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Administration Doubles Down on Harmful Ethanol Policy

U.S. Congress key to reforming ethanol mandate that has been a disaster for wildlife, communities, and businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump Administration today proposed to maintain volumes required under the federal corn ethanol mandate next year, while lowering the requirement for advanced biofuels. The mandate is a harmful program that, over the past decade, has contributed to staggering losses of wildlife habitat and increased water pollution impacting community drinking water, recreation, and jobs.

Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation, said today: 

“The Trump Administration has doubled down on the harmful corn ethanol mandate — a destructive policy that has been a disaster for our drinking water, wildlife, public health, and economy. At a time when communities and businesses are demanding action to confront this misguided policy, the White House is taking the side of the corn ethanol industry. Today’s proposal underscores the need for the U.S. Congress to take the bull by the horns and reform the Renewable Fuel Standard to protect our clean water, our public health, and our wildlife. 

“The bottom line is that the federal corn ethanol mandate, in its current form, just does not work, and the EPA’s proposal proves that the notion of corn ethanol as a bridge to better fuels is pure fiction. The policy provides incentives to convert natural areas and wildlife habitat to large industrial farms, harming family farms in the process. This has led to water pollution that threatens our public health — and to habitat destruction that harms wildlife, such as ducks and song birds and important pollinators such as bees and butterflies. A business-as-usual approach will only exacerbate a wildlife crisis in which we are witnessing the disappearance of some of the country’s most cherished habitats, such as the American grassland prairies. Clearly, action is urgently needed. 

“Fortunately, there is a set of common-sense reforms that work for family farmers to protect public health and the environment while keeping us moving forward on our clean fuel goals the right way. Absent action by the Trump Administration, the National Wildlife Federation looks forward to working with Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to reform this harmful policy.”

Every year, the U.S. government sets guidelines for how it will enforce the federal corn ethanol mandate to blend increasing amounts of alternative fuels into gasoline. Since enacted in 2007, the mandate has helped drive the conversion of more than 7 million acres of habitat into cropland, mostly corn. Today, more than 40 percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is used to make ethanol, with more than 15 billion gallons being blended annually into the nation’s fuel supply.

Through today’s action, EPA has signaled that it will continue to ignore environmental safeguards required under the Renewable Fuel Standard statute. First, the EPA failed to fulfill its responsibility to decrease corn ethanol volumes when there are impacts to the economy or environment. Second, the EPA failed to enforce the provision in the law requiring that the Agency prevent habitat conversion into crops. This failure makes it imperative for Congress to take action. Fortunately, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have signaled a desire to reform the mandate. Reforming the law is a top priority of the National Wildlife Federation.

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