Jul 25 2015

Is Ethanol the Alternative?

Published by under Student blog entries

An article in Popular Mechanics titled “The Ethanol Fallacy: Op-Ed” brings into question the promise of reduced dependence on foreign oil through good old American grown corn. The author argues that this idea is just way too good to be true. I would say that his argument is relatively sound. He quotes a figure that says it takes about 1 gallon of fossil fuels to grow 1.3 gallons¬†worth of ethanol fuel due to the high maintenance of corn and the high dependence the industry has on large machinery and chemicals. The author continues to make arguments about the economics and reliability of such a fuel source on a large scale. Ethanol can never supply the full demand of our vehicles. There is no argument about that. However, politicians continue to push it through to show their support for “green energy” and to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. They do this despite it being a poor investment.


There are many more reasons not to switch to a higher ethanol dependence. First of all, it is a waste of more than one valuable resource. The fields on which corn is grown are depleted with every planting. Yet to grow corn for ethanol we planted almost 93 million acres in 2009 alone. Besides the negative impact on fields and the poor economic impact, it also drives up the price of corn. Simple supply and demand dictates that if we are using 93 million acres of corn to convert to ethanol, then the price of corn for food use will also be higher. Corn is used in almost every processed food product we buy. Beyond this, the United States grows such a large amount of corn that we are able to export it. We are driving up the price of food for people outside of the United States as well. Arguably people that need it for a cheaper price than we do.


Our money and political power would be better spent on investing on energy sources that could ultimately lead to the true end of dependence on fossil fuels. The investment in ethanol has far too many costs. Solar, wind, and ocean energy projects are making huge strides that already warrant more investment than ethanol. Lets stop wasting our food resources on a short term solution to a long term problem.

Meigs, James. 2009. The Ethanol Fallacy: Op-Ed. Popular Mechanics. Web. http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/hybrid-electric/a2422/4237539/




One response so far

One Response to “Is Ethanol the Alternative?”

  1.   Brendon Greeneon 25 Jul 2015 at 4:21 am

    The argument put forth is this Blog post is similar to a common theme noted in aquaculture production. Like you stated in your Blog post, why use nearly a gallon in fossil fuels when the amount of ethanol produced is only slightly more than the fossil fuel utilized in the first place. The production of fish by humans often requires more fish biomass for feed and than is produced via aquaculture. Nearly four times the amount of Menhaden is required to produced an adult Atlantic Salmon viable for consumption or for sales in the seafood industry.

    Also, like the increased production of corn, the presence of large industrial fish farms is hazardous on the surrounding environments. Aquaculture operations leech antibiotics and hormones into the environment. Even closed tank systems have to discard their water somewhere after it has been pumped full of chemicals and fish waste. Preserving ocean habitats is vital to ensure that it continues to be a source of food and energy for many centuries to come.

    Although fin fish aquaculture is harmful on the environment, the growing of shellfish has proven a low impact method of aquaculture. The presence of shellfish in the water column improves water quality. Oysters are filter feeders than improve water quality by filtering out contaminant and suspended sediments and provides natural denitrification. Implementing shellfish farms would be an efficient way to produce food that also benefits the environment.