By Tom Philpott
In its calm and measured way, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just delivered a blistering assessment of the environmental value of corn-based ethanol.
The CBO had been charged by Congress to calculate just what the public is getting for its investment in ethanol production: specifically, the $0.45/gallon tax credit that gasoline blenders get for mixing ethanol into the fuel supply. In 2009, 10.8 billion gallons of corn ethanol got used in such a manner, costing the federal Treasury $5.16 billion in reduced tax revenue.
What did we get for that fat wad of cash, in environmental terms? The question is critical, because that long-entrenched tax break is set to expire later this year — and the ethanol industry is scrambling to extend it, with the full support of the Obama administration, Associated Press reports.
As the CBO report [PDF] makes clear, the environmental case for the tax break is bankrupt. The reports runs 28 pages, but I can boil it down to two points.
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