Ethanol: Haz­ard to the En­vi­ron­ment?

Saltwater Sportsman - - Tod / Casts + Blasts -

The dam­ag­ing ef­fects of ethanol on out­board mo­tors and other com­bus­tion en­gines has been well-doc­u­mented, and now a sci­en­tific re­port from the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency says it is also ter­ri­ble for the en­vi­ron­ment.

As re­cently re­ported by Pub­lic News Ser­vice and In­vestor’s Busi­ness Daily, the find­ings of a long-awaited EPA study show that the ad­di­tion of ethanol to gaso­line is mak­ing our air dirt­ier. The ni­trous ox­ide, a ma­jor pol­lu­tant, re­leased into the at­mos­phere dur­ing pro­duc­tion of the bio­fuel makes ethanol worse from a green­house-gas emis­sions per­spec­tive than petroleum-based fu­els.

While many re­searchers and econ­o­mists have known this for a long time, the EPA is fi­nally rec­og­niz­ing it for the first time. By law, the EPA is sup­posed to pro­duce a re­port on bio­fu­els ev­ery three years, but this EPA re­port was de­layed by four years. It’s easy to un­der­stand why, be­cause ethanol is po­lit­i­cally pop­u­lar.

Many politi­cians, es­pe­cially mem­bers of Congress rep­re­sent­ing con­stituents from the Corn Belt, sup­port the so-called E10 stan­dard (10 per­cent ethanol con­tent), part of the U.S. Re­new­able Fuel Stan­dard (RFS) pro­gram put in place in 2005 and later ex­panded in 2007. And while the pro­duc­tion of ethanol has steadily in­creased from roughly 10 bil­lion gal­lons in 2008 to 16.6 bil­lion bar­rels by 2016, pro­po­nents have been lob­by­ing for an E15 stan­dard (15 per­cent ethanol con­tent) man­date.

But the ar­gu­ments that ethanol is more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and cost-ef­fec­tive have been re­peat­edly dis­proven. For in­stance, a Yale re­port last year sum­ma­rized: “Higher-ethanol blends will pro­duce sig­nif­i­cant lev­els of air pol­lu­tion, re­duce fuel ef­fi­ciency, and po­ten­tially dam­age en­gines, which is why the Na­tional Marine Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion is staunchly op­posed to it.”

Pres­i­dent Trump has re­peat­edly shown his fa­vor for the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try since he first hit the cam­paign trail; nev­er­the­less, he is said to be con­sid­er­ing keep­ing the ethanol pro­gram go­ing, and per­haps also man­dat­ing an E15 stan­dard.

TOXIC FUMES: Ethanol pro­duc­tion re­leases ni­trus ox­ide, pol­lut­ing the at­mos­phere.

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