Updated at 12:25 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, Nov. 13
Ethanol and ag groups Tuesday continued efforts to curb the impact of claims Associated Press reporters put forth in an investigative report regarding corn ethanol's environmental footprint.
The report, authored by AP reporters Dina Cappiello and Matt Apuzzo, largely questioned the Obama administration's ethanol policies and impacts of ethanol production on conservation efforts, water quality and land use.
"The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America's push for green energy: The brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil. The polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply," the report begins, going on later to say, "It wasn't supposed to be this way."
Quoting representatives from the ethanol groups, the Environmental Working Group, the Environmental Protection Agency and former Obama officials, the reporters say that more than five million acres of land set aside for conservation have now disappeared, and landowners have "plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil."
The report says another source, Leroy Perkins, who lives near the Iowa town of Corydon, is now faced with a choice – "keep the land as it is or, like many of his neighbors, plow it down and plant corn or soybeans, the major sources of biofuel in the United States."
Going on to discuss water quality, corn prices and land values with an overarching ethanol theme, the report concludes that, "what was once billed as an environmental boon has morphed into a government program to help rural America survive."
Ethanol groups, largely displeased with the report, unleashed "fact check" efforts beginning last week, when AP issued an advisory that the report would be published. Those efforts continued into Monday with a press conference supported by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. Tuesday, IRFA, the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, National Corn Growers and National Farmers Union each issued rebuttals to the story while its co-author Apuzzo entertained questions on the web-based discussion board Reddit.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack also questioned the merits of the report in a round table discussion with the Des Moines Register's editorial board before the report's formal release, noting, "there are a number of inaccuracies and errors in that article."
"This so-called 'Investigative Report' is nothing more than a one-sided piece with explicit misinformation used in attempt to discredit the renewable fuels industry," a Growth Energy statement said, calling the report a "hatchet job on ethanol."