To be completely honest, I used to be ambivalent about the using of corn to create ethanol. Make it, don’t make it. Use it, don’t use. I didn’t care. But that was because I didn’t know a darn thing about it.
Take some corn, turn it into fuel, reduce the use of fossil fuels, right? Simple! Cheap! Renewable!
Well, now that I’ve taken exactly two minutes to look into ethanol production, I have quickly become non-ambivalent. We need to stop making and burning ethanol up in our cars.
Well, I learned that it takes 21 pounds of corn to make a single gallon of ethanol. TWENTY ONE pounds of corn to make a SINGLE gallon of the stuff (26.1 pounds according to another source!). To fill the relatively small tank of my own Honda Accord that would conservatively take 351 pounds of corn. To fill an SUV? I am a little sick to think about how much corn that would take.
I also never considered how much FOSSIL fuel it takes to plant, grow, harvest, distill, and transport the final ethanol product. It takes a considerable amount. It looks alot to me like robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Having spent time in countries where people starve to death, and having seen babies and little kids with swollen bellies and hair discolored by malnutrition, it seems to me to be the height of waste to take food that could fill the stomach of starving person and put it my car so that I reduce my “carbon footprint” and feel better about myself for doing it.
Corn is the staple food in Zambia. Wherever I went I saw corn drying on the tin roofs of houses. I now wonder how 21 pounds of corn would look up on those roofs. I wonder how many people 21 pounds of corn would feed, and for how long.
In Haiti, they are eating dirt cookies, just to stave off hunger. I don’t think there’s much nutritional value in a dirt cookie. A dirt cookie might make you not feel as hungry, but it’s not going to keep you from starving.
Corn is a renewable resource, but individuals are not. I’d think about dying babies everytime I put that fuel into my car. Corn is not fuel. It’s food.
There are lots of other problems inherent in the widespread use of ethanol, like the health of our nation’s farmlands. Instead of restating them all, just take a look at this webpage: Ethanol from corn – burning both corn and oil. If you’re a proponent of corn as fuel, this might make you rethink your position.
Even with all the very good reasons for not utilizing ethanol, at the heart of this issue for me is how would I EVER explain to a starving person that I was burning up FOOD in my car? A starving person doesn’t care about my carbon footprint. A starving person doesn’t care about whether the earth will be here for their grandchildren. A starving person cares about whether THEY will be there tomorrow for their children, and whether their children will be there tomorrow for them.
Our fuel needs to be their food.
Surely we can do better than this.