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The Drive for Ethanol

November 15, 2013

A powerful critique of the promotion of corn-based ethanol as “clean energy” appeared on the AP Wire yesterday. While not breaking any new ground, the story highlights the importance of US electoral politics—and particularly the position of Iowa as an early battleground state in the presidential nomination process—as central in President Obama’s support for corn-based ethanol.

The story also notes the inefficiency of corn-based ethanol as an energy source… Even under the most optimistic scenarios and assuming technologies not yet in place, corn-based ethanol is only slightly better than gasoline in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. And it raises a host of questions about priorities in food production. Yet without addressing many of these questions, an increasingly large portion of US corn production has been diverted to ethanol, as the graph below suggests.

US Corn Production and Use, 1980-2012 (Image Courtesy The Energy Collective)

US Corn Production and Use, 1980-2012 (Image Courtesy The Energy Collective)

 

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