Environmentalists Burn Ethanol Hype as Empty Promise

The Bush administration's give-away to ethanol producers leaves critics saying the "green" gasoline creates a host of additional environmental and political problems.

Published: 12-Aug-2006

Prompted by climbing gas prices and mandates to promote alternative fuels, Washington is pouring public money into ethanol production. But watchdogs and environmentalists fear that corporate and political agendas are eclipsing environmental concerns in a headlong rush for "green" energy.

While they acknowledge its potential as a renewable "biofuel," skeptics say that banking on ethanol in its current form is environmentally and economically unsustainable, threatening to squander over $1 billion in tax incentives that Congress has recently lavished on the industry.

An alternative fuel derived mainly from corn, ethanol currently constitutes only a miniscule fraction of the country's fuel supply, but domestic production capacity has more than doubled since 2001, to over 4.5 billion gallons per year. About 100 production plants or "biorefineries" now dot the country, according to the trade group Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). Production is likely to soar over the next several years, since the Energy Policy Act of 2005 set a Renewable Fuels Standard mandating 7.5 billion gallons of annual domestic renewable-fuel production by 2012.

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