Josh Brage


The Many Myths of Ethanol
May 24, 2007, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Whatever

A simple question first. If ethanol’s so good, why does it need government subsidies? Shouldn’t producers be eager to make it, knowing that thrilled consumers will reward them with profits?

But consumers won’t reward them, because without subsidies, ethanol would cost much more than gasoline.

The claim that using ethanol will save energy is another myth. Studies show that the amount of energy ethanol produces and the amount needed to make it are roughly the same. “It takes a lot of fossil fuels to make the fertilizer, to run the tractor, to build the silo, to get that corn to a processing plant, to run the processing plant,” Taylor says.

And because ethanol degrades, it can’t be moved in pipelines the way that gasoline is. So many more big, polluting trucks will be needed to haul it.

More bad news: The increased push for ethanol has already led to a sharp increase in corn growing — which means much more land must be plowed. That means much more fertilizer, more water used on farms and more pesticides.

This makes ethanol the “solution”?

But won’t it at least get us unhooked from Middle East oil? Wouldn’t that be worth the other costs? Another myth. A University of Minnesota study shows that even turning all of America’s corn into ethanol would meet only 12 percent of our gasoline demand. As Taylor told an energy conference last March, “For corn ethanol to completely displace gasoline consumption in this country, we would need to appropriate all cropland in the United States, turn it completely over to corn-ethanol production, and then find 20 percent more land on top of that for cultivation.”

OK, but it will cut down on air pollution, right? Wrong again. Studies indicate that the standard mixture of 90 percent ethanol and 10 percent gasoline pollutes worse than gasoline.

(read the rest here)

This answered some questions that I have had about Ethanol. I don’t know very much about it. Something that I want to continue to learn more about is the environment. I think that I am almost completely ignorant about all things energy. Anyone know of any good books I should read on this topic?

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