Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Corn Ethanol Is Worse for the Climate Than the Keystone XL Pipeline, According to EPA's Own Estimates

Energy
Corn Ethanol Is Worse for the Climate Than the Keystone XL Pipeline, According to EPA's Own Estimates

Do you think the federal government couldn’t order something worse for the environment than the Keystone XL oil pipeline?

Think again.

Using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own estimate, we calculate that the corn ethanol mandate has been worse for the climate than projected emissions from the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

The federal corn ethanol mandate has resulted in a massive influx of dirty corn ethanol, which is bad for the climate and bad for consumers.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

What makes matters worse is that the U.S. EPA just mandated that more corn ethanol must go into American gas tanks.

Last week the EPA proposed new minimum volumes of corn ethanol that refiners would be required to  blend into gasoline this year and the next. Congress set this policy, called the Renewable Fuel Standard, in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. At the time, lawmakers hoped that using ethanol and other renewable fuels would reduce carbon emissions and American dependence on foreign oil.

Last year, corn ethanol producers churned out 14 billion gallons, about 13.4 billion gallons of which were blended into the 135 billion gallons of gasoline the nation’s drivers used.

Extracting tar sands and turning them into oil is more energy-intensive than traditional drilling for petroleum. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, dirty oil transmitted from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast by the Keystone XL pipeline would emit 24 million tons of carbon per year.

But our calculations show that last year’s production and use of 14 billion gallons of corn ethanol resulted in 27 million tons more carbon emissions than if Americans had used straight gasoline in their vehicles. That’s worse than Keystone’s projected emissions. It’s the equivalent of emissions from seven coal-fired power plants.*

So far the federal corn ethanol mandate has resulted in a massive influx of dirty corn ethanol, which is bad for the climate and bad for consumers. The only interest it benefits is the ethanol industry.

As we’ve said before, it’s time for Congress to correct course and reform the broken Renewable Fuels Standard to make way for truly green biofuels.

---------

* Calculated by comparing the emissions from 14.3 billion gallons of gasoline (using 2014 baseline) to EPA’s estimate of corn ethanol emissions. Coal plant emissions use an estimate that a typical coal plant emits 3.5 million tons of CO2 per year.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Why We Need to End Mountaintop Removal Now

Michael Mann’s ‘Dire Predictions’ Provides Ultimate Guide on Understanding Climate Change

Is Antarctica Ice Melting or Growing? Watch This NASA Video and See for Yourself

Map shows tracks and strength of Atlantic tropical cyclones in 2020. Blues are tropical depressions and tropical storms; yellow through red show hurricanes, darker shades meaning stronger ones. Master0Garfield / Wikimedia Commons

By Astrid Caldas

As we reach the official end of hurricane season, 2020 will be one for the record books. Looking back at these long, surprising, sometimes downright crazy past six months (seven if you count when the first named storms actually started forming), there are many noteworthy statistics and patterns that drive home the significance of this hurricane season, and the ways climate change may have contributed to it.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Protesters shouting slogans on megaphones during the climate strike on September 25 in Lisbon, Portugal. Hugo Amaral / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Dana Drugmand

An unprecedented climate lawsuit brought by six Portuguese youths is to be fast-tracked at Europe's highest court, it was announced today.

The European Court of Human Rights said the case, which accuses 33 European nations of violating the applicants' right to life by disregarding the climate emergency, would be granted priority status due to the "importance and urgency of the issues raised."

Read More Show Less

Trending

A child plays with a planet Earth ball during the Extinction Rebellion Strike in London on Apr. 18, 2019. Brais G. Rouco / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

Will concern over the climate crisis stop people from having children?

Read More Show Less

By Liz Kimbrough

Six grassroots environmental activists will receive the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in a virtual ceremony this year. Dubbed the "Green Nobel Prize," this award is given annually to environmental heroes from each of the world's six inhabited continents.

Read More Show Less
Mount Ili Lewotolok spews ash during a volcanic eruption in Lembata, East Nusa Tenggara on November 29, 2020. Joy Christian / AFP / Getty Images

A large volcano in Indonesia erupted Sunday, sending a plume of smoke and ash miles into the air and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate the region.

Read More Show Less