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Fuel Mandate Contributing to Climate Change, Report Finds

A new report finds cropland is expanding in Oregon at nearly 230 square kilometers a year. (born1945/Flickr)
A new report finds cropland is expanding in Oregon at nearly 230 square kilometers a year. (born1945/Flickr)
November 16, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – New research from the University of Wisconsin examines how the expansion of cropland in Oregon and other states because of the ethanol mandate has contributed to the surge in climate change pollution.

The mandate, enacted in 2007, requires certain amounts of plant-derived fuels to be blended into gasoline.

And the research finds that as a result, more than 7 million acres of habitat have been plowed under for corn and soy across the country.

Seth Spawn, the lead author of the study, says no matter the cause, cropland expansion is having profound impacts on the land and the carbon it holds.

"For so long, we've heard about the importance of tropical rain forests as an important carbon reserve,” he states. “This research really emphasizes that now is the time to also recognize the importance of the less charismatic carbon reserves here at home and the impacts we've been having on them."

Not typically thought of as corn country, the report found cropland expanding in Oregon at nearly 230 square kilometers a year.

The national impact was the release of 115 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere, which is the pollution equal to 20 million additional cars on the road per year.

When initially passed in 2005, the ethanol mandate was promoted as a way to cut energy imports, reduce pollution and lower fuel costs.

Its opponents say the policy could be reformed to advance clean fuels and protect public health without polluting water or destroying habitat.

Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, says the findings are a wake-up call for national leaders to confront climate change for the sake of the country's health, environment, wildlife and economy.

"There are a growing number of Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress that are saying, 'Now is the time to fix the ethanol mandate,'” he states. “And frankly we've seen some bare knuckle politics in the U.S. Senate trying to find ways to improve the program right now that is failing in so many ways."

After announcing plans to scale back the ethanol mandate, the Environmental Protection Agency recently did an about face and decided to set the 2018 standard at or above current levels.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR