These two stories, one brief in the NY Times and the other in the Washington Post, paint an alarming picture of what will happen if we rush ahead with a renewable fuel standard without a significant expansion and reform of the conservation title of the farm bill and robust environmental safeguards on how renewable fuels are produced.
The good news is that we could avoid these types of impacts. We know how to grow crops using much less fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides and to manage the land so that much less of what we apply runs off into our streams and rivers. In this post, I linked to a great analysis by WRI and summarized their recommendation for the farm bill that would help minimize the impacts of the surge in corn production for ethanol.
We can also require better management of lands used to produce crops for biofuels and require and provide incentives for best practices as part of an expanded renewable fuel standard. In this post, I linked to a bunch of material environmental groups are using to try to educate the House on how to do a responsible renewable fuel standard.
The bad news is that many in Congress seem unwilling to connect the dots between their support for biofuels and the need to mitigate and manage the impacts. In their mind, all biofuel are green because they come from farms. Unfortunately, under the status quo, so does a lot of water pollution.