The Truth About Ethanol

<p>Widely touted as a way of making America energy-independent, corn-based ethanol is instead a heavily subsidized, fossil-fuel dependent and environmentally destructive political boondoggle.</p>
August 8, 2007, 10am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"[Ethanol] hype is dangerous [and] delusional. 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.

Another misconception is that ethanol is green. In fact, corn production depends on huge amounts of fossil fuel -- not just the diesel needed to plow fields and transport crops, but also the vast quantities of natural gas used to produce fertilizers. Runoff from industrial-scale cornfields also silts up the Mississippi River and creates a vast dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico every summer.

But the biggest problem with ethanol is that it steals vast swaths of land that might be better used for growing food. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs titled "How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor," University of Minnesota economists C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer point out that filling the gas tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires more than 450 pounds of corn -- roughly enough calories to feed one person for a year.

...By 2025 rising food prices caused by the demand for ethanol and other biofuels could cause as many as 600 million more people to go hungry worldwide."

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Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2007 in Rolling Stone
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