And sadly some “green” energy efforts seem to be more about politics, and less about actually helping the environment. The push for the greater use of ethanol, for example, has been advanced under the green flag, but actually has dubious environmental benefits. While the actual burning a gallon of ethanol results in less CO2 being released in the atmosphere than traditional gasoline, studies suggest that the process used to create ethanol (the use of fertilizers, farm and processing equipment, water, as well as the land itself, which is often first cleared of existing forests and plant life) more than off-sets those reductions, making ethanol mandates counterproductive from an environmental standpoint. That does deter politicians—eager to please the powerful corn and farming lobby—from keeping them in place.
The politics of big corn may have also helped fuel the EPA’s recent decision to green light using gasoline with up to 15 percent ethanol (rather than the current limit of blends with up to 10 percent). Previous studies had found that such a high concentration of ethanol damaged cars, as well as reduced fuel efficiency. The EPA hasn’t fully studied the issue, focusing instead just on the effect on emissions, but moved forward with allowing more ethanol anyway. That means that new car buyers may find that their more-expensive cars don’t last as long—another big blow to family budgets.
Americans care about the environment and want more energy solutions and products that reduce pollution. Yet it’s important to recognize the tradeoffs that often come with these “green” regulations and programs, which can leave American families poorer and less safe as a result.