WASHINGTON, Sept 8 (Reuters) – In 2007, the U.S. Congress mandated the blending of biofuels such as corn-based ethanol into gasoline. One of the top goals: reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But today, the nation’s ethanol plants produce more than double the climate-damaging pollution, per gallon of fuel production capacity, than the nation’s oil refineries, according to a Reuters analysis of federal data.
The average ethanol plant chuffed out 1,187 metric tons of carbon emissions per million gallons of fuel capacity in 2020, the latest year data is available. The average oil refinery, by contrast, produced 533 metric tons of carbon.
Not only does the article note the treatment disparity between the industries, it goes into historical detail about how it evolved into today’s policy.
The ethanol plants’ high emissions result in part from a history of industry-friendly federal regulation that has allowed almost all processors to sidestep the key environmental requirement of the 2007 law, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), according to academics who have studied ethanol pollution and regulatory documents examined by Reuters. The rule requires individual ethanol processors to demonstrate that their fuels result in lower carbon emissions than gasoline.
But the agency has exempted more than 95% of U.S. ethanol plants from the requirement through a grandfathering provision that excused plants built or under construction before the legislation passed. Today, these plants produce more than 80% of the nation’s ethanol, according to the EPA.
When reporters queried the EPA about this, they spouted the hostage script.
In response to Reuters inquiries, the EPA said it has followed the intent of Congress in implementing the biofuels law, including the regulatory exemptions. The agency acknowledged the higher production emissions of ethanol, compared to gasoline, but asserted that ethanol is cleaner overall.
The agency also touted ethanol’s benefits on rural economies and national security. “Renewable fuels help diversify our nation’s energy supply, improving energy independence and security,” the agency said, adding that biofuels provide “good paying jobs and income to farming communities.”