Whether or not ethanol is “good” from a carbon footprint standpoint has to do with how it is produced. Some of the corn based ethanol in production today is more or less a cheap way to turn coal into into a liquid fuel. Production of ethanol is usually high input and requires lots of fertilizers, water, etc. Sometimes it takes more energy to produce then is returned on its use. Biodiesel has a better life cycle analysis, but really the best thing to do is to move away from burning any kind of fuels altogether and move towards electric motors.
Ethanol use still produces greenhouse gases; the only advantage it has for gasoline is that it doesn’t use oil and thus doesn’t depend on the distructive extraction methods characteristic of fossil foods. However the governments push for ethanol as an alternative to gasoline has actually have devastating effects on the global food supply. Since ethanol is most often made of corn, a stable food source, many farmers turned to producing corn for fuel instead of food because their profit margin was higher. According to the law of supply and demand, food prices began to skyrocket and actually caused a crisis in many parts of the world.
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