Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ethanol From Corn Raises Another Stink

It wasn't long ago that turning corn into ethanol looked like the magic elixir that could help to wean us off foreign oil dependency, and do even more good by boosting the agricultural sector, especially in places like rural Wisconsin.

But corn-based ethanol is looking and sounding and now smelling like anything but the basis of a perfect alternative fuel.

Denny Caneff, executive director of the River Alliance of Wisconsin Inc., in Madison, had an informative piece in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in January highlighting the demands that corn-based ethanol places on groundwater.

Four gallons of water is needed to produce a gallon of ethanol. In Wisconsin, where groundwater availability is a big deal and a hot topic, that's not an attractive ratio.

Then there was a major report in The New York Times touting ethanol from other sources, including grasses and even wood chips, that don't require so much water and fertilizer (another energy-intensive product)to produce.

Now there's a more down-to-earth objection from a major dairy products factory in Sparta.

It's complaining that a newly-approved nearby ethanol plant will churn out four-smelling air emissions that will taint the taste of the dairy company's products.

Said the report in The Waukesha Freeman:

"Ethanol plants...emit pollution-causing chemicals and compounds and a smell that supporters liken to popcorn but critics compare to manure."

Sounds (smells, too) like another reason that Wisconsin and other agricultural states should slow down the bandwagon that's running on corn-based ethanol, and look to a wider range of sources to make better alternative fuels.

1 comment:

Russ said...

We've known for some time producing ethanol from corn is inefficient. In spite of that fact federal and state governments continue to subsidize it. It is a sad fact of life that our governments routinely fund inefficient technologies. At the same time our federal government imposes a high import duty on sugar cane ethanol from tropical countries. Since it is well known that ethanol from sugar cane is much more efficient to produce than from corn, the end result is obvious. Our government is subsidizing high cost inefficient ethanol and penalizes low cost ethanol.