So it appears the Associated Press has discovered what conservative and libertarian economic critics have been saying all along: top-down government regulation to promote "green energy" has numerous unintended consequences, including negative repercussions for the environment.
In their November 12 article, "The secret, dirty cost of Obama's green power push," AP writers Dina Cappiello and Matt Apuzzo laid out how "the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today," adding (emphasis mine):
As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and contaminated water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.
Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have been converted on Obama's watch.
Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.
The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative consequences.
All energy comes at a cost. The environmental consequences of drilling for oil and natural gas are well documented and severe. But in the president's push to reduce greenhouse gases and curtail global warming, his administration has allowed so-called green energy to do not-so-green things.
In some cases, such as the decision to allow wind farms that sometimes kill eagles, the administration accepts environmental costs because they pale in comparison to the havoc global warming could ultimately cause.
In the case of ethanol, the administration believes it must encourage the development of next-generation biofuels that will someday be cleaner and greener than today's.
"That is what you give up if you don't recognize that renewable fuels have some place here," EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said. "All renewable fuels are not corn ethanol."
But next-generation biofuels haven't been living up to expectations. And the government's predictions on ethanol have proven so inaccurate that independent scientists question whether it will ever achieve its central environmental goal: reducing greenhouse gases.
That makes the hidden costs even more significant.
"They're raping the land," said Bill Alley, a Democratic member of the board of supervisors in Wayne County, Iowa, which now bears little resemblance to the rolling cow pastures shown in postcards sold at a Corydon town pharmacy.
The numbers behind the ethanol mandate have become so unworkable that, for the first time, the EPA is soon expected to reduce the amount of ethanol required to be added to the gasoline supply. An unusual coalition of big oil companies, environmental groups and food companies is pushing the government to go even further and reconsider the entire ethanol program.
But the Obama administration stands by the mandate and rarely acknowledges that green energy requires any trade-offs.
The Des Moines Water Works has faced high nitrate levels for many years in the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, which supply drinking water to 500,000 people. Typically, when pollution is too high in one river, workers draw from the other.
"This year, unfortunately the nitrate levels in both rivers were so high that it created an impossibility for us," said Bill Stowe, the utility's general manager.
For three months this summer, huge purifiers churned around the clock to meet demand for safe, clean water.
Obama's support for ethanol dates to his time as a senator form Illinois, the nation's second-largest corn producer.
So all in all, a government program intended to reduce carbon emissions and pollution has actually done more harm than good, all the while fattening the pockets of agricultural interests in the president's home state who have benefited from the government's subsidization of ethanol. It's a green policy alright, only the green in question are the greenbacks flowing to politically-connected companies.
Kudos to the AP for covering such an important story, even if -- and we believe this is most likely -- the major networks and newspapers will fail to cover it.