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PNS Daily Newscast - November 15, 2018 


Lawyer Michael Avenatti arrested on a domestic violence charge. Also on the Thursday rundown: More testimony on Ohio's "anti-protest" bill; and we'll take you to the Dakotas to celebrate American Education Week.

Daily Newscasts

Report: Ethanol Mandate Worsens Climate Change

A new report says the conversion of wildlife habitat to cropland from 2008 to 2012 released carbon into the atmosphere equivalent to six coal-fired power plants per year. (belfasteileen/iStockphoto)
A new report says the conversion of wildlife habitat to cropland from 2008 to 2012 released carbon into the atmosphere equivalent to six coal-fired power plants per year. (belfasteileen/iStockphoto)
November 16, 2017

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The federal mandate to blend corn ethanol into gasoline has contributed greatly to climate change, according to a new report.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin looked at the conversion of wildlife habitat to cropland and found that disturbing the soil releases huge amounts of carbon - equivalent to emissions from 20 million additional cars on the road per year.

Collin O’Mara, study co-author and president and chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation, said turning pristine land into fields also harms insects, birds and other animals.

"In the years following enactment of the mandate in 2007, more than 7 million acres of wildlife habitat were plowed under,” O’Mara said. "This is grasslands, and wetlands and other habitat that threatens monarch butterflies, bees, ducks and other wildlife."

The report was presented Wednesday at the America's Grasslands Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. O'Mara said he'd like to see Congress reform the Renewable Fuel Standard - as the ethanol mandate is also known - by encouraging more sustainable fuels, funding restoration of cropland to wildlife habitat, and forbidding farmers from growing invasive plants as biofuels.

The report also found California's central valley loses 734 sq. kilometers (roughly 286 sq. miles) to conversion each year.

Report lead author Seth Spawn, with the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, said in terms of impact on global warming, the conversion of cropland is roughly equivalent to the loss of acreage on the edge of the rain forest.

"For so long, we've heard about the importance of tropical rain forests as an important carbon reserve,” Spawn said. “And this research really emphasizes that now is the time to start also recognizing the importance of carbon reserves here at home and the impacts that we've been having on them."

Study co-author Tyler Lark said the carbon released from soil is harder to replace than carbon stored in trees.

"The difference is that those emissions in the tropics are primarily from trees, so it's easier to re-sequester that lost carbon,” Lark explained. "On the other hand, the emissions we see here in the U.S. are primarily from soil carbon stores which could take hundreds of years or more to replenish and may never be fully restored."

Lark suggested that the government require farms to map and track biofuel feed stock, to ensure that fewer acres of undisturbed lands are converted for crops.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA