Corn ethanol is a great, clean fuel that many people hope can completely replace gasoline in our vehicles. It does have its pitfalls, though, and not everyone is a fan. Much of our current farmland would have to be used solely for ethanol production, limiting our abilities to grow enough food. And also, the fermentation and distillation processes currently use fossil fuels and pollute the air, cancelling out ethanol’s cleanliness.
As bwsf said, corn ethanol may be a better option than gasoline, but I think many environmentalists, myself included, feel that it is just developed to take some of the heat off the government to actually do something about global warming. I think it is good that some progress is being made, and the issue is being addressed, but I question the real importance of ethanol, when we have cleaner energies available to us. As John Coequyt, the energy campaigner with Greenpeace USA put it, “The U.S. government must take a giant leap forward quickly in order to make the necessary steps to combat global warming. An aggressive focus on ethanol, without a federally mandated cap on emissions, is simply a leap sideways.”
Hope this helps!
I think corn ethanol is, at best, a stopgap solution until better forms of biofuels can be developed. As both the previous answers have pointed out, in order to make it work we’d have to devote large tracts of agricultural land to grow the corn for ethanol, and we’ve already seen in countries like Brazil how increased ethanol production tends to also increase deforestation. A better source of biofuels, I think, is algae. You can get 30 times more energy per unit from harvesting biofuel from algae, it takes up much less surface area and algae grows naturally all over the place–even in sewage wastewater pools. The techniques that have been perfected to make ethanol and the infrastructure that’s developing around it may make it more likely that a better form of biofuel such as algae will eventually replace corn as a fuel source. Considering the number of companies who are looking into algaculture for energy purposes, that day may come sooner than we think.
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