues or energy crops like switchgrass and willow.

However, research has shown the opposite. Biofuels can’t be carbon-neutral.. This mistake can be corrected by analyzing real-world changes of cropland carbon uptake to show that biofuels have been a success. Increased CO2 emissions.

One major factor is that biofuels increase land-use change. To compensate, additional farmland will be needed as harvests are diverted from livestock and humans to produce fuel. That is what it means Forests are being cutAnd The prairies are plowed To create new areas for crop production, which can trigger large CO2 emissions.

In addition to being harmful to the environment, expanding farmland for biofuel production can also be detrimental to the environment. Studies have shown that it has had negative effects on the environment. Globally, there has been a decrease in the diversity and abundance of animals and plants.. It has increased other adverse impacts of industrial agricultural in the U.S. Water pollution and nutrient-runoff.

Failure of cellulosic alcohol

The belief that a new generation of cellulosicethanol would bring greater economic, environmental, and energy benefits was a key reason Congress expanded the biofuel mandate. Biofuel supporters claimed that cellulosic fuels are more sustainable than conventional fossil fuels. Close to commercially viable.

Almost 15 years later, despite the mandate and billions in federal support, Cellulosic ethanol has failed. Recently, the total production of liquid cellulosic fuels hovered around 10,000,000 gallons per annumThis is only a fraction of the 16 Billion Gallons that the RFS requires to be produced by 2022. Proponents of the RFS claim that technical challenges are more difficult than they claimed.

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Environmentally, I see cellulosic failures as a relief. If the technology is successful, I believe it will likely lead to a more aggressive global expansion. industrial agricultureLarge-scale farms that grow only one or two crops rely on highly automated methods with high levels of pesticide and chemical fertilizer usage. This risk is still there because petroleum refiners continue to invest in them. bio-based diesel productionProducers and processors modify corn-ethanol facilities produce biojet fuel.

Ripple effects on Indigenous peoples and lands

Biofuels today are made mainly from crops such as corn and soybeans. These crops can also be used for animal feed and food. The global markets for major commodity crop commodities are closely linked, which means that biofuel production is driven by an increase in demand.

This price pressure amplifies deforestationAnd land-grabbingIn locations from BrazilTo Thailand. The Renewable Fuel Standard aggravates this situation. displacement of Indigenous communities, Destruction of peatlandsSimilar harms are occurring along agricultural frontiers in the world, mainly in developing nations.

Researchers have discovered that biofuel production can have adverse effects on land use, crop prices, and climate. Much smaller than previously thought. Nevertheless, Uncertainties surrounding land-use changeThe net effects of CO2 emissions have enormous net effects. Complex modeling of biofuel-related commodity market and land use is difficult to verify as it extrapolates global effects into the future.

Rather than biofuels, a much better way to address transportation-related CO2 emissions is through improving efficiency, particularly Increasing gasoline vehicle fuel efficiencyWhile electric cars continue to improve.

A stool with two legs that are weak

What can we draw from 16 years of RFS? Two of its three policy legs, as I see them, are now very wobbly. Its energy security rationale and climate rationale are both largely ineffective.

However, important agricultural interests support the program strongly and may be able continue to support it indefinitely. As some commentators have pointed out, the biofuel mandate is now another mandate. Agribusiness entitlement. In order to repeal the RFS, taxpayers would likely have to pay a lot. It would be a worthwhile cost for the good of the planet.

This article has been republished from The ConversationUnder a Creative Commons License Read the Original article.

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