PNS Daily Newscast - March 26, 2019 

Mueller reported to give Barr three weeks' heads-up that he would not make a conclusion on Trump obstruction of justice. Also on the Tuesday rundown: Poverty figures into student literacy. Plus, natural-gas waste is higher than average on Navajo lands.

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Overhauling Ethanol Mandate Could Benefit Climate, NM Economy

Environmental groups are supporting new legislation in Congress to reduce ethanol production in favor of next-generation biofuels. (
Environmental groups are supporting new legislation in Congress to reduce ethanol production in favor of next-generation biofuels. (
March 19, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N. M. – Critics of the nation's 10-year old Renewable Fuel Standard want it reformed, because they say corn-based ethanol hasn't benefited the environment as intended, and hasn't turned out to be much cleaner or more efficient than gasoline.

The GREENER Fuels Act would cap ethanol in gasoline at under 10 percent and invest more than $10 billion to restore habitat lost from land being converted to corn and soybean fields to produce ethanol.

National Wildlife Federation President and CEO Collin O'Mara thinks it's time for a new approach.

"The GREENER Fuels Act would move America towards a significantly cleaner and more sustainable biofuels system," O'Mara says. "It's a home run for wildlife, it's a home run for water quality, it's a home run for public health."

Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, introduced the bill to overhaul the ethanol mandate. The American Coalition for Ethanol says it plans to fight the legislation, arguing that it would threaten the environmental benefits ethanol provides.

The EPA hasn't released data on how much cropland is being converted to produce ethanol. But Sophie Shemas, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation's Public Lands Fellow, says it's believed that widespread cropland conversion since 2007 has produced pollution equivalent to 20 million additional cars on the road each year.

"It's done a lot of great things by bringing attention to the need for advanced biofuels," Shemas notes, "but it failed to promote biofuels other than the ones that are derived from corn ethanol."

Shemas believes the GREENER Fuels Act would advance biofuels that lower climate-disrupting pollution, adding that the production of next-generation biofuels could benefit New Mexico.

"New Mexico has actually established itself as a leader in the other advanced biofuel categories," she explains. "By prioritizing those instead, we can give a boost to New Mexico's economy, maybe bring in some incentives for people who will work on that research and development of those products."

Sen. Udall noted that New Mexico recorded its warmest fall ever in 2017, and said the nation needs better climate-smart policies.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM