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Ethanol blues
AP ethanol report: Big trouble

Date published: 11/17/2013

RIGHT from the beginning, environmentalists questioned the wisdom of requiring that vehicle fuel contain ethanol. Now, the facts are in: Whatever ethanol is, it's not "green." What's more, we've discovered the biggest polluter of all: politics.

Congress passed the ethanol mandate in 2007. President Bush signed it; President Obama has enforced it. And the results, according to an Associated Press investigative report, have been disastrous.

Millions of acres of conservation land--much of it virgin prairie grassland--has been plowed up and planted with corn, releasing carbon dioxide into the air. Scientists estimate it will take 48 years to compensate. Corn has skyrocketed in price and, with it, food and livestock feed prices. Farmers have filled in wetlands and used so much nitrogen fertilizer that waterways are polluted and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico has increased to record size.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack admits that "green" is no longer the issue: "We understand it's about farm income," he told a bunch of ethanol lobbyists.

So, in the name of "healing the planet," a policy was created that is harming the planet. Here's the kicker: It could be fixed. The administration could ease the ethanol mandate; Congress could rescind it. Neither will. Why?

The Iowa caucuses, for one--everyone wants to curry favor in the state that provides a jump-start in the presidential campaign. Big Ag's powerful lobby, for two. And three, the administration wants to appear to support green energy.

Except it isn't. Go figure.