Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why corn ethanol is a really bad idea

Corn ethanol fuel has been touted as a miracle cure for our dependence on fossil fuels, but in reality, it hurts more than it helps. Here’s why.

As more corn is routed to ethanol production and out of food production, costs rise. Corn is an oft-used ingredient in animal feed. The cost of corn, due to ethanol demand, has more than doubled in the last two years. Meanwhile, a farmer’s cost of feeding a hog has gone up 85 percent this year alone. Prices for meat and dairy from corn-fed animals rose 10-25 percent in 2007. Corn tortilla prices jumped 70 percent in Mexico.

Filling up the tank of an SUV with ethanol uses enough corn to feed a person for a year. One study predicts that world hunger will increase by 600 million people by the year 2025. All this because corn is being diverted to fuel stations instead of dinner plates.

There are negative environmental aspects, as well. As more land is being used for corn crops, more fossil fuels are used to sow and reap these crops. To fertilize, harvest and transport a single acre of corn takes 110 gallons of gas or its equivalent. Fuel corn is not organic, so chemical insecticides and fertilizers are released into the soil and air.

Doesn’t sound like such a great deal anymore, does it?

Of course, fossil fuels aren’t a great idea either. In the near future I’ll explore other alternatives -- hydrogen looks promising. Until then, ride your bike, carpool, and at the very least buy a hybrid if you’re in the market.

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