The ethanol mandate has been controversial, with critics saying it has led to higher food prices and has spurred pollution by uprooting idle land into crops that require fertilizer and increased energy consumption to produce and refine the crops as a fuel additive.
Critics also say that the increase in domestic oil production in recent years has weakened the claim that farmers are helping to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil.
Many pro-ethanol groups say ethanol has been a boon to farm income. Corn prices, for example, jumped several years after the mandate was instituted before falling over the past four years.
During the 2016 election, presidential candidate Donald Trump said he supported the mandate, and this fall directed the EPA not to take steps to cut the amount of ethanol in gasoline.
Geoff Cooper, executive vice president of the Renewable Fuels Association, took issue with the methodology of the study of using satellite photographs over time to judge changes on the landscape.
Cooper also said the number of acres of corn production in the U.S. has fallen more than 3 percent between 2007 and 2017 while production per acre increased by 16 percent since 2007.
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