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Deforestation in Argentina's Chaco forest region. Photo: Jim Wickens / Ecostorm

The U.S. biofuels mandate is driving destruction of ecologically vital forests in Argentina to make way for soybean fields, despite U.S. policy aimed at preventing imports of biodiesel linked to deforestation, according to a new report out today.

The report, available here, from the groups Mighty Earth and ActionAid USA (two groups that oppose biodiesel), is broadly critical of biodiesel's environmental footprint. But the research is focused on the Chaco region of Argentina, where a team led by the environmental investigation group Ecostorm conducted an on-the-ground inquiry, the groups said.

  • “The Chaco has become a deforestation ‘hot spot,’ and studies conclude that expansion for soybean crops, Argentina’s top export, is the primary driver,” the report states.
  • “At the sites we visited alone, we witnessed more than 30,000 acres of deforestation, just a small slice of the overall deforestation for soy in Argentina."

Why it matters: The report is another data point in the intense battle over the environmental footprint of federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a 2007 law that has required increased use of ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels.

  • More broadly, it arrives at a time when there’s new interest on Capitol Hill in changes to the mandate, largely because oil industry interests who oppose RFS for other reasons are strongly pushing for altering the program.

One level deeper: U.S. policy restricts biodiesel imports to fuels made from crops grown on land that was already cleared or cultivated in 2007. But the report argues that big agribusiness companies are engaged in a "shell game" that effectively voids that protection despite following the "letter of the law."

  • "[I]t appears as if the soy industry has merely shifted soy production for other uses to the Chaco, Amazon, Brazilian Cerrado, and other South American ecosystems in order to meet the technical requirements of the RFS, while still driving massive deforestation to expand their overall soy operations," it states.

State of play: The U.S. has imposed trade restrictions against biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia. But the report says the deforestation in Argentina should be a "cautionary tale" and that unless policymakers end the biodiesel mandate, soy cultivation for biodiesel will expand elsewhere, with similar risks.

Go deeper

Using apps to prevent deadly police encounters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Mobile phone apps are evolving in ways that can stop rather than simply document deadly police encounters with people of color — including notifying family and lawyers about potential violations in real time.

Why it matters: As states and cities face pressure to reform excessive force policies, apps that monitor police are becoming more interactive, gathering evidence against rogue officers as well as posting social media videos to shame the agencies.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
11 hours ago - Technology

TikTok gets more time (again)

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The White House is again giving TikTok's Chinese parent company more to satisfy national security concerns, rather than initiating legal action, a source familiar with the situation tells Axios.

The state of play: China's ByteDance had until Friday to resolve issues raised by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), which is chaired by Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin. This was the company's third deadline, with CFIUS having provided two earlier extensions.

Federal judge orders Trump administration to restore DACA

DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty

A federal judge on Friday ordered the Trump administration to fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, giving undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children a chance to petition for protection from deportation.

Why it matters: DACA was implemented under former President Obama, but President Trump has sought to undo the program since taking office. Friday’s ruling will require Department of Homeland Security officers to begin accepting applications starting Monday and guarantee that work permits are valid for two years.