Anyone who thinks ethanol is the answer to US transportation needs, should read this great article by CorpWatch about ethanol and Archer Daniels Midland, the largest producer of ethanol in the US.
The company is proposing producing ethanol from coal as well as from corn. Backed by a new greenwashing campaign, ADM is out to sell ethanol as the fuel of the future. But how clean, green and cost-effective is it?
It is very polluting. “[Ethanol] plants themselves – not even the part producing the energy – produce a lot of air pollution,” Mike Ewall, director of the Energy Justice Network told CorpWatch. “The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has cracked down in recent years on a lot of Midwestern ethanol plants for excessive levels of carbon monoxide, methanol, toluene, and volatile organic compounds, some of which are known to cause cancer.” A single ADM corn processing plant in Iowa is the 26th largest emitter of carcinogenic compounds in the U.S.
It is not cheap. ADM is the largest ethanol producer in the US, where Government subsidies from 1980-2000 were $11 billion.
It is energy intensive: A debate has raged for years over whether ethanol made from corn generates more energy than the amount of fossil fuel that is used to produce it. “Our best guess,” says UC Berkeley scientist Alexander Farrell who recently published a report in Science “is that using corn ethanol today results in a modest decline of greenhouse gas emissions.”
It takes up a lot of land. “There are conflicting figures on how much land would be needed to meet all of our petroleum demand from ethanol,” says Energy Justice Network’s Ewall, “and those range from some portion of what we currently have as available crop land to as much as five times as the amount of crop land in the US.”
Is it the answer?