A recent editorial touted the benefits of ethanol as an energy alternative to fossil fuels, but a reading of the fine print on ethanol leads to a different conclusion.
Ethanol is derived from corn, one of the most heavily subsidized aspects of American agriculture. Were it not for the taxpayers’ generosity on this, ethanol would be priced out of existence, since it costs $2.24 per gallon to make ethanol compared to $.63 for a gallon of gas.
Ethanol is expensive because corn itself requires huge inputs of fossil fuels in the form of fertilizer. When the oil required for corn is figured in, ethanol soaks up 29 percent more energy in its production than it gives out when burned.
Nor is ethanol an environmental cure-all. Since it is more volatile than gas, it evaporates more readily at the pump, contributing to ozone. Ethanol also increases the solubility of many of the components of gasoline. In the event of a gasohol spill, the ethanol makes diffusion into the ground water more rapid and widespread, not easier to control.
The answer to our energy problems lies in conservation, greater efficiency, and the development of true renewables such as wind and solar. Throwing another bone to the corn industry will not get us there.
Steve Bien, Jay