Another Ethanol Boondoggle

Along this blog, I’ve been beating the anti-ethanol drum for quite some time*. Now, we have yet another reason to oppose it. Not only is it environmentally neutral (or harmful), not only does it drive up the cost of food products, it also sucks up scarce water resources!

This is controversial for several reasons. There are doubts about how green ethanol really is (some say the production process uses almost as much energy as it produces). Some argue that using farmland for ethanol pushes up food prices internationally (world wheat prices rose 25% this week alone, perhaps as a side-effect of America’s ethanol programme). But one of the least-known but biggest worries is ethanol’s extravagant use of water.

A typical ethanol factory producing 50m gallons of biofuels a year needs about 500 gallons of water a minute. Most of that goes into the boiling and cooling process, which is similar to making beer. Some water is lost through evaporation in the cooling tower and in waste discharge. All this is putting a heavy burden on aquifers in some corn-growing areas.

There’s only one group who still thinks this is a good idea: farmers. And we’re paying them to think it, so I don’t think they’re very impartial.

What will it take to put a stop to this? Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can figure out that this is an incredibly useless, counterproductive, and costly endeavor. But nobody will stand up and try to put a stop to it.

Are our politicians that wedded to the ethanol train? One would think that perhaps a certain senator from Arizona might suggest that there won’t be any ethanol powering the Straight Talk Express. But I’m not holding my breath.

* For examples, see here, here, here, and here.