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PNS Daily Newscast - June 19, 2018 


Four First Ladies take issue with separating kids from families at border. Also on the rundown: Nebraska struggles to deliver summer meals and there are thriving rural counties in the USA.

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New Biofuels Bill Aims to Protect Water, Wildlife and Climate

Advocates of changing the way biofuels are made say current standards encourage rampant deforestation in places like Argentina, where farmers are clearing land illegally to grow soybeans. (Jim Wickens/Ecostorm)
Advocates of changing the way biofuels are made say current standards encourage rampant deforestation in places like Argentina, where farmers are clearing land illegally to grow soybeans. (Jim Wickens/Ecostorm)
March 13, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Conservation groups are speaking out in favor of a new bill in Congress on biofuels, to reform the nation's renewable fuels standard and steer it away from ethanol and biodiesel.

The GREENER Fuels Act would wind down the ethanol mandate and invest billions to reclaim farmland lost to corn and soybean production as wildlife habitat.

Rose Garr is the campaign director for Mighty Earth, a non-government organization that works to break the link between agricultural production and deforestation. She explains that when farmers create fields from virgin soil, it not only displaces native species but the soil releases stored carbon. She says this makes the resulting biofuel almost as bad for the environment as burning gasoline.

"We've actually seen about 7 million acres of native prairie come under production in the Dakotas and the upper Midwest," Garr says. "And when you convert it into industrial agriculture, you actually release a lot of carbon into the air in the meantime."

According to Garr, the current standards have led to massive deforestation in other countries, as farmers clear trees to raise biofuel crops - trees that used to absorb excess greenhouse gases. Any change in the biofuel mandate will be closely watched by oil companies and the corn ethanol industry.

Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, says the massive stretches of corn and soybean fields have reduced biodiversity and led to water pollution from pesticides. He supports a move toward more sustainable biofuels, made from other materials - such as corn stalks or used cooking oil - that previously would have been thrown out.

"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 explains.

The legislation would reduce the amount of ethanol in fuel and limit the amount of non-waste vegetable oil that can be turned into biodiesel.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA