Mention "renewable energy," and many normally skeptical Americans begin taking the government's word for the allegedly undiluted benefits of fuels such as ethanol. Why, Midwestern corn farmers can slash our dependence on foreign petroleum by producing cheap, efficient, low-polluting ethanol, we were assured for years.
But very little, if any, of that was true. Last week, The Associated Press released the results of an intensive, objective investigation into the ethanol industry.
Most informed people already understood the federal law mandating ethanol be mixed with petroleum products in gasoline production is a bad deal. For one thing, it drives up food prices because so much corn goes to ethanol refineries.
For another, ethanol is not as efficient as oil-based gasoline. It takes more ethanol-blend fuel than old-style gasoline to move a car one mile. And the more ethanol blended into gasoline, the more wear on an engine.
So much for the bulk of arguments in favor of the government's ethanol mandate.
But AP reporters found it gets worse. Far from being good for the environment, the ethanol industry probably is harming it.
Millions of acres of land once set aside for conservation purposes have been converted to growing corn, solely to meet the artificial demand for ethanol.
An enormous amount of water pollution has resulted from such farms.
And it turns out the ethanol industry is a major polluter of the air. Ethanol factories release enormous amounts of carbon dioxide - the very pollutant President Barack Obama cites as his excuse for shutting down coal-fired power plants - into the air.
Requirements for blending ethanol into vehicle fuel were enacted under former President George W. Bush, but Obama's administration embraces the rule.
As the AP pointed out, new technology for producing oil and natural gas right here in the United States means Americans may not need ethanol to become energy independent.
Members of Congress ought to reverse costly, illogical policies. Those who continue going along with the ethanol line should have to explain themselves to voters.