Just Say No to Ethanol
From a New York Times editorial almost two months ago:
The world’s food situation is bleak, and shortsighted policies in the United States and other wealthy countries — which are diverting crops to environmentally dubious biofuels — bear much of the blame.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the price of wheat is more than 80 percent higher than a year ago, and corn prices are up by a quarter. Global cereal stocks have fallen to their lowest level since 1982.
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Yet the most important reason for the price shock is the rich world’s subsidized appetite for biofuels. In the United States, 14 percent of the corn crop was used to produce ethanol in 2006 — a share expected to reach 30 percent by 2010. This is also cutting into production of staples like soybeans, as farmers take advantage of generous subsidies and switch crops to corn for fuel.
In addition to the impact on food supplies and prices which is contributing to riots and starvation in certain countries, ethanol has ultimately proven not to be an acceptable substitute for fossil fuels.
> Calculations of the amount of energy ultimately produced range from negative to at most 34% more energy than ethanol consumes in its own production and delivery. And all of the 64% is fossil fuel. This equation alone renders ethanol a questionable propostion.
> Compounding the energy-yield problem is the fact that a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is reduced by 20% – 30% when it runs ethanol.
> In addition to energy, ethanol production consumes water. It also creates dead zones in water bodies (Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, etc.) due to the run-off of fertilizer.
> Finally, the ultimate insult: the burning of ethanol actually poses a greater risk to public health than does the burning of petroleum products.
It was a good experiment and well-intended. But the results are in. Ethanol is a non-starter. Congress must end ethanol mandates.