The production of corn ethanol for use as automobile fuel is one of the dumbest policy initiatives every. Both the direct and indirect consequences make it a thoroughly unsustainable “sustainable” fuel.
If you add up all the energy used to produce corn and convert it to ethanol it comes to 131,000 BTU’s per gallon of the 99.8% pure ethanol used in gasoline, according to agricultural scientists at Cornell University. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTU’s, meaning it takes about 60% more energy to produce corn ethanol than you can get out of it.
Corn takes a heavy toll on the land on which it is grown. Corn production in the United States erodes the soil 12 times faster than it can be replaced. It also mines groundwater 25% faster than its natural recharge rate.
Seventy percent of the corn produced in the U. S. is used as livestock and poultry feed. The current multi-billion dollar total of federal and state subsidies to large corporations for ethanol production has raised corn prices through increased demand. As a result we’ve seen meat and dairy prices skyrocket over the past two years. In Mexico there have been riots because the price of tortillas has shot through the roof.
One acre of corn will only produce 320 gallons of ethanol. If we converted all the farmland in the U.S. to corn production we still wouldn’t come close to producing enough ethanol to replace the gas we now use in our cars.
We must eliminate our reliance on foreign energy for our economic and military security, but a fuel that requires more energy to produce than it contains, drives up food prices, causes civil unrest Mexico and sucks up billions in tax subsidies is not the answer.