Darik A. Mohideen
Professor Jarrod Stringer
24 June 2012
Effects of Ethanol in the Society
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. The largest single use of ethanol is as a motor fuel and fuel additive. Ethanol is considered to be better for the environment than gasoline. It is a renewable source of energy and it has been seen as a promising alternative to fossil fuel consumption. However, there are some negative aspects in the production and usage of this fuel. It is considered to be inefficient and it indirectly affects the environment too.
The United States produces a quarter of the world’s total carbon emissions, and American’s per capita emissions are five times the world average. More than 25 percent of manmade emissions of carbon dioxide in the U.S. are from transportation. Light duty vehicles, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), minivans, and other light trucks are prolific carbon dioxide emitters. Using renewable fuels in transportation can help reduce the air pollution associated with burning petroleum. Compared to gasoline, ethanol made from corn is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20-30 percent. Moreover, ethanol from cellulose – made from the stalks, stems and leaves of plants reduce it by about 85 percent or more.
The environmental impacts of farming practices can also be reduced with the adoption of sustainable production methods in the agricultural sector. Growing corn, wheat, rice, and sugarcane produces large amounts of agricultural wastes, some of which are burned, degrading air quality. In the production of cellulosic ethanol, the bulk of the biomass would become a valuable source of energy rather than a waste product. In fact, municipal solid waste (MSW) includes a large volume of cellulosic material that has the potential to be converted to ethanol.
The economic benefits will include additional and more diversified markets for both grain and energy crops that can help agriculture production achieve higher net returns, both locally and in the world economy. It will make United States less dependent on imported oil, which will enhance its political independence. It would be a gift to future generations to bequeath to them a stable fuel supply that is not subject to wars, civil unrest, or global politics. In addition to these benefits, investment in production plants located largely in rural areas will provide jobs and an increased tax base to help support local governments, schools and other public services.
Farmers would be highly benefited. They could stop growing grains that fetch a price that is lower than the production cost. Growing energy crops would generate more than $100 billion in revenue to farmers and more than $80 billion in revenue to ethanol producers located within 30 miles of where the energy crops are grown. Since workers employed in hauling the energy crops to the ethanol plant and those working in the plant would be rural workers, this program would contribute $100 billion to $180 billion to rural and farm revenue. The benefits
combined may even be able to slow the conversion of farmland into residential development and suburban sprawl.
Ironically, ethanol is not currently produced in a "renewable" manner. The problem is that if more ethanol is produced, the more greenhouse gases are generated. The production process is almost completely dependent on fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and diesel. Princeton University professor Timothy Searchinger, along with other researchers, wrote in Science magazine that corn-based alcohol doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and causes increases that continue for 167 years. That happens because higher corn prices encourage farmers all over the world to transform their land from forests and unplanted fields to corn. Furthermore, a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows...