Today, there are subsidies paid for growing corn for ethanol, and that has
caused the price of corn to go up, along with shortages. Ethanol is not
the most efficient fuel and other alternatives are not being funded well
enough. Our economy is dependent on cheap fuel, and we have to explore as
many alternatives as possible.
The ethanol requirement has caused farmers to grow more corn to be used for ethanol. That sounds good, until we find out that the corn that could have been used to feed people is used for fuel, instead, and worldwide food prices have increased, and there have been food shortages that were specifically caused by the ethanol program. The growing of corn for ethanol actually adds to the greenhouse gases, because there is more energy is used in growing the corn, than is produced when ethanol is made into fuel for vehicles.
Ethanol is only the cheapest form of fuel due to the excessive subsidies that our government has been giving out. In all actuality, it takes more fuel to make ethanol than the ethanol yields. Therefore, it costs the taxpayers money to subsidize a form of fuel that yields a negative return. This system could not be maintained forever, so no this is not a viable option.
The ethanol industry's primary purpose is to supplement current imported oil in order to reduce toxic emissions; however, relying on ethanol will be detrimental in the future as the oil supply decreases and ultimately rises in cost. Therefore, rather than concentrating on an ethanol market, we must seek other alternative solutions that will allow us to work for a cleaner and cost-effective power source.
The ethanol industry has been a misguided and costly attempt to solve energy problems in the United States. The government's misjudgment in this regard has resulted in punishment for American citizens in the form of rising food prices. The trickle down effect of commodity inflation caused by ethanol production is seen in all food products which use corn as a feed or ingredient. Ethanol production also consumes a monumental amount of energy in its own right. The resultant gains from ethanol production are virtually wiped-out by the losses in its production. Oil will always be a more efficient and readily available fuel source than ethanol. Alternative fuel efforts should be focused on natural gas which is an abundant by-product of oil production.
From everything I have read, I do not think that ethanol is a very good source of fuel. It uses too much energy to produce it, and takes up too much farmland, which should be used for growing food. The price of corn has risen a lot in the last few years, and I think it is due mostly to so much corn being used to make ethanol.
There are other sources besides ethanol that, when used in conjunction, can prevent shortages. For one, the sun is an unlimited source of energy. While clouds can block it out to some degree, there will always be a sun for as long as we exist. Another source is wind power. When all of these and more are combined, there are unlimited resources.
Ethanol made from corn uses only the seed kernels while taking corn out of the food chain, raising grain prices. This in turn raises meat and dairy prices. Ethanol made from sugar cane, switch grass, and wood has none of these negative side effects while creating far more fuel per pound of biomass. Ethanol from corn was just another subsidy to the corn lobby of the United States as high fructose corn syrup began to fall out of favor in the marketplace. From building more dams to geothermal power plants, fuel from waste crops to harvesting cow manure for bio-gas, there are many more energy sources that can fuel our nation without starving the third world.
Examining corn-based ethanol from all angles quickly demonstrates how inefficient this fuel is as an alternative to petroleum. First and foremost, shifting corn from a food staple to an energy source has caused increased demand for corn throughout the America's resulting in dramatic increases in corn prices throughout Central and South America. Taking food from the mouths of the poor and putting it into our gas tanks does not make economic or political sense. Destabilization in these parts of the world is no better than an unstable Middle East. In addition, after accounting for the fertilizer and fuel needed to grown and process the corn before it becomes ethanol, the carbon footprint of ethanol is roughly equivalent to conventional gasoline. Until ethanol can be produced from other sources,namely waste cellulose, it is not a viable alternative to oil.
Ethanol has the advantage of enormous lobbying power by the farm interests in this country. From a political standpoint, promoting ethanol makes a lot of sense because it, in theory, helps our farmers. But the truth is that ethanol is not very efficient, still produces carbon emissions, and the corn could be much better used to feed starving people around the world.
I'll admit that my knowledge regarding forms of alternative energy is relatively limited. However, what I do know is, in spite of millions of dollars spent in research, few solutions that are ready for the public have emerged. Ethanol isn't perfect. The fact that a lot of the equipment that produces ethanol can't actually use ethanol comes to mind. But right now, as far as alternative energy sources go, it's not a bad choice, mostly because it's all that we currently have available.
If you took all the resources to make ethanol in the United States, it would be a tiny percentage of overall gas production with very little impact. I was a Chemical Engineer and this debate came up all the time. The facts are out there; I just don't have data in front of me now.