PNS Daily News - September 18, 2019 

President Trump visits California, targeting its homelessness crisis and environmental protections; and Tennessee is a top destination for out-of-state women seeking abortions.

2020Talks - September 18, 2019. (3 min.)  

Interfaith Alliance's Connie Ryan and Family Leader's Bob Vander Plaats on their differing views of religion's role in politics; and former Rep. Mark Sanford confers with cardboard cutout of President Trump.

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Report: Environment Suffers Under Renewable Fuel Standard

New research shows the nation's biofuels policy under the Renewable Fuel Standard is having unintended, negative environmental consequences. (
New research shows the nation's biofuels policy under the Renewable Fuel Standard is having unintended, negative environmental consequences. (
March 8, 2019

DES MOINES, Iowa – The increased use of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard is damaging wildlife habitat, depleting water aquifers and creating climate change impacts, according to new research.

Collaborating reports from three universities detail the unintended consequences of the decade-old program, which includes converting unspoiled grasslands into more cropland. Associate Professor of Agriculture Economics at Kansas State University Nathan Hendricks says farmers also have altered what they grow due to the increased demand for ethanol.

"On existing cropland, we see farmers planting more corn, because the price of corn increased relatively more than other crops due to the Renewable Fuel Standard," says Hendricks.

One goal of the RFS, as its known, was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the new research suggests that hasn't happened. Instead, studies show wildlife habitat and water resources have suffered because 1.5 million acres of grassland, scrubland, wetlands and forests were converted to corn or soybean production between 2009 and 2016.

Hendricks says much of the land brought into crop production was from the Conservation Reserve Program.

"And most of that increase in corn planting was in the Dakotas, northwest Minnesota, Iowa and Mississippi delta, is some of those places where we see that happening," says Hendricks.

David DeGennaro, agriculture policy specialist with the National Wildlife Federation, says the nation's reliance on first-generation fuels under the RFS has meant ignoring other promising options, such as fuel from grasses, wood waste and waste oils.

"The original law that created the ethanol mandate had envisioned that we would eventually move away from using the corn and soybeans to produce fuel – things that wouldn't have the same impact on the landscape – but that transition has never occurred," says DeGennaro.

The Environmental Protection Agency is about to revamp the RFS and will issue a proposal this spring and a final rule by this fall. In addition to Kansas State, studies in the report were conducted by the University of Wisconsin, and the University of California at Davis.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA