From the October 2007 Idaho Observer:
A closer look at the impractical side of ethanol By The Idaho Observer
A closer look at the impractical side of ethanol
By The Idaho Observer
An objective review of material relative to ethanol production reveals two very different opinions on whether or not putting farmland to GM corn for fuel is a good plan. It appears, however, that most "pro" ethanol information is from government and industry and most "con" ethanol information is generated by corporate neutral sources and is disseminated by those who are being adversely affected by the ethanol-for-fuel agenda and nearly every environmental group. Time will tell, but the federally-subsidized project will likely result in a net gain for agribusiness and the government growth industry and a net loss for people and the environment.
President Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Presidential hopefuls Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton support an energy policy that will turn half the farmland in the United States and thousands of acres in poor indigenous areas of South America, Asia and Africa over to agribusiness giants Monsanto, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) for the purpose of growing federally-subsidized, genetically modified corn for bio-fuel.
Ethanol proponents claim that giving industry an incentive to produce biofuel from ethanol will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It appears, however, that the opposite is true.
Even if Monsanto and ADM were successful in turning all the corn grown in the U.S. today into ethanol, it would only supply less than six percent of U.S. oil needs.
With current technology, it akes seven barrels of oil to produce eight barrels of corn ethanol. If distilled by coal-powered production plants, the greenhouse gas emissions are increased by four percent.
Cars running on ethanol are up to 30 percent less efficient than those running on gasoline and emissions of volatile organic compounds (such as benzene) and nitrous oxides increase four percent to seven percent with ethanol.
These pollutants create "ground level ozone," something the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is supposed to be eliminating, because it triggers health problems such as chest pain, coughing, congestion, bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma in children.
It is estimated that Americans will be billed through their taxes an estimated $3 per gallon of ethanol produced by these federally subsidized agri-giants—then pay again at the pump. The subsidies to be paid out to agribusiness are expected to be $11.8 billion per year for the next 10 years
The cost of food will also be going up as supply is diverted to fuel production. Corn went up 55 percent in 2005 alone and was trading at $4 a bushel by March, 2007.
Farmers growing non-GMO corn for food are not subsidized and are being put out of business. Dairy farmers and meat producers are experiencing a dramatic rise in the cost of feeding livestock.
A bushel of corn is about 56 pounds and produces about 2.5 gallons of ethanol. Processing corn into ethanol requires tremendous amounts of energy and production processes emit measurable levels of toxic substances. Ethanol refineries have been demonstrated to cause local environmental damage, are linked to elevated levels of acute and chronic illness among people and animals in affected areas and create a net "global warming" gain.
The spent GM corn slag is a starchy substance not suitable for compost "fertilizer" or as animal feed.
GM corn depletes the soil and is treated with larger quantities of toxic pesticides and fertilizers than any other U.S. crop.
Cloropyrifos, an insecticide used for corn, is banned in the U.S. for household use as it causes brain damage.
Atrazine, the favorite corn herbicide, has been classified a carcinogen. These plus organophosphate fertilizers have contaminated 13 percent of domestic wells in the Midwest and caused a 12,000 foot "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico.
Since concentrations of these chemicals have been found in the stomachs of dead bees, existing levels of planted GM corn may be responsible for reduced bee populations.
In addition,GM corn creates liver damage in lab rats.
The non-edible GM varieties, presently being developed by Monsanto’s Renessen plant for biofuel production, can cross-pollinate with edible varieties, further injuring the food supply.
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