See No Evil
EPA Watchdog Calls Out Biofuel Boondoggle

The EPA isn’t reviewing the environmental impact of our country’s biofuels quota policy, according to a report from the agency’s Inspector General. Reuters reports:

EPA’s Inspector General concluded that the agency has not issued a report to Congress on the environmental impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) since 2011, even though federal law requires that the agency provide a report every three years. […]

The IG report also said the agency has not evaluated whether the program is causing any harm to air quality and it has no formal process to initiate an update of its data on the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of biofuels…EPA said it mostly agreed with the report’s findings. The agency said it has “agreed to a set of corrective actions and timelines” to address the report’s conclusions. […]

Some environmental groups have also questioned whether EPA has properly evaluated the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of corn ethanol to calculate its global warming potential. They say land-use change associated with its production outweighs the environmental benefits of replacing gasoline.

This is grossly negligent on the part of the EPA, and it beggars belief that this failure to review the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), as the U.S. biofuels program is called, was accidental. The RFS is one of Washington’s biggest “green” programs, but since its inception in 2007 it has devolved into an instructive lesson about what happens when eco-idealism obscures rational planning. Studies have shown that the RFS doesn’t do the environment any favors, and indeed may do it harm by incentivizing more monocultural crop-planting by requiring more and more corn to be grown to meet rising ethanol mandates. Moreover, this shift in land use has been linked to declining wild bee populations.

The EPA’s solution to this disastrous policy seems to be to do its best ostrich impression and bury its head deep in the sand, but ignorance won’t obscure the failings of the RFS. This isn’t just a policy that harms the environment, it also: raises global food prices, starving the world’s poor; hikes up gas prices, costing American drivers billions at the pump every year; and gouges refiners that struggle to comply with out-of-whack quotas.

Our biofuels policy was meant to boost our energy security while saving the environment, but it fails on both counts. It’s a remarkable example of a policy finding a sour spot, and the only stakeholder that benefits from this farce is the U.S. corn industry.

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