A new study reveals something surprising about America’s supposedly eco-friendly energy policies. Ethanol, a biofuel derived from plants, is actually bad for the environment, the study found.
The study’s title is Environmental Outcomes of the US Renewable Fuel Standard. It looked into the total impact of corn-based ethanol in the United States and was performed by scientists at the University of Minnesota.
According to the study, the overall conclusion is that “the production of corn-based ethanol in the United States has failed to meet the policy’s own greenhouse gas emissions targets.”
The study also found that ethanol production negatively affected water quality, hurt conservation efforts, and disrupted other ecosystem properties.
The inclusion of ethanol in vehicle fuel is often mandated by America’s government. The idea is to help the environment, but this new study suggests that it might actually be hurting things.
Importantly, the study did not even look into issues of ethanol production outside the United States. Even US-based ethanol production, which should be the greenest in the world, appeared to actually be hurting the environment.
Ethanol and Inflation
One of the biggest negative impacts of corn ethanol production, the study found, was a massive increase in corn prices. The prices went up by 30%, and the prices of other crops increased by 20%.
With ongoing inflation and high food prices, ethanol production may be part of the problem.
There are a variety of reasons that ethanol production could cause these effects. Ethanol is often produced by growing corn. Although the corn used to create ethanol is not edible, using corn to make ethanol takes up land that could otherwise be used for food corn production.
The use of agricultural land to grow ethanol may also be displacing other food crops. That would explain why ethanol production is driving up the price of food.
In addition to these land-use concerns, the study found that ethanol production did not improve air quality or achieve many of its other environmental aims.
“Our findings suggest that profound advances in technology and policy are still needed to achieve the intended environmental benefits of biofuel production and use,” the study’s authors said.