Target: Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Goal: Repeal inefficient program that destroys grassland, drains water and raises food prices
Despite its optimistic name, the Renewable Fuel Standard is responsible for some of the worst environmental damage the United States has seen in nearly a century. The standard requires that a certain minimum of fuel in the country come from corn-based ethanol. While the program has been publicized as an important step in the fight against climate change, in reality the standards are counterproductive. Farmers, spurred by federal subsidies, converted over 1.3 million acres of grassland to the purpose of growing corn. Cornfield, however, is a less efficient carbon sink than grassland. Corn is also a notoriously thirsty crop, requiring more water than most grains to grow. As a result, corn and soy production are draining the U.S.’ largest aquifer at a rate faster than it can recharge at. The EPA needs to rethink its policy towards ethanol-based fuels and institute a program that is actually beneficial to our environment. Currently, the standard hurts more than helps. Ask the EPA to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The majority of corn grown in America comes from Monsanto GMO seeds. Forty percent of it is directed to producing ethanol. Much of the rest goes to cattle as feed. Only a small portion makes it directly to the table. Despite the booming industry, there is actually a scarcity of corn that’s driving up food prices. Most Americans won’t see much difference, but in poverty stricken countries like Guatemala the poor are struggling to feed themselves.
America’s biofuel mandate, alongside those of Europe, Brazil and others, has made crop-to-ethanol production extremely profitable. Poor farmers in South America are switching to biofuel cash crops, thus lessening the food supply. Brazil, which exports ethanol to the U.S., is destroying vast swaths of the Amazon rainforest to grow sugarcane and palm. Through some deranged twist of logic, destroying valuable rainforest is equated with protecting the environment.
There are alternatives. A team of researchers recently determined that allowing cattle to graze intensively on grassland– instead of converting it all to corn production– could drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. The cows would feed while the grassland itself would act as a massive carbon sink. Unfortunately, corn lobbyists have their fingers buried deep in Congress. New guidelines from the EPA would help spur positive action. At present, the Renewable Fuel Standard is not working. Ask the EPA to repeal it.
Dear Ms. McCarthy,
On our planet of over seven billion people, burdened as we are with providing enough food for every mouth and threatened with rising sea levels, finding and creating sources of sustainable energy is of the utmost importance. Nevertheless, the Renewable Fuel Standard is not an aid to these goals. Rather, America’s obsession with ethanol distracts from issues more worthy of attention, from wind and solar energy to making our agricultural practices and industries more efficient. Ethanol from corn is hardly less damaging to the environment than fossil fuels. It is certainly less efficient.
Land and food are going to waste. Part of sustainability is food security. The U.S. agriculture industry is growing corn and soy on arid land more suitable for other crops. In the near future, rising temperatures will create volatile conditions for these fragile crops and endanger the stability of our food supply. Grasses and other traditional grains are more resilient and less likely to be affected. And while sea levels rise, fresh water becomes scarcer in places it was once abundant. Irrigation for corn draws out water from the High Plains Aquifer at six times the rate of recharge. It won’t be long before our grain belt is parched and dry.
I urge you to repeal and review the Renewable Fuel Standard. The only function it serves is to stuff the wallets of major agricultural companies and strengthen the hold of corn lobbyists on Congress. It is damaging and wasteful. The United States can do better.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: an-outsider via deviantart