A draft EPA report released a few days ago largely confirms what we already know, that conventional biofuels produced on a large scale in the United States (corn ethanol), offer slight GHG reductions but come with a host of other, more troublesome, problems. As the report is still a draft, the EPA has asked that it not be cited or quoted from. The report is available here. If you navigate to page 116 you can find their preliminary conclusions and recommendations. The report offers a visual summary of potential consequences or benefits from various technologies (ethanol, bio-diesel, algae-based fuels, etc.). Under corn ethanol, there are 6 listed categories of environmental effects: water quality, water quantity, soil quality, air quality, biodiversity, and invasiveness. Ethanol’s score offers a “relatively large”, “negative”, and “most certain” for 5 of the 6 categories, scoring a negligible effect on invasiveness. The ethanol groups responded immediately, attacking the EPA report:
“EPA’s failure to provide this report in any context with the environmental degradation done by fossil fuel exploitation and use is irresponsibly misleading. Energy and environmental decisions do not exist in a vacuum,” the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry trade group, wrote in a statement. “The use of biofuels, when all things are equally considered, is a far better energy choice than Canadian tar sands, oil shale, and other increasing sources of petroleum,” the group added.
Another ethanol trade group, Growth Energy, also attacked the EPA study. “Clearly this draft report needs a considerable amount of work. There is no consensus on several issues the report authors use as assumptions,” the group said.
Remember, the U.S. is mandating that U.S. consumers purchase corn ethanol which is harming the environment (one of its many negatives), while paying the corn ethanol industry to produce these fuels and keeping a cleaner competitor (sugarcane ethanol) from entering the country via a protective tariff. Environmental policy gone wild.