Biofuels

Most biofuels in use today harm the environment. Friends of the Earth advocates an end to federal policies that promote biofuels that pollute our air and water and destabilize our climate.

While we would welcome biofuels that are environmentally and socially sustainable, the unfortunate truth is that large-scale agrofuels usually are not. Biofuels produced from corn, sugar, soy and palm oil tend to be especially dirty, increasing soil erosion and air and water pollution. In some cases these fuels even result in more climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas emissions than conventional gasoline.

Ethanol: not clean or greenMany biofuels rely on monoculture cropping and industrial agricultural systems, which involve massive fertilizer inputs, large quantities of water and huge amounts of oil. Biofuels can speed global warming by leading to the destruction of forests and other natural ecosystems when land is cleared for the cultivation of biofuel crops. Biofuels also compete with food for land, increasing food prices and hunger.  

The biofuels industry is supported by a number of different policies in the U.S., including different types of tax subsidies, trade barriers, government grants and loans, and a guaranteed market due to a federal consumption mandate called the Renewable Fuel Standard. By ending policies that support the production of environmentally harmful biofuels, we will make room for truly sustainable energy alternatives and more environmentally friendly and socially responsible biofuels.

Learn more about our individual biofuels campaigns below and by reading our biofuels blog.

Blender and Production Tax Credits

The U.S. biofuels industry receives billions of dollars each year through tax credits. There are multiple tax credits that support the production and consumption of biofuels irrespective of their environmental impact. These credits have been in existence in one form or another for more than 30 years. Friends of the Earth and a diverse coalition of allies recently succeeded in phasing out a $6 billion tax subsidy for corn ethanol, and we are working to end other tax credits for unsustainable biofuels and to ensure that taxpayer dollars support only the most sustainable biofuels.

The Renewable Fuel Standard

The Renewable Fuel Standard requires an increasingly large amount of biofuels to be consumed each year, with 36 billion gallons being consumed annually by 2022 (a five-fold increase from 2007). At least 15 billion of these gallons will come from corn ethanol if the Renewable Fuel Standard is not eliminated or reformed. Friends of the Earth opposes the Renewable Fuel Standard because it guarantees a market for some of the dirtiest biofuels, which damage the environment and raise food prices.

The “Blend Wall”

The blend wall is the maximum percentage of ethanol allowed to be blended into a gallon of gasoline sold at U.S. gas stations. At present, 10 percent of a gallon of fuel may be comprised of ethanol. However, the EPA recently approved "E-15," a 15 percent ethanol-gasoline blend. Increased ethanol blend levels will result in more ethanol use, which will harm air and water quality, lead to more soil erosion and exacerbate all of the other problems caused by corn ethanol. Moreover, E15 has recently been shown to damage small engines, including those in cars, trucks, boats, snowmobiles, chainsaws and more. The use of E15 in these engines could cause serious damage and void owners' warranties.

Biomass Electricity Incentives

Despite the fact that emissions from burning biomass can be just as bad as burning coal, there are a number of state and federal incentives supporting this dirty electricity source and misleadingly calling it "clean."  Friends of the Earth seeks to ensure that ecosystems and our air and climate are protected from biomass energy.

Biofuels Advocacy

Learn more about Friends of the Earth's work on biofuels by browsing the following materials:

Fact sheets on biofuels

Friends of the Earth reports

Advocacy Archive

Latest in Climate & Energy

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