Is Ethanol Really A Green Fuel?

Pete Letheby laments the path that ethanol production has taken in the U.S., arguing that it does not hold the promise of being the "green fuel" it was once thought to be.
May 18, 2006, 6am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Ethanol, as it is made from corn, isn't nearly the renewable fuel it's cracked up to be.

Because coal is cheaper, a new Iowa ethanol plant has chosen that fuel in the process rather than the cleaner natural gas. Similar plants are planned for North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and perhaps Kansas. The problem, says the Natural Resources Defense Council, is that the carbon emissions alone from the coal plants will far outweigh any possible gains in using ethanol in our tanks.

Producing a gallon of corn ethanol needs 1,700 gallons of water to irrigate the corn and process the fuel, according to Cornell researcher David Pimentel, who's been lambasted by ethanol proponents because he says what they don't like to hear.

The Des Moines Register, in an enterprise story last fall, found that Iowa's ethanol plants have contaminated the state's air and water. A corn ethanol plant in Hastings, Neb., was cited for clean-air violations every year from 1995 to 2004. And some studies performed in California, where ethanol blends are required in the Sacramento and Los Angeles areas, show that the fuel increases harmful emissions."

Thanks to Patricia Matejcek via Sierra Club California Activist listserv

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Published on Friday, May 5, 2006 in The Denver Post
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