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National Wildlife Federation Supporters to Congress: Time to Tackle Ethanol Mandate

Federation delivers 20,000 comments to Congress, urging lawmakers to reform Renewable Fuel Standard to protect wildlife, U.S. waters

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 5, 2017)—As yet another farm runoff-fueled algal bloom blankets Lake Erie, the National Wildlife Federation today delivered 20,000 comments to the U.S. Congress, urging public officials to fix the corn ethanol mandate to protect the nation’s wildlife and drinking water. 

“The corn ethanol mandate has been driving the massive conversion of habitat to cropland at a time when farm runoff has been a major contributor to algal blooms and dead zones in Lake Erie, Chesapeake Bay, Gulf Coast and many other U.S. waters,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The message from the American people could not be clearer: The status quo is not working, and it’s time for Republicans and Democrats to work together to fix the ethanol mandate. Congress can put in place common-sense solutions to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard that protect our clean water, wildlife, and public health, support family farmers, and strengthens our economy. The time to act is now, before the problems get worse and more costly."

Despite positive signals from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress interested in reforming the ethanol mandate—known as the Renewable Fuel Standard—new bipartisan legislation has yet to be introduced to update the law and reverse some of its unintended consequences.

The Renewable Fuel Standard currently requires about 17 billion gallons of fuel derived from plants to be blended into gasoline. The overwhelming majority of that fuel is corn ethanol, and today 40 percent of the corn produced in the United States goes into our gas tanks.

Since its enactment, the mandate has led to the conversion of more than 7 million acres of habitat to cropland—mostly corn—which has had devastating impacts to the American prairie. Less than 10 percent of native prairie remains—habitat that vulnerable monarch butterflies and other wildlife depend on for survival.

The land conversion is also contributing to the fouling of the nation’s water resources, from harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes, to expanding Dead Zones in the Gulf Coast and Chesapeake Bay, to depleted aquifers in the West.

With support from tens of thousands of wildlife enthusiasts, hunters and anglers, and other Americans all across the country, the National Wildlife Federation is asking the U.S. Congress to reverse the damage caused by the ethanol mandate by:

  • Decreasing the reliance on corn ethanol and encourage more sustainable fuels; 
  • Prohibiting the cultivation of noxious or invasive plants for use as biofuels;
  • Restoring land and water habitats to address the damage that’s been done; and,
  • Enforcing existing laws to prevent the conversion of habitat into corn production.

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