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The cost of growing food for fuel PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 21:10

The list of ethanol irritants just got longer for residents of southeastern Wisconsin. A company called U.S. Oil plans to build a pipeline from its terminal on Jones Island in the Milwaukee harbor to a nearby liquid cargo dock to load ships with ethanol for transport on Lake Michigan.
    Ethanol is classified by the federal government as highly flammable and hazardous.
    This potential threat to public safety and the environment can be added to the toll ethanol takes in the cost of living and damage to the environment.
    Ozaukee Press archives offer a reminder of the risks of fuel pipelines and waterborne transport of fuel. In the 1970s, Port Washington’s downtown and adjacent residential areas were evacuated under the threat of an explosion caused by leaks from a gasoline pipeline that ran between the harbor, where tankers unloaded, and storage tanks eight blocks inland.
    That catastrophe was averted, but there were times during the city’s petroleum shipping era when the harbor itself might have caught fire, owing to the sheen of gasoline floating on its surface.
    Ethanol acts like gasoline in a spill onto water, floating at first, then dissolving and extinguishing life in the area of the spill by depriving the water of oxygen.
    There would be no ethanol to pump through pipes to ships were it not for the Renewable Fuel Standard mandate that billions of gallons of the biofuel be added to gasoline each year. There is no other reason for large-scale ethanol production to exist.
    The fuel is not needed to serve the purpose stated for the mandate when it was made law by Congress in 2005—to reduce America’s dependence on imported oil. The U.S., with its oil and natural gas production having surged to the point where this country is now the world’s largest petroleum producer, imports very little oil.
    Almost all of the ethanol produced in the U.S. is made from corn. The demand for the raw material needed to meet the ethanol mandate has driven up the market value of corn and caused a reduction in the use of land for growing other crops, resulting in higher prices for many food products.
    A sense of the effect on consumer food prices can be gained from a restaurant industry study finding that ethanol production has increased food costs for chain restaurants by $3.2 billion a year.
    Augmenting fossil fuels used for energy with fuel made from plants sounds like something that would be beneficial to the environment, but the opposite has been true in the environmental impact of the mandate. Ethanol, because of the greenhouse gases generated in its farming and processing operations, has been found to result in no reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
    Worse for the environment, the demand for corn needed to meet the ethanol mandate has motivated farmers to convert millions of acres of grassland to corn fields, accelerating soil erosion and runoff of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and endangering wildlife. A study by the National Wildlife Federation found that 7.3 million acres of natural habitat have been destroyed to produce corn ethanol.
    The ethanol mandate survives in spite of the accumulating evidence of its harmful consequences because it has become a veritable entitlement for the ethanol producing industry, which is now a powerful, politically protected special interest.
    During the presidential campaign, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton pledged support for the ethanol mandate, as did every other presidential candidate except Ted Cruz. President Obama did nothing to end or constrain the ethanol mandate.
    No one has been willing to take on the ethanol lobby. Could President Trump turn against ethanol? It wouldn’t be the first campaign promise he’s broken.
    Trump rails regularly against government regulations and has threatened to “get rid of” the Environmental Protection Agency. He could strike a blow against regulation and get rid of a little piece of the EPA by taking the lead in eliminating the harmful EPA regulation requiring that 18 million gallons of ethanol be added to our gas supply this year.        
    That would be an accomplishment worth tweeting about.

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