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PNS Daily Newscast - September 20, 2019 


A whistleblower complaint against President Trump sets off tug-of-war between Congress and the White House; and students around the world strike today to demand action on climate change.

2020Talks - September 20, 2019. (3 min.)  


Climate change is a big issue this election season, and global climate strikes kick off, while UAW labor strikes continue.

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In Twist, Biofuel Production Means Habitat Destruction, Study Says

Four million acres of land within a 100-mile radius of ethanol refineries were converted to agriculture use between 2008 and 2012, with unintended consequences for wildlife. (USDA/Flickr)
Four million acres of land within a 100-mile radius of ethanol refineries were converted to agriculture use between 2008 and 2012, with unintended consequences for wildlife. (USDA/Flickr)
March 23, 2017

BOARDMAN, Ore. -- Wildlife habitat near corn ethanol refineries has been destroyed at a fast pace since a federal law was passed to produce more biofuels. A new study says that across the U.S., 4 million acres of land within a 100 mile radius of ethanol plants have been converted to agricultural use within four years of passing the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Oregon isn't part of the nation's "Corn Belt," but study coauthor Chris Wright, a landscape ecologist at the University of Minnesota, said these are the places where the most habitat destruction has occurred.

"It was the ethanol refineries out on the periphery of the industry where we saw significant land-use change,” Wright said.

Congress passed the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2007 to require blending corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels with gasoline. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota Duluth, University of Wisconsin, and the National Wildlife Federation.

Ben Larson, senior manager of forestry and bioenergy at the National Wildlife Federation and a report coauthor, said the federal law contains language to protect wildlife habitat by not allowing recently converted land to be used for biofuel production. But he said the EPA took a shortcut in implementing the policy: it adds the total of all cropland and looks at whether it increases over time at the national level.

"Well at that national level, you really can't see the concentrated pockets of conversion that we show are happening around ethanol plants,” Larson explained. "It's like if you pull back from the earth far enough, you lose sight of where the impacts are happening."

Another study found 7 million acres of land nationwide had been converted to crop production in the four years following the passage of the RFS, with corn being the most common crop. Larson said this kind of conversion rate has a serious impact on wildlife.

"For the wildlife species that rely on grasslands and wetlands that are being converted to cropland, habitat loss is not an academic issue,” he said. "For instance, grassland birds as a group have suffered the most severe population declines of about any group of species. And that's largely as a result of habitat loss."

Oregon has an ethanol refinery in Boardman.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR