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Flashback: As EPA Approves E15, Remember the Media's Infatuation with Ethanol

Consumers beware, the Environmental Protection Agency is "poised to approve higher levels of corn-based ethanol in gasoline." Since drivers have already experienced the pain of higher gas prices as well as witnessed global food riots because of ethanol, there is reason for concern about the EPA's latest move.


Associated Press and other outlets reported on Jan. 21, that the EPA would announce 15 percent ethanol (E15) is "safe" for cars made from 2001 to 2006. Last fall, the EPA approved E15 for cars manufactured since 2007.


But AP buried a crucial fact in the final sentence of its report: "Ethanol burns hotter than gasoline, causing catalytic converters, which help clean engine emissions, to break down faster."


Consumer Reports has said that fuel economy drops for cars running on ethanol and Popular Mechanics has detailed the problems of gasohol (gasoline/ethanol mixtures like E10 or E15) for cars' fuel systems.


In 2005, the U.S. government mandated biofuels like ethanol be mixed into the nation's gasoline supply. Those mandates led farmers to plant more corn and, as the government-created demand for ethanol increased, the price for corn went up and prices for animal feed, meat and other animal products rose too. The supply of other crops dropped, raising their prices as well.


The U.S. has been impacted by those higher food prices, but not yet in the tragic way it has manifested around the world where some have rioted because of 'soaring' costs of food. In 2008, the Business & Media Institute analyzed network coverage of ethanol and found that more than 82 percent of the coverage that connected ethanol to rising food prices neglected to mention the government's role in creating the problem.


Much of the early coverage of ethanol was enthusiastically positive. In fact, the news media rushed to praise the new fuel as an "easy solution" to America's dependence on oil. Katie Couric called it "the wave of the future." In May 2006, all three broadcast networks hyped the biofuel by showing Brazil's success in switching to sugar cane ethanol.


"[W]hat if there was one solution to all of this [high gas prices], something that could solve America's energy crisis, strengthen our national security, and help save the planet at the same time?" NBC's Stone Phillips asked during the May 7, 2006, "Dateline."


Phillips excluded even left-wing experts who disagree with the notion that ethanol is a planet-saver, such as the liberal environmental group Sierra Club which had said it was "no boon for the environment."


CBS's Harry Smith promoted a bio-utopia on June 29, 2006 saying, "Gas prices on the rise again. Many Americans 'running on empty.' There's a lot more talk about energy independence. Some folks are trying renewable sources of energy called biofuels." Smith praised "Bio-town" (Reynolds, Ind.) that morning on "The Early Show" as an energy-independent utopia. Smith ended the story: "It's happy days out there in Bio-town."


In 2007, when President Bush signed a huge energy bill that would mandate higher fuel efficiency for cars, increase biofuel mandates and phase out incandescent light bulbs both ABC "World News" and NBC's "Nightly News" wondered if the government was doing enough.