Corn-ethanol

Given the recent high price of gasoline, one of the proposed replacements is ethanol derived from corn. The problem with this idea is that it may take almost as much fossil fuel to make the stuff. Today in the New York Times, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, has an op-ed piece arguing against corn-based ethanol. Future Pundit also has a recent posting with links to economic and thermodynamic analyses of ethanol production. Currently, the federal government offers a tax break of 54 cents for every gallon of ethanol produced and levies a tariff of 54 cents a gallon on imported ethanol. We also subsidize the farming of corn, which takes a lot of fertilizer, pesticides and tractors, all of which use fossil fuels of some sort. Depending on how you do the estimate, it may even take more than a gallon of fossil fuel to produce one gallon of ethanol from corn. Ethanol could make sense if it is derived from a crop that is more efficient like switch grass or sugar cane. But with the strength of the corn lobby, those other options may never get a chance. Maybe it’s time that we stop subsidizing the growth of all that corn. We produce way more than we can eat and high fructose corn syrup may be part of why we’re getting fat and diabetic.

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