Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on February 11, 2008
If you thought corn could save the world from the internal combustion engine’s appetite for destruction, you were wrong. Recent research out of Princeton University and other reputable institutions show that switching from dinosaur gas to corn ethanol could almost double CO2 emissions.
But we thought corn could save us! Although ethanol burns cleaner, a host of other petro-intensive costs belie its true benefit. In order to produce enough ethanol – and once again, the Bush administration is complicit in the problem, requiring a six-fold increase by 2022 – valuable crop and forest land would be replaced in the rush to make as much commodity as possible. For agriculture, this means monoculture in the form of either corn or switchgrass.
Monoculture is the real problem. Mass-producing any single crop causes a host of environmental traumas. Without crop rotation, crops must be heavily fertilized, and making fertilizer requires mega energy inputs that are not realized on the back end. Harvesting, transporting, and extracting the energy also negates any emissions benefit, although it is difficult to tell if the inputs are greater than extracting oil. Finally, the habitat degradation is two-fold. Not only are natural, diverse areas replaced with a monoculture, but clearing or converting new crop land releases huge amounts of CO2 that cannot be recaptured.
The corn folks protest these findings, of course, stating that the CO2 release is only potential – there is no way to be sure that ethanol production creates more CO2. It is clear that burning ethanol is cleaner than burning gas, but we must ask, “Is it worth the risk?”
I’ve said it many times; internal combustion is a technology of the past, just like the dinosaurs who made it famous. There is energy all around us, we simply need find effective ways to harness it.
If propaganda is your thing, here’s a good ethanol site.