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?


  • I have read a recent paper from Michael Briggs at the UNH Biodiesel Group, which offers estimates for the realistic replacement of all vehicular fuel with biodiesel by utilizing algae that has a greater than 50 % natural oil content.

    It could be grown either on flooded desert land (lots of sunshine and does not take up food crop space) and/or on algae ponds in wastewater treatment plants.

    Have you guys posted an article on it yet?

  • Interesting idea – we haven’t posted anything on it. Will keep an eye out.

  • A reply to Sen. Mitch McConnell letter proposes hemp as a better alternative to our energy needs.

    Sen. McConnell:

    I received your 5/19/06 letter Wednesday (6/7/06) about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

    Rather than oil and gas exploration in ANWR, it would be more environmentally and morally responsible to legalize hemp and derive all our energy needs from hemp. By using hemp, the “environmental risks” of developing domestic oil and gas are eliminated.

    “About 6% of contiguous U.S. land area cultivated for biomass could supply all our current demand for oil and gas… There is one farm crop that can fill all our energy needs. Hemp is the only biomass resource capable of making America energy independent.” Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp (BACH)BACH

    You said, “Our country must also work to reduce our dependency on foreign sources of oil.”

    Hemp is probably the greatest resource that can do better than reduce our dependency on foreign sources of oil. Hemp can end our dependency on foreign sources of oil altogether.

    “Hemp is one of the best biomass producers on earth: up to 10 tons per acre in about four months. Hemp is pest resistant and can be grown in rotation with food crops or on marginal land, where food production is not profitable. This energy crop can be harvested with equipment readily available.” BACH

    I am sorely disappointed that you and Kentucky’s federally elected officials have totally failed to advocate the legalization of all things hemp. Hemp is a great economic crop for Kentucky.

    In the 1800s, Kentucky was a fairly prosperous state because of its hemp crop. Kentucky could become very prosperous again if we had elected officials who cared about improving our economic lot.

    Former Republican governor Louie Nunn was an advocate for legalizing hemp to revitalize Kentucky’s agriculture economy. Nunn

    Hemp can produce 20 to 40% more oxygen when grown than CO2 when burnt. That’s “a net gain in clean air.” (Hemp Lifeline to the Future, Chris Conrad, p. 72)

    Paper can be made from hemp. “Over a 20 year period, one acre of hemp produces as much pulp as 4.1 acres of forest land. BACH

    Hemp for paper allows for more trees to produce more oxygen.

    About 60% of our oxygen comes from algae in the ocean. “This algae is rapidly being killed off by large ocean-going ships exhausting tons of hydrocarbons, radiation pouring into the oceans, and other man-made pollutants.” (Rays of Truth – Crystals of Light, Fred Bell, p. 5)

    With hemp providing all our energy and paper needs, the oxygen-CO2 imbalance can be corrected.

    So, for the economic benefit of Kentucky and the environmental improvement of Mother Earth and her creatures, I suggest you introduce legislation to remove all references to hemp, cannabis and “marijuana” from the Controlled Substances Act.

    If needed, I urge you to introduce legislation to legalize all things hemp, and put hemp under the authority of the Department of Agriculture where it belongs.

    It is the epitome of the degradation of spiritual, moral and ethical values to try and justify fossil fuels that damage the human brain and immune system along with Mother Earth. You justify this on the grounds that there are “benefits of developing domestic oil and gas resources” that “outweigh the environmental risks.”

    We, and Mother Earth are a part of that environment that you are so cavalierly willing to take risks with. It need not be that way. For shame!

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