When it comes to ethanol, our government is being just as deceptive at it has been in the past about the terrorist threat. In the Independent, Daniel Howden writes, “The twin threats of climate change and energy security are creating an unprecedented thirst for alternative energy with ethanol leading the way? But a growing number of economists, scientists and environmentalists are calling for a ‘time out’ and warning that the headlong rush into massive ethanol production is creating more problems than it is solving.”
The US government has is committed to substituting 20% of the oil we use for ethanol by 2017. Brazil, where President Bush recently gave a speech in which, for the first time, he acknowledged the problem of global warming, already uses ethanol?from sugar cane?for 40% of its fuel needs. Ethanol has been used in Brazil since 1925. Brazil has the same problem with sugar cane that we have with corn: farmers who are dependent on it who grow too much of it.
But the ethanol industry in Brazil has been linked with large amounts of air and water pollution and has also contributed to the demise of the Amazon rainforest.
The Independent quotes Brazilian environmentalist Fabio Feldman as saying, “Some of the cane plantations are the size of European states, these vast monocultures have replaced important ecosystems. If you see the size of the plantations in the state of Sao Paolo they are oceans of sugar cane. In order to harvest you must burn the plantations which creates a serious air pollution problem in the city.”
According to the Independent, “By growing crops to produce organic compounds that can be burnt in an engine, you are not adding to the overall levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere [because] the amount of CO2 that the fuel produces when burnt should balance the amount absorbed during the growth of the plants. HOWEVER, many biofuel crops, such as corn, are grown with the help of fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers, pesticides and the [gas] for farm equipment? Ethanol may sound like the kind of ‘friendly’ energy the world has been waiting for. But for ethanol production to rise to the levels Mr. Bush is hoping for, huge amounts of the world’s remaining forests will have to be cut down and turned over to corn or sugar cane?To simply shift from fossil fuel use to ethanol is not going to get us out of our dilemma. It’s not going to ‘save the planet,’ or not alone. That will require a sharp reduction in fuel consumption, too.”
Art credit: gimp-savvy.com
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