Corn Ethanol is Not a Panacea | Citizens Against Government Waste

Corn Ethanol is Not a Panacea

The WasteWatcher

All is not rosy with corn ethanol and other biofuels, according to a February 7 Scientific American online article.  The article reported on the release of two new research studies that show that converting corn to ethanol is leading to increased clearing of the Amazon rainforest and higher costs of food.  Plus, for those who argue that global warming is man-made, the researchers highlighted in the Scientific American article report that corn ethanol production may be making the situation worse.

When corn is converted into fuel, less of it is available for human and animal consumption, driving up the price of products made from corn, such as corn oil, corn syrup, corn meal, and animal feed.  Taxpayer subsidies for corn-based ethanol have enticed farmers to over-plant corn, as opposed to other food crops, such as soybeans or wheat.  With supply and demand economics at work, less soybeans and wheat means higher prices for these crops.  When these higher prices move through the food chain, consumers end up paying more for turkey, chicken, beef, bread, pasta, and other commodities.

Furthermore, because more land is being used for biofuel crops, the clearing of rainforests and grasslands has increased to make room to plant much-needed food crops or even more biofuel crops.  The studies found that clearing forests and grasslands for biofuels could release more CO2 into the atmosphere than gasoline, depending on what grew on the land before or how it was utilized.  Joseph Fargione of the Nature Conservancy, one study’s leading author said, “Any biofuel that causes land clearing is likely to increase global warming.  It takes decades to centuries to repay the carbon debt that is created from clearing land.”

It is ironic that at the same time environmentalists are sounding the alarm about production of biofuels and its impact on rainforests and grasslands, they continue to fight reasonable alternatives to produce more energy, such as oil drilling in 2,000 acres of frozen tundra in the Coastal Plain, a measly 0.01 percent of the 19.6 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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