AP investigates ethanol boom

The Associated Press today released a major investigation on the environmental impact of America’s boom in corn-based ethanol. The report details increased pollution of streams from nitrogen fertilizers and increased production of greenhouse gases from the conversion of grasslands to row crop agriculture.

Last year, 44 percent of the nation’s corn crop was used for fuel, according to the report.

The AP, on its website, headlined the investigation as “The Big Story: The secret, dirty cost of Obama’s green power push.” Read the package of articles on the Associated Press website. Read versions published by the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.

A data base the Associated Press compiled from U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics shows that between 2006 _ the year before the federal government began requiring ethanol be blended with gasoline _  and 2012, Minnesota farmers increased their corn plantings by 1.4 million acres, or 19 percent.

During the same period, the land set aside in conservation plots in Minnesota decreased by 241,000 acres, or 13 percent. View the AP’s interactive map showing county-by-county changes in corn plantings and conservation land between 2006 and 2012.