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Ethanol - The Wasted Crop

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posted on Apr, 3 2008 @ 07:30 PM
In our modern age we are increasingly aware of the damage we are causing to the enviroment, so when someone bought up the idea of ethanol as a sustainable, pollution free source of fuel many people jumped on this great idea. The sad fact is though that ethanol isn't as green as some people think and worst of all, although it reduces emissions it is causing other more harmful effects to our planet. Not only that but it's causing direct harm to the least well off, here is how.

I'm going to break up this post into four sections, firstly the myth of ethanol being better for the enviroment via lower emissions, secondly the damage caused by the farming methods involved, thirdly the direct damage to the least well off in our world and finally the general problems it causes the average person.

Ethanol isn't better for the enviroment

Good science news (or bad, depending on your point of view) has arrived with two reports on the carbon footprint of biofuels, in the paper edition of Science magazine. They deal serious damage to the belief - which up to now has been driving the biofuel bubble - that stepped-up ethanol production in the US is an answer to global warming. Writing in "Use of US croplands for Biofuels Increases Greenhouse Gases Through Emissions for Land Use or Change," Timothy Searchinger and many others state: "To produce more biofuels, farmers can directly plow up more forest or grassland, which releases to the atmosphere much of the carbon previously stored in plants and soils through decomposition or fire.

The problem is that in order to grow more of the lucrative crop, environmental groups fear Indonesia will clear rainforest land. Earlier this year, Indonesia's government tossed plans to develop the world's largest palm oil plantation -- nearly 2 million hectars -- by clearing one of the most diverse rainforest areas in the world only after it was proven that much of the proposed area was too high and steep for cultivation. But in order to supply just 1 percent of the EU's fuel needs, a 3 million hectar plantation
would be required, according to a new study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

A new study suggests that biodiesel could increase rather than reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to petrol diesel.EU legislation which promotes the adoption of biodiesel will not make a difference to global warming, according to a new study reported in the Chemistry & Industry magazine.

Direct damage via farming methods

I'm sure you've seen in the linked articles the fact that many farmers are clearing more forests and habitats to grow these biofuels, the rainforests of the world are being cleared even faster for this very reason. There are however some other major problems with biofuel farming

In case you didn’t know, the “dead zone” isn’t just a novel by Steven King or an old TV show, it’s an area about the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico that during the summer months is incapable of supporting sea life. The dead zone is created when fertilizer run off promote algae growth, which in turn throws off the oceans equilibrium by using all the available oxygen, killing everything else. So, good for algae perhaps, but bad for the sea life in general.

It's long been established that the fertilizers from farming can cause serious trouble when run off occurs, nitrogen being the main problem. Biofuel farming means more land is cleared just for the increased needs of biofuel, the sad fact is that if every car tomorrow went to biofuel we wouldn't be able to farm enough crops to support that and feed our current population.

The fertilizers also require energy and chemicals to produce, the increase in need for them is a major problem and will jsut add to the "carbon footprint" of these crops.

Direct damage to the poorest people

By growing biofuels instead of food we directly cause harm to the poorest of people by raising the price of food, not only that but an acre of corn can feed hundreds of people, it can however only fuel a car for a short distance.

Through research performed at Cornell University, we know that 1 acre of land can yield about 7,110 pounds (3,225 kg) of corn, which can be processed into 328 gallons (1240.61 liters) of ethanol. That is about 26.1 pounds (11.84 kg) of corn per gallon.

7.110 pounds of corn, can you see how many peopel this could feed? Yet this only produces 328 gallons of fuel. If we used this to feed people instead of fuel we could make a serious dent in those that are starving in our world.

Damage to the average person

The final cost of the fuel-grade ethanol is about $1.74 per gallon. (Of course, a lot of variables go into that number.) The average price for a gallon of gas in the United States is about $1.40 as of August 9, 2001, according to

So here we havea direct financial problem for the average citizen, but lets assume you want to help the enviroment. Currently the world is going through a difficult financial enviroment, we could start paying more for fuel but this raises the price of everything else we rely upon. If this happens we further increase the cost of basic goods, food, medical supplies, fuels, clothing everything we rely upon in our society that needs transport wil lincrease in price.

This wil lhave a horrible knock on effect to the entire economy and by extension the global economy, causing further harm to the poorest of the poor and anyone on a limited income.

For further reading i supply these links.

This link shows you cnanot have biofuels and enough food crops:-

Food price rises force a cut in biofuels

This link shows the sheer wastefulness of biofuel farming, is a persons life worth a full tank?

The grain required to fill the petrol tank of a Range Rover with ethanol is sufficient to feed one person per year. Assuming the petrol tank is refilled every two weeks, the amount of grain required would feed a hungry African village for a year

This link again shows the damage to food crops

The looming food crisis

Another food and biofuel controversy link

Food and fuel compete for land

A general link of biofuel information, figure and facts

How much corn would I need to grow in order to produce enough ethanol fuel to drive my car across the country?

Links relating to food price increases

There is a final problem but i could'nt find a link for it, ethanol causes more wear on an engine and is less efficient than petrol and diesel, so you use more of it to go the same distance! Ethanol is a true scam and i want everyone to know.

Edit for typing mistakes

[edit on 3-4-2008 by ImaginaryReality1984]

posted on Apr, 8 2008 @ 11:34 PM
Yes, utilizing edible crops that require high water and fertile land IMO is definetly a waste of biofuels. But that is not to say that there are dozens of other plants out there that can be utilized for biofuels without driving up the cost of fuel.

Switchgrass right now is probably one of the most promising plants for biofuels. the net energy output is much higher than corn, it virtually eliminates soil erosion, it does not need nearly as much water as corn, and it only needs to be replanted once up to every 10 years. Not only that, it can be grown in arid climate and terrain that is not even suitable to farm food crops.

Switchgrass can be cut and baled with conventional mowers and balers. And it's a hardy, adaptable perennial, so once it's established in a field, it can be harvested as a cash crop, either annually or semiannually, for 10 years or more before replanting is needed. And because it has multiple uses—as an ethanol feedstock, as forage, as ground cover—a farmer who plants switchgrass can be confident knowing that a switchgrass crop will be put to good use.

Looking down the road, McLaughlin believes switchgrass offers important advantages as an energy crop. "Producing ethanol from corn requires almost as much energy to produce as it yields," he explains, "while ethanol from switchgrass can produce about five times more energy than you put in. When you factor in the energy required to make tractors, transport farm equipment, plant and harvest, and so on, the net energy output of switchgrass is about 20 times better than corn's." Switchgrass also does a far better job of protecting soil, virtually eliminating erosion. And it removes considerably more CO2 from the air, packing it away in soils and roots.

Many farmers are already experienced at raising switchgrass for forage or to protect soil from erosion. Besides showing great promise for energy production, switchgrass also restores vital organic nutrients to farmed-out soils.


Me and my father have talked about possibly purchasing land out in New Mexico to grow this stuff.

So all biofuels are not bad. The payout is even better when using the cellulosic method of ethanol extraction. IT is a cleaner process than distillation, and puts out more fuel. With the falling prices of enzyme, you will soon see ethanol facilities begin to convert their process for beytter efficiency.

posted on Apr, 9 2008 @ 08:23 AM
Yes the crop you mention sounds like a great alternative and i wouldn't have any issue with it if it's grown on land that food crops can't be. However the corn and other food crops used for ethanol production needs to stop now.

posted on May, 14 2008 @ 07:50 AM
Tell all this to Brazil, who have been using sugar ethanol for more than two decades.

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