Is Ethanol From Corn The Answer To Our Disappearing Oil Supplies?

Vernon Coleman

Some people claim that we can solve global warming and the problems caused by peak oil by burning ethanol made from corn (and other crops).

Here are several good reasons why they are wrong - why biofuels (ethanol made from corn) won't work:

a) Creating ethanol this way will use up vast amounts of our corn supply. The corn needed for one tankful of ethanol could feed one person for a year. In Iowa in the USA, 25 ethanol plants are now operating, and 30 being built or planned. Once built these plants will consume half the state's crop of corn. The prices for sugar, corn and wheat are rising because we are using these foodstuffs for fuel. A huge chunk of world grain consumption is now going into american petrol tanks. This will result in greater starvation in a world where there is a continuing and (because of global warming) developing food shortage. The global lack of fresh water (caused partly by the increase in the number of bathrooms being built, the number of people on the planet, the increasing demands of providing water for increasing numbers of cattle, the increasing pollution of our water supplies and global warming) will make growing crops even more difficult. And will also result in higher prices for basic food stuffs.

b) It costs more in terms of energy to get the fuel than it delivers. There are energy costs in building and running tractors, and moving the corn around. You have to include the energy needed to plant the corn, water it, harvest and turn into alcohol. Around 131,000 BTUs are needed to make a gallon of ethanol but that gallon will only produce 77,000 BTU. This means a loss of 54,000 BTU for every gallon of ethanol produced.

c) Burning plant based ethanol still contributes to global warming.

d) Clearing rainforests to increase the land available for the cultivation of palm oil is bringing ecological disaster for countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. And it is adding to the global warming problem.

Copyright Vernon Coleman April 23rd 2007

For more about peak oil, nuclear power etc read Living In A Fascist Country by Vernon Coleman - available from all good bookshops and from the shop on this website.