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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

Environmental Group Pushes Support for New Biofuels

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(File: Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media)
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The Green Plains Energy ethanol plant near Central City, Neb.

U.S. energy policy that effectively promotes corn ethanol is holding back a generation of more environmentally sound fuels, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

To grow corn for ethanol, farmers have been plowing up new land and fertilizing big crops. Some research says that means corn-based ethanol can have a larger carbon footprint than traditional fuel.

 

Initially, corn ethanol was meant as a bridge to low-carbon fuels such as cellulosic ethanol, which is produced from grasses and other inedible parts of plants, butthat has been slow to develop on a commercial scale.

 

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires oil companies to blend biofuels into the gasoline supply, mandates just a small fraction of renewable fuels come from non-corn-based sources.

 

“What we need to focus on is what they call ‘second-generation fuels,’ fuels made from biomass like corn stover and switchgrass, to create lower carbon fuels,” said Emily Cassidy, who wrote the report for EWG.

 

To encourage new biofuels, Cassidy suggested that Congress should motivate farmers to grow a different crop.

 

“Farmers are business people, too, and they want to make a profit,” Cassidy said. “We need to see if there’s a way we can incentivize them growing feedstocks that aren’t as harmful to the environment.”

 

Many in the corn ethanol industrydispute the notion that corn ethanol production stalls biofuels made from other sources. And the cellulosic energy industry has seen growth in recent months. DuPont Industrial Biosciencesopened what the company said is the largest cellulosic ethanol plant in the world in October in Nevada, Iowa.

 

The EPA has said it plans to set 2015 and 2016 RFS targets by the end of November.  

 

Harvest Public Media’s Jeremy Bernfeld contributed to this report.