Let me get this right... They are going to save the environment by destroying it?????????????????? http://www.sctimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080706/NEWS01/107060025 DNR deals with E85 dilemma Flex fuel push hurts conservation The Associated Press July 6, 2008 ST. PAUL Three hundred vehicles driven by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources run on a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. But ironically, its the states ethanol boom that conservation groups say is undercutting the agencys mission to conserve wildlife habitat and keep the states lakes and rivers clean. Thousands of Conservation Reserve Program acres are now being used to grow crops, because farmers make more money growing corn than they would from being part of the conservation program. At the same time, the DNR has expanded its fleet of flex-fuel vehicles that can run on E-85. Federal and state laws require government agencies to buy flex-fuel vehicles, and an order by Gov. Tim Pawlenty directs state agencies to reduce petroleum use by 25 percent by 2010. Were caught in the middle of what we hope is a transition, and its a dilemma for us, said DNR wildlife section chief Dennis Simon. He and other DNR officials hope ethanol eventually will be produced from biomass such as prairie grasses and woody fiber that are more friendly to wildlife. For now, the agency is taking a little heat from conservation groups. The irony of having the DNR charged with preserving prairie and grasslands and Conservation Reserve Program acres and at the same time helping to drive demand for corn-based ethanol isnt lost on us, and I dont think its lost on a lot of people, said Matt Norton, forestry and wildlife advocate with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. DNR officials arent happy to see the conservation lands go. DNR Lac qui Parle wildlife manager Dave Trauba has seen the effects of the land conversion firsthand. Officials estimate that more than 1 million of the states CRP acres might be lost, and much of it will become land for growing corn. While ethanol advocates say the fuel burns cleaner than gasoline, some conservationists are pointing to the land conversion to put some perspective on the matter. Studies have shown it will take as long as 140 years of burning ethanol instead of gasoline to make up for carbon losses that will occur by plowing up grasslands to grow corn for ethanol, said Tom Landwehr, assistant state director for the Nature Conservancy. Norton said shifting to ethanol made from biomass called cellulosic ethanol could be accelerated if state lawmakers offer the same subsidies that were available to corn-based ethanol producers. If the state required co-firing of ethanol plants from cellulosic grassland materials instead of natural gas to offset the amount of ethanol used by state vehicles, that would be a start, he said. And theres one other dilemma with E-85 with which officials must also grapple: While E-85 is cheaper, the price difference with Minnesota standard gasoline that contains 10 percent ethanol is sometimes less than 15 percent. Thats a problem when the flex-fuel vehicles running on E-85 get about 15 percent less mileage than the same vehicles burning the 90-10 blend, DNR fleet manager Dave Schiller said.