Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ethanol Recipe: Mix Corn with Tax Dollars

From an article by Professors David Pimtell (Cornell) and Tad Patzek (UC-Berkeley) in the current issue of BioScience (American Institute of Biological Sciences):

Our up-to-date analysis of the 14 energy inputs that typically go into corn production and the 9 invested in fermentation and distillation operations confirms that 29 percent more energy (derived from fossil fuels) is required to produce a gallon of corn ethanol than is contained in the ethanol. Ethanol is a bad choice from an energy standpoint. (MP: In other words, there is a net energy loss from producing ethanol, and it doesn't make economic or scientific sense to produce it.)

Moreover, the environmental impacts of corn ethanol are enormous. They include severe soil erosion, heavy use of nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides, and a significant contribution to global warming. In addition, each gallon of ethanol requires 1700 gallons of water (mostly to grow the corn) and produces 6 to 12 gallons of noxious organic effluent.

Using food crops, such as corn grain, to produce ethanol also raises major ethical concerns. More than 3.7 billion humans in the world are currently malnourished, so the need for grains and other foods is critical. Growing crops to provide fuel squanders resources; better options to reduce our dependence on oil are available. Energy conservation and development of renewable energy sources, such as solar cells and solar-based methanol synthesis, should be given priority.

Read more here.


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