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In 2005, ex-President George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act which included the Renewable Fuels Standard, requiring oil companies to add ethanol to their gasoline, and whilst running for presidency in 2007 Barack Obama positioned corn ethanol as one of the pillars for his proposed plan to combat global warming. It was believed that corn ethanol would help to reduce carbon emissions from burning gasoline, and also help to reduce the US’s demand for imported crude oil to make gasoline.
But an investigation carried out by the Associated Press, has discovered that ethanol is actually damaging to the environment on a level much more severe than the government is willing to admit.
Related article: Brazil Grapples with Biofuel Supply Glut
Farmers, who rushed to plant more corn in order to take advantage of the artificial demand created by the ethanol mandate, cleared millions of acres of protected land, destroying habitats and polluting local water supplies. Al Jazeera America wrote that since Obama took office five million acres of land have been converted from conservational land to corn farming, more than the combined area of Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Everglades national parks.
Corn farming in Iowa has replaced the traditional hilly, grassy landscape.
On top of this destruction of habitat comes the vast use of nitrogen based fertilizer, which the Associated Press say increased by over a billion pounds from 2005 to 2010, and estimate has increased by another billion pounds to the present day.
Related article: Rocky Mountain Tree-Killers, The New Biomass
Some of that fertilizer has seeped into the water table, contaminating rivers, and eventually flowing into the Gulf of Mexico where it encouraged the growth of huge algae fields. When the algae eventually dies and decomposes it removes all of the oxygen from the sea, leaving behind a huge zone where no life can exist. 5,800 square miles of the sea floor in the Gulf are now covered by this huge dead zone bereft of life.
The Dead Zone at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Officials from the Department of Agriculture claims that the main reason for the reduction of conserved land is not corn farming, but the fact that Congress has decreased the amount of land allowed to be conserved. It also claims that the amount of fertilizer used over last decade has remained steady, and therefore ethanol production has not been responsible for any fertilizer boom.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com
James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…