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A new EPA proposal is reigniting a debate about what counts as ‘renewable’

Summary

The EPA has suggested increasing  the federal Renewable Fuel Standard's mandated requirements. The 2005 program regulates how much renewable fuels including corn-based ethanol, manure-based biogas, and wood pellets are used to decrease petroleum-based transportation fuel, heating oil, and jet fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The latest EPA plan would raise renewable fuels by approximately 2 billion gallons by 2025, or 9%. Advanced biofuel comes from agricultural, animal, food, and yard waste, including biogas made from animal and human waste.  The EPA's latest plan calls for a 14% rise in these fuels from 2023 to 2024 and a 12% increase in 2025. Industry producers and the federal government support these new renewable fuel rules, while environmental organizations view growing investment in ethanol, biomass, and biogas as exacerbating dirty energy. Opponents believe that increasing corn production for ethanol would prolong damaging agricultural techniques that erode soil and pour large quantities of chemicals on corn farms, causing water contamination and toxic dead zones throughout the country and the Gulf of Mexico. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported earlier this year that when corn demand rises due to RFS blending rules, prices rise and farmers apply more fossil fuel-based fertilizer to crops. The EPA's own analysis shows that the federal mandate's blending requirements will raise greenhouse gas emissions over the next three years.

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