Posted by: Tony Carson | 23 October, 2007

The price of the corn alternative to oil may be too high

The significant problems with corn as an alternative to oil are starting to become evident.

Here are three, from a Christian Science Monitor editorial entitled Halt the gold rush to corn fuel

1. the use of corn to produce ethanol could cause considerable harm to water quality and supply, according to a report this month from the National Research Council:

Pushing corn production into drier regions could drain aquifers and compete with other needs for water such as hydropower and fish habitat. The heavy use of nitrogen needed to fertilize corn crops could harm the quality of groundwater, rivers, and coastal waters, causing “dead zones.” A single corn-ethanol refinery that produces 100 million gallons a year would use enough water to supply a town of 5,000 people, the study concluded.

2. Transportation costs may be high: Ethanol doesn’t travel well through pipelines because it easily picks up water and other contaminants. That means it’s impractical to ship it over long distances.

3. The effect on food prices. A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned last month that diversion of land from food or livestock feed production would inflate food prices by cutting the supply of available corn.

Prices are already up, and American farmers are planting the biggest corn crop since 1944, with an estimated harvest of 13.3 billion bushels, which would be a record. While this may be enough to supply both food and fuel needs now, what will happen as more acreage is turned to ethanol production? What other crops won’t be grown in favor of corn, putting pressure on their prices as well?

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Responses

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