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PNS Daily Newscast - March 22, 2019 


President Trump rattles the Middle East, saying the U.S. will recognize Israel’s authority over the Golan Heights. Also on our Friday rundown: A judge blocks laws limiting the power of the new Wisconsin governor. Plus, momentum builds across party lines to abolish the death penalty.

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Report: Environment Hurt by Renewable-Fuel Standards

The Renewable Fuel Standard requires the blending of increasing quantities of biofuels into the U.S.  surface-vehicle transportation fuel supply. (IADE-Michoko/Pixabay)
The Renewable Fuel Standard requires the blending of increasing quantities of biofuels into the U.S. surface-vehicle transportation fuel supply. (IADE-Michoko/Pixabay)
March 12, 2019

MADISON, Wis. — A new report says the Renewable Fuel Standard, designed in part to reduce air pollution through the use of biofuels, has created a host of negative environmental impacts - including plowing up land to grow more corn and soybeans.

University of Wisconsin researcher Tyler Lark said the standard - also called the RFS - sparked a surge in corn and soybean prices, which incentivized reduced-yield monoculture production. The move also led to widespread loss of critical habitat for wildlife.

"In places like Wisconsin, we've seen the RFS contribute to these higher prices for corn,” Lark said. “We're also seeing conversion of areas like pasture and conservation lands, which previously can really provide high quality habitat to wildlife."

The RFS raised corn prices 31 percent and soybean prices 19 percent, which led to the conversion of 1.6 million acres of grasslands, wetlands and forests between 2009 and 2016. In addition to cutting air pollution, proponents of the RFS hoped that increased domestic corn and soybean production for ethanol would help replace at least part of the nation's consumption of fossil fuels from unstable regions.

David DeGennaro, agriculture policy specialist with the National Wildlife Federation, said the new research eliminates any remaining doubt that U.S. biofuels policy is making the environment worse, not better. He said the RFS has resulted in a total loss of nearly 3 million acres - roughly the size of Delaware - that would otherwise be wildlife habitat or non-farm lands to corn and soybean production.

"And putting that into industrial crop production, you release a huge amount of carbon from the soil that has been stored there for decades,” DeGennaro said. “You destroy wildlife habitat, and the process of farming sends a lot of fertilizers and soil and other pollution downstream."

Public officials are preparing to rewrite national biofuel policy because of a mandated "re-set" of the law. DeGennaro said he hopes the new research will help move the nation closer to solutions that promote clean fuels in a way that works for farmers, communities and wildlife.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - WI