Ethanol Scam: Ethanol Hurts the Environment And Is One of America's Biggest Political Boondoggles : Rolling Stone
The great danger of confronting peak oil and global warming isn't that we will sit on our collective asses and do nothing while civilization collapses, but that we will plunge after "solutions" that will make our problems even worse. Like believing we can replace gasoline with ethanol, the much-hyped biofuel that we make from corn.
Ethanol, of course, is nothing new. American refiners will produce nearly 6 billion gallons of corn ethanol this year, mostly for use as a gasoline additive to make engines burn cleaner. But in June, the Senate all but announced that America's future is going to be powered by biofuels, mandating the production of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022. According to ethanol boosters, this is the beginning of a much larger revolution that could entirely replace our 21-million-barrel-a-day oil addiction. Midwest farmers will get rich, the air will be cleaner, the planet will be cooler, and, best of all, we can tell those greedy sheiks to fuck off. As the king of ethanol hype, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, put it recently, "Everything about ethanol is good, good, good."
This is not just hype -- it's dangerous, delusional bullshit. Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World. And the increasing acreage devoted to corn for ethanol means less land for other staple crops, giving farmers in South America an incentive to carve fields out of tropical forests that help to cool the planet and stave off global warming.
Additional insight from the Portal of Evil forums
1. In Brazil, ethanol is made from sugarcane. The energy return on energy invested (EROEI) of ethanol made from sugarcane is 8-to-1. Compare to the EROEI of corn ethanol, which is a pathetic 1.34-to-1.
2. If every bushel of U.S. corn, wheat, rice, and soybean were used to produce ethanol, it would only cover about 4% of US energy needs on a net basis.
3. Ethanol production consumes about 20% of the US corn crop and provides about 3.5% of our current gasoline consumption. Let's do some naive calculations. Suppose we double the amount of land we use to grow corn and use all the extra for nothing but ethanol. This would get us up to a whopping 21% of our current gasoline consumption.
4. Ethanol production fucks with food prices in a bad way, which makes food more expensive and (if you care) could lead to massive starvation in the third world.
5. It doesn't burn very clean and it's bad for the environment in several other ways which I personally wouldn't give much of a shit about if it was more of a miracle cure for cutting our oil dependence and less of an obscenely expensive blowjob for agribusiness.