Wild bee populations have been struggling of late, and in America’s bread basket these important pollinators have seen their numbers shrink dramatically. A new study suggests that the culprit for the decline may be the crops we’re growing, and it puts the blame on the dramatic increase in corn cultivation in the wake of recent federal mandates to blend corn ethanol into gasoline. The BBC reports:
[The study’s] results show that numbers of wild bees likely declined by 23% between 2008 and 2013 in key agricultural regions in California, the Midwest, in Great Plains states and in the Mississippi river valley.
The study also showed that 39% of US croplands that depend on pollinators are suffering a significant mismatch between the demand for pollination and the supply of bees. […]
The most important reason for the decline in numbers according to the authors is the increased demand for biofuels, which has seen more land turned over to growing grains. US law requires that all gasoline sold contains at least 10% ethanol, mostly made from corn.
So, to recap: America’s biofuel mandates don’t lower emissions, they raise global food prices and starve the world’s poor, they cost drivers billions at the pump every year, and they decimate wild bee populations.
It’s rare that a policy comes along that offers so little to so many distinct groups of shareholders. In that respect, perhaps there is something impressive about the Renewable Fuel Standard: It’s found that elusive policy sour spot. The sooner these quotas are rolled back, the better.