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Reforming Ethanol Mandate Could be Win for Environment

An Oregon fishing guide says fishers worry about the effects of ethanol on their outboard motors. (Michelle B./Flickr)
An Oregon fishing guide says fishers worry about the effects of ethanol on their outboard motors. (Michelle B./Flickr)
March 12, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – A bill to reform the biofuels mandate could reverse a decade of destruction to America's grasslands, according to environmental groups.

The GREENER Fuels Act would gradually reduce the amount of biofuels such as corn ethanol in the nation's fuel supply.

It also would stop more land from being converted into biofuel sources, and invest more than $10 billion to restore lost fish and wildlife habitat in the next 10 years.

More than 7 million acres have been plowed to make way for corn and soy since the fuel standard went into effect in 2007, including in Oregon.

Bob Rees, a fishing guide and executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, says there's another reason why fishers support the GREENER Fuels Act.

"The additional expenses that's come about through the ethanol mandate with the havoc that ethanol places on our outboard motors – not just a safety factor, but the fact that we're expending more money than we historically have in motor repairs and breakdown costs, loss of fishing days, because our boats are in the repair shop," he states.

Rees adds corn and soy croplands are water intensive, putting another strain on natural resources.

But supporters of the renewable fuel standard say ethanol also has some environmental benefits that this bill would undermine.

Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, maintains the legislation could correct a mistake Congress made 10 years ago.

"It minimizes the impacts on the landscape and actually invests in the restoration of America's grasslands and other habitat that's been impacted, while at the same time moving us toward cleaner, more sustainable fuels, which then reduce emissions and help fight climate change," he points out.

O'Mara says the bill would eliminate a loophole that allows older biofuel plants to bypass climate pollution standards. It also would incentivize truly renewable biofuels, such as those derived from farm waste and plant cellulose.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR