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Category — Price Cycles (boom-bust)

Ethanol: Unintended Consequences

“[Government] intervention that impinges on complex market forces can produce both unpredicted and unpredictable results.”

- Robert Bradley, Oil, Gas, and Government: The U.S. Experience (vol. 2), p. 1791.

Of all the environmental boondoggles of recent years, the biggest must be corn ethanol. As MasterResource’s Ken Green wrote in an article summarizing ethanol’s impact on the environment:

Contrary to popular belief, ethanol fuel will do little or nothing to increase our energy security or stabilize fuel prices. Instead, it will increase greenhouse gas emissions, local air pollutant emissions, fresh water scarcity, water pollution (both riparian and oceanic), land and ecosystem consumption, and food prices.

In a recent speech, Green elaborated, pointing out

the absolute fiasco of corn ethanol, which has caused increases in air pollution, water pollution, freshwater consumption, coastal pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and food prices.

In 1997, the U.S. GAO found that the ethanol production process produces more nitrous oxide and other powerful greenhouse gases than does gasoline production. A decade later, Colorado scientists Jan Kreider and Peter Curtiss concluded that carbon dioxide emissions in the production cycle are about 50 percent higher for ethanol than for traditional fossil fuels.

Making ethanol from cellulosic plants such as switch grass won’t help. In fact, researcher Timothy Searchinger and colleagues calculated that ethanol from switch grass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, would increase greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent compared to using regular gasoline. [Read more →]

December 7, 2009   6 Comments