cobs of corn

Another round of fighting has started over whether E15 – a blend of ethanol (15 percent) and gasoline (85 percent) – should be adopted nationwide. The latest jab comes from Scott Faber, a lobbyist for Environmental Working Group, who says that, as far as greenhouse gasses go, ethanol is "worse than Canadian tar sands."

Ethanol has destroyed more wetlands and grassland in the last four years than were wrecked in the last 40, as far as greenhouse gas emissions go, Faber says. That argument touches a nerve, since about 40 percent of the US corn crop goes to ethanol and an ongoing Midwest drought has contributed to high corn prices. The price spike has been encouraging farmers to plow marginal virgin land, releasing stored carbon into the atmosphere. Fertilizer and pesticides used for corn get washed into rivers.

The anti-E15 coalition is getting pretty big. Oil industry, environmentalists, taxpayer groups, livestock owners and foreign aid groups want to see Congress repeal the 15-percent ethanol blend mandate. Ethanol industry groups like the Renewable Fuels Association have been leading the counter attack, and so far the US Environmental Protection Agency is not backing down.

"The American public should be outraged this thing is still on the books," said Charlie Drevna of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) group. The AFPM has been joined by powerhouse American Petroleum Institute to wage an all-out war against the ethanol mandate.

It is an odd coalition opposing E15, and the Canadian tar sands comment doesn't exactly clarify things. The fight will continue in Congress and the White House, and could easily prompt another federal lawsuit.