Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

'Green' renewable fuel plants are releasing MORE pollution than oil refineries


So-called 'green' fuel refineries have used loopholes in federal regulation to become massive polluters, according to a new report.

The 275 Biofuel and ethanol manufacturers in the US released 12 million tons of toxic materials into the air in 2022 compared to 15 million emitted by oil refineries, the report detailed.

Further, these plants released more of four kinds of toxic chemicals that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and shortness of breath in the short term, and have been linked to cancer in the long term.

These green fuel companies use products like corn or vegetable oil to make fuel instead of petroleum.

A majority of the biofuel facilities are located in the Midwest, with one in Illinois that generated the largest source of Hexane, a toxin that can cause nerve damage.

Courtney Bernhardt, Director of Research for the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), the group that released the report, said: 'Despite its green image, the biofuels industry releases a surprising amount of hazardous air pollution that puts local communities at risk – and this problem is exacerbated by EPA’s lax regulation.'

The EIP is a nonprofit watchdog group focused on environmental law, and has been calling for increased federal regulation of the 'green' fuel industry.

Their report reviewed 2022 data that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released from 191 ethanol plants, 71 biodiesel plants and 13 renewable diesel plants.

Not only were the 'green' manufacturers emissions nearly on par with oil and gas, they also released more of particularly potent toxins than the petroleum manufacturers - including hexane, acetaldehyde, acrolein and formaldehyde than traditional oil and gas refineries.

Formaldehyde fumes can cause cancer, and acetaldehyde is a suggested carcinogen as well. When hexane gas is inhaled, it causes dizziness, nausea and headaches, according to the EIP.

Acrolein, which is also found in cigarettes and build materials, can cause vomiting and shortness of breath and has been linked to asthma.

On top of that, the process of cultivating the raw materials and transforming them into biofuels isn't better for the environment than traditional oil and gas, the report found.

The biofuel plants in the US emitted 33 million tons of greenhouse gasses in 2022. That's equivalent to the amount of greenhouse gases coming from 27.5 oil refineries.

Even as reports of this sort are increasing, the 'green fuel' industry is booming.

This is thanks in part to increased funding from the Biden administration, which has allocated billions in funds for developing a green aviation fuel, Inside Climate News reported.

It's difficult to total how much money the administration has funneled towards this industry through the different agencies of the executive branch.

But just the most recent announcement from President Biden included $238 million for expanding biofuel production.

Ever since 2005, the US government has mandated that petroleum manufacturers blend their product with biofuels like ethanol.

This has likely played a role in the rapid expansion of these manufacturers- where the number of plants has increased eight times over since 2000.

Ethanol is a type of fuel that's made from corn. Roughly 40 percent of all the corn grown in America goes towards making the fuel.

In response, corn production has expanded too - adding roughly 7 million acres of new corn farms each year after the new federal regulations.

These plants are primarily located in rural areas, near the farms that supply the raw materials for their fuel - in states like Illinois and Iowa.

This has caused the tilling of land that would've been conserved for its natural plant and animal life, Reuters reported.

One of these biofuel plants, Archer Daniels Midland, located in Illinois, was found to be the biggest source of hexane in the country, a toxin that can cause nerve damage.

This has caused nearby residents to develop dizziness and nausea, Robert Hirschfeld, Director of Water Policy at the Prairie Rivers Network, said.

On top of the problems that the manufacturing itself has caused, the report writes, the increased demand for corn has made farmers clear and allocate more farmland for the crop.

This has contributed to deforestation and habitat loss and potentially endangers animal species, according to research from University of Minnesota.

From the farm to the pump, ethanol production released 24 percent more carbon than traditional fuel sources, a 2022 report from Professor Lark found. Carbon emissions are thought to be one of the biggest drivers of climate change.

In addition, the farms that grow corn have polluted some agricultural regions so thoroughly that locals are advised not to swim in, eat fish from or drink form local fresh water sources.

This is the case in Decatur, Illinois, thanks to both corn farms and the Archer Daniels Midland plant, Hirschfeld said.