Renewable fuels have been hit with a double-whammy. It began with an Associated Press story bashing ethanol for damaging the environment.

Then, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed capping ethanol at 13 billion gallons for the 2014 Renewable Fuels Standard rather than the 14.4 billion gallons set in the original law.

Biodiesel production also was impacted by the proposed RFS revamp with the EPA calling for 1.28 billion gallons rather than the 1.7 billion as originally set.

The AP story claims “the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.”

“As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted 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 vanished on Obama’s watch.

“Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.

“Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can’t survive.”

The Illinois Corn Growers Association responded to the story with the following comments and facts:

* The AP story discusses land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, yet the discussion around it misses the most fundamental facts regarding CRP;

* Only land that had a crop production history was eligible for CRP enrollment. This wasn’t virgin land to begin with;

* CRP acreage was capped at 32 million acres beginning in 2010, down from the previous cap of 39.2 million acres as a result of the 2008 farm bill. It is impossible to legally get back to the all-time high enrollment of 36.8 million acres in 2007 because of this cap, not because of ethanol;

* While acreage cannot go back to its 2007 high due to the cap, acreage in restored wetlands and other high-value practices is likely to increase, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture;

* Current law strictly prohibits the conversion of sensitive ecosystems to cropland. The provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act require that corn and other feedstocks used to produce renewable fuels for RFS may only be sourced from land that was actively engaged in agricultural production in 2007, the year of the bill’s enactment; and

* The Field to Market Initiative has documented that from the period 1980 to 2011 farmers have done a better job in managing soils, water and nutrients and at the same time have increased productivity. For corn, productivity is up 64 percent, land use per bushel is down 30 percent, irrigated water use per bushel is down 53 percent, energy use per bushel is down 43 percent, soil loss per bushel is down 67 percent, and greenhouse gas per bushel is down 36 percent.

One may begin to think there is some kind of anti-ethanol conspiracy. Huh, I wonder who would be responsible for such a thing.