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Essay Title: "Corn Ethanol: Renewable Energy Gone Bad"
Lately everyone has heard that corn ethanol is the key to our renewable energy and independence from foreign oil. Given the current energy crisis, we can't help it but be hopeful. However, our hope is short lived after we experience the sticker-shocked food prices at the grocery stores. And that is just one of the many negative impacts that corn ethanol causes that many of us not fully aware of. Beside corn ethanol causes a swift increase in food prices , it is very uneconomical to produce, and it impacted the environment negatively.
Firstly, The demand of corn to use in producing ethanol drives up the over all food prices significantly. the high food prices cause by the fact that most of our corn are now used in producing ethanol. According to Wikipedia, the price of corn per bushel has gone up to $7.36 in June 2008 from the recent norm of around $2. Many farmers see more opportunities in growing corn; therefore, more land are used to grow corn and less for grains and vegetables. That causes supply and demand imbalance; thus, the prices of grains and vegetables also went up. Beside using corn in producing ethanol, corn is also used in feeding livestocks. Meat producers have experienced high costs of animal feeds, and consumers see higher meat prices at their grocery stores as meat producers try to pass on their costs. Similarly, the prices of corn-based products also go up. Last month, as I pushed the shopping cart down the isles at my grocery local stores, I noticed nearly every items on the shells went up at least 30 to 50 more than they used to. For example, the price of a pasta package that I used to buy for $.69 now costs me $.99. Or the price of a French bread went up from $1.59 to $1.99. As a result, consumers now pay from 30 to 50 percent more for food than they used to.
Next, it is very uneconomical to produce ethanol from corn. Producing corn is very energy intensive. According to Wikipedia, the complete production costs of farming, seed, fertilizer, pesticides, fuel ethanol distillation, etc., are taken into consideration, ethanol utilizes 30% more energy to produce than it creates. It uses fossil fuels in virtually every steps of the crop cycle: planting seeds, operating farm equipment, making and applying fertilizer; and transporting the corn to the market and of course fuel to run the refineries that convert corn to ethanol. It is currently uneconomical to use corn in producing ethanol since it costs more energy to produce corn ethanol than it creates.
Finally, corn based ethanol affects our environment negatively. Although the growing crop absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so burning corn ethanol does not directly create any additional carbon dioxide. This analysis is not correct for the production of corn-based ethanol because fossil fuels are used in growing of corn and the production of ethanol, and these contribute to global warming gases. Nitrogen used in fertilizer also tends to produce nitrous oxide which is 300 as potent a global warming gas as carbon dioxide. Moreover, government-sponsored efforts to cull forest lands for "biomass" fuel stocks could threaten the continued existence of countless animal and plant species and would increase the amount of climate-change carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In conclusion, corn used in ethanol production causes soaring food prices, is very uneconomical to produce, and impacts the environment negatively. As much as we like to reduce global warming and be independent from foreign oil, it is too soon to call corn ethanol the key to solve our energy crisis. Unless technology helps improve efficiency of corn-based ethanol in that it uses less resources to produce energy, or else we can't help but wonder have we lost our ability to think. Or perhaps doing something is better than doing nothing in a moment of madness to calm our frustration in facing our energy crisis.