For Immediate Release, June 3, 2022

Contact:

Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121, bhartl@biologicaldiversity.org

EPA Finalizes Damaging Renewable Fuels Standard

Standard Harms Wildlife, Reduces Food Security, Undermines Climate Objectives

WASHINGTON— The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finalize its renewable fuel standards for corn ethanol and other biofuels for 2020, 2021 and 2022 today, setting the 2022 required minimum volume for transportation sector use at roughly 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol and 5.63 billion gallons of advanced biofuels.

But the agency appears to have failed to properly assess biofuels’ substantial environmental harms, including damages from land conversion and additional pesticide and fertilizer use and the industry’s impacts on endangered species.

“Millions of acres are being pointlessly sacrificed just to grow corn to fuel gas-guzzling SUVs. Meanwhile the EPA looks the other way as our ocean dead zones grow, water pollution worsens, and endangered species suffer,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Two decades in, the renewable fuel program has proven to be a colossal boondoggle. It’s also given fodder to those who want to delay the transition to real climate and transportation solutions, including a rapid shift to electric vehicles.”

In its 2018 report to Congress, the EPA’s triennial report on the renewable fuel program concluded that 4 million to 7.8 million acres of land had been converted to growing corn and soybeans since the enactment of the program and that the rate of land conversion was higher in areas closer to ethanol biorefineries.

Because this corn is grown for fuel, there are fewer restrictions on the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which run off into nearby streams and rivers. This additional pollution harms endangered species such as the pallid sturgeon in the Mississippi River and worsens ocean dead zones, harming endangered sea turtles and other species.

Despite two adverse rulings from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals condemning the EPA for ignoring its own science, the agency has argued for the third time that the renewable fuel program has absolutely no real-world impacts on endangered species.

“The EPA missed a huge opportunity to ratchet back the renewable fuel program and acknowledge the massive harm being inflicted on sturgeon and other endangered species,” said Hartl. “President Biden’s first executive order directed all federal agencies to follow the best available science, but instead the EPA caved to powerful special interests that benefit from the status quo.”

In addition to converting more land from natural habitat to cropland, the production of biofuels also can compete with crops grown for food production. According to the EPA, the proportion of corn grown for ethanol increases each year, with 40% of all corn grown diverted for fuel. With the conflict in Ukraine and reduction in wheat production, global food supplies are perilously low. Continued support for additional biofuel production only worsens the collective ability to feed people in the United States and around the world.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.