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“The nation’s farmers got a big boost Wednesday when the Obama administration issued new biofuels guidelines that could open the way for large increases in the production of corn-based ethanol,” reports Steven Mufson of The Washington Post. Of course, nothing is that simple.

The Environmental Protection Agency had earlier concluded the environmental impact of corn ethanol should include changes in land use world wide. If turning over more Midwest farmland to corn for ethanol resulted in cutting more rain forest in Brazil, the EPS said the loss of Brazilian trees should be counted against U.S. ethanol. The EPA hasn’t backed off that reasoning, but has concluded that even taking into account land use, corn ethanol causes less environmental harm than gasoline. An earlier analysis wasn’t so kind to ethanol. 

Still, Midwest legislators didn’t like the fact that the EPA continued counting indirect land use when calculating the environmental benefits of ethanol. “To think that we can credibly measure the impact of international indirect land use is completely unrealistic, and I will continue to push for legislation that prevents unreliable methods and unfair standards from burdening the biofuels industry,” said House Ag Chair colin Peterson (D-Minn.) “By using this unproven and murky theory, the EPA has done a disservice to America’s renewable fuel producers by diminishing their benefit to the environment,” said Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley.

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