Friday, August 10, 2007

Going hungry so the cars keep running

Will ethanol save us from climate change, reduce our dependence on foreign oil (or oil period), and allow us to keep living the exact same way?

This is not just hype -- it's dangerous, delusional bullshit. 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.
Here's to hoping this story will soon shift from lefty type publications easily dismissed by segments of society and into the Newsweeks of the world. He may be too alarmist for some of you, but James Kunstler has been all over this one for years now.
As a Pennsylvania farmer put it to me in February: "It looks like we're going to burn up the last remaining six inches of Midwest topsoil in our gas-tanks." Friedman's statement also ignores the facts that running cars on ethanol would make no material difference in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, or that ethanol is 20 percent less efficient than gasoline, meaning we would have to produce and use that much more of the stuff just to stay where we are.