Rabu, 04 November 2009

Water versus Ethanol

In 2007 the U.S. Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which calls for a five-fold increase in fuel-grade ethanol production by 2022. Most of the ethanol would come from corn produced in the Corn Belt states of the Midwest. It sounds good for the economy of those states, but there’s a catch; growing the corn and producing the ethanol would require nearly 100 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol, by some estimates. Eventually we might have to choose between water and ethanol, or between ethanol and higher food prices.

There would be winners and losers in an ethanol-based biofuels economy, because water generally must be used locally, whereas ethanol is more easily transported. Agricultural communities with plenty of irrigation water and the ability to grow corn would benefit from an ethanol-based biofuel economy. Agricultural communities with marginal water supplies would be forced to choose how best to use their dwindling water supplies – for agriculture or for people? City dwellers generally would be in favor of ethanol production for fuel by others; they don’t use much water for agriculture anyway and so have nothing to give up. However, they are likely to react negatively to a run-up in food prices.

What do you think about producing ethanol from corn?

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