New Research Proves Biofuels Policy Driving Environmental Harm

New research shows the Renewable Fuel Standard and its implementation are fueling environmental harm that is destroying monarch butterfly habitat and forage, draining western aquifers, accelerating climate change and numerous other effects. The new research, prepared by the University of California-Davis, Kansas State University, and University of Wisconsin, provides the most detailed and comprehensive assessment to date of the direct connection between U.S. biofuels policy and specific economic and field-level environmental changes following passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard 10 years ago.
Read an overview of the research at:
Original research can be found at:
Both sites contain maps showing which impacts are most prevalent in specific states.
The compilation of research was presented in February at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The new findings come at a critical time, as public officials are preparing to re-write national biofuel policy due to a mandated “re-set” of the law.
Main findings of the research include:
  1. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) raised corn prices 31 percent and soybean prices 19 percent, driving demand for those crops.
  2. The RFS led to an intensification of corn production, as farmers planted more corn on existing cropland by an average of 6.9 million acres per year between 2008 and 2016. 
  3. The RFS also led to the conversion of 1.6 million acres of grassland, shrubland, wetland and forestland into cropland between 2008 and 2016.
  4. This RFS-led land conversion contributed to the continued decline of habitat, including milkweed—the sole food source for monarch butterfly larvae.
  5. Due to the RFS, an additional 1.2 million acres of cropland remained in production instead of being retired to pasture or retired through farm conservation programs.
  6. Land-use changes driven by the RFS contributed about 27.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere, the equivalent of more than 7 coal-fired power plants.
  7. The RFS led to increased water consumption through irrigation of newly converted crops from natural areas, and existing crops that remained in production instead of being retired. Nebraska experienced the largest irrigation expansion.