Sorry – Ethanol Isn’t “Green”


[note: this post is essentially a response to the NY Times’ Big Oil Warms to Ethanol, which isn’t necessarily suggesting that ethanol is the final solution to our problems – but did get me thinking about this issue]

In an attempt to rid ourselves of the burden of oil dependency, and to “go green”, we’ve looked at countless possible alternatives – with biofuels standing out as the most likely solution to this problem, and ethanol increasingly viewed as a fuel of the future.
This is a lie.

First off, the idea that we should use food as fuel for machines rather than as fuel for ourselves is ludicrous. While you can argue that the corn used for ethanol is grown specifically for that purpose, and was never meant to be consumed as food, the real issue here is placing an energy/fuel value on our crops. If we use corn for fuel, all corn prices will change to reflect this new use of the plant. Additionally, the ability to grow a crop for fuel rather than food will pose new questions for farmers – what’s going to make them more money? Biofuels of food crops? We can see this in Brazil, where ethanol is produced from sugarcane – and where market fluctuations dictate whether farmers produce their crop for human consumption or for biofuels, drastically affecting both the supply of sugar AND ethanol, along with the price of both products.

In addition to a food vs fuel problem, some parts of the world have had drastic price changes in cooking oil. Specifically, palm oil is used both for biofuel and cooking purposes – and it’s use as a biofuel is making the cooking oil increasingly expensive in regions where the palm is grown [seen above].

The incredibly large, and growing, demand for biofuels [which will only get larger, if we’re going to shift our dependency] has also encouraged new, larger-scale farming operations – which involve clear cutting rain forests, and growing vast fields of palm oil plants. This destroys local ecosystems, affects wildlife [threatening extinction for some species in the long run, I’m sure], and depletes the acreage of one of the world’s natural defenses against air pollution and global warming.

All this, so that you can pretend that your biofuel-run car is ‘green’. We need to drive less, increase the MPG of our cars, etc, and actually produce an ALTERNATIVE to oil and gasoline. A different kinf of oil [biofuel] isn’t an alternative – its just adding variety. It’s like trading Coke for Pepsi and acting like you’re a revolutionary.

Long story short – switching from crude oil/gasoline to biofuel/ethanol, under the current system, is like trading a crack habit for cocaine. Sure, your new addiction doesn’t carry the same stigmas, and is ‘cooler’ in certain circles – but you’re still a f#%king mess.

Additional reading:

NY Times: A New, Global Oil Quandary: Costly Fuel Means Costly Calories

GreenMNP: Biofuels Compared in National Geographic, Food Riots Lead to Increased Push for Food Security, “If we want to save the planet, we need a five-year freeze on biofuels”

Posted: May 27th, 2009
at 12:20pm by orangemenace

Categories: architecture,green arch,news

Comments: 2 comments


2 Responses to 'Sorry – Ethanol Isn’t “Green”'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Sorry – Ethanol Isn’t “Green”'.

  1. Yay! Someone finally had the guts to say it. Thank you.


    28 May 09 at 3:48 pm


  2. Well,
    This is not supposed to be that simple, but I think that one should visit Brazil and see by him self the prices of sugar at the market shelves and the ethanol at the gas stations. It´s really cheap, and despite of the flutuation of the prices, during most part of the year using ethanol to fuel the cars is worthy than gas (most part of the new cars here are “flex-fuel” cars, uses gas, ethanol or both, when the price of ethanol is 70% of the gas, it is worth to use it rather than gas). And as sugar cane is much more efficient than corn for ethanol production, and diferently than it, sugar isn´t the base of our food production.
    Sorry my english!


    25 Jun 09 at 4:21 pm



Leave a Reply