Far from being 'green,' ethanol harms environment and wallets
UNIVERSITY of California-Berkeley professor of civil engineering Tad W. Patzek has argued that the use of ethanol as a gas additive is a misguided public policy decision because it takes more fossil fuel to produce ethanol than the energy that comes from it.
David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell University, added that ethanol is not sustainable because its production from corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced. The government spends more than $3 billion a year to subsidize ethanol production, but the vast majority of the subsidies go to large ethanol-producing corporations, not to farmers.
Worse yet, their analyses do not address the additional problem of wasting food for humans and animals by converting it to fuel.
Consumer Reports in October 2006 presented "The Ethanol Myth." The magazine tested identical large SUVs in gasoline and E85 versions. The overall mileage was 14 mpg for gasoline and 10 mpg for E85. The ethanol-powered vehicle required 40 percent more fuel!
Ethanol is not green: Civil engineering professor Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University modeled a scenario in which all U.S. vehicles ran on E85 by 2020, and found that because ethanol produces more hydrocarbon emissions than gasoline, it causes an accelerated ozone formation and a 4.2 percent increase in deaths due to ozone.
Engineers are the primary problem solvers of our society. Unfortunately, as long as wishful thinking or uninformed or wrongly informed politicians attempt to solve a city's, state's or country's transportation and energy problems, then things will get worse. This is the case for ethanol in Hawaii and rail transit for Honolulu: Wasted billions of dollars for no net benefit.
Panos D. Prevedouros is a professor of transportation engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is also president of the Hawaii Highway Users Alliance (HHUA.org) and a member of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii Board of Scholars.