EPA Eyes Crackdown on Not-So-Green Biofuels

Turns out, it's greener to burn plants than to make ethanol
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2009 4:24 PM CDT
Because of the rising demand for ethanol, farmers are growing more corn, which needs more nitrogen fertilizer than other crops. This raises worries about groundwater pollution.   (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
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(Newser) – Plants consume carbon dioxide, so growing corn to produce ethanol should be at worst a zero-sum game, emissions-wise, right? Wrong, says the EPA. There's another factor involved: Turning food crops into fuel drives up their prices, which raises demand for farmland worldwide. In places like Brazil, that means chopping down the rainforest, which produces massive emissions, NPR reports.

Once it factored worldwide deforestation into its energy equations, the EPA found that the current biofuels standards might cause more harm than good—and is considering stricter regulations for ethanol plants that could curb the industry. "What I think this means for the industry is you need to innovate," says a UC Berkeley scientist.