The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken a big step towards implementing one of the most contentious parts of last year’s Energy Policy Act by proposing a regulatory system that will nearly double domestic ethanol use.

Called the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the regulation establishes a credit-trading system that will mandate the use of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol nationwide by 2012 — up from 4 billion gallons this year.

“For years, our nation’s rolling farm fields have filled America’s breadbaskets,” EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said. “Now, by helping meet President Bush’s renewable energy goals, these same fields are filling America’s gas tanks.”

The agency estimates that the scheme will reduce petroleum consumption between 2.3 billion to 3.9 billion gallons — slightly more than 1 percent of the petroleum that would be used in the transportation sector. Greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 0.4 to 0.6 percent. However, some emissions will increase emissions of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.

This has angered some officials: “Energy independence and protection of public health need not be mutually exclusive,” argues Bill Becker, the head of two associations representing state and local air pollution officials. “We are troubled that EPA’s proposal will significantly increase smog-forming emissions in many areas of the country. We are further concerned that these increases will obstruct state strategies to meet the health-based smog standards.”

So we have a system that reduces carbon dioxide but creates more air pollution. Does that make sense to you??