Since 2007, the federal government has made an aggressive push into corn-based ethanol: oil companies are now required to add millions of gallons of ethanol to gasoline, and farmers are encouraged to plow more land in a bid to keep up with demand. But the stated goals of those efforts — produce more green energy and curb global warming — aren't coming to pass. And the government may very well have known, early on, that they wouldn't.
In a sweeping investigation, the Associated Press reveals that "the ethanol era" has exacted a devastating environmental toll on land across the country. A whopping 5 million acres of conservation land, for instance, have been plowed by farmers trying to produce more corn — much of which now goes to ethanol production rather than livestock feed. That plundering has contaminated waterways, released heaps of greenhouse gasses, and funneled resources into coal- and gas-burning ethanol factories. And despite the crisis, there's no sign that the Obama administration is moving away from ethanol: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it lacks the resources to revisit whether corn-based ethanol is helping or harming.