Food as Fuel

Today’s Post Gazette includes the editorial “Corn Is Food, Not Fuel” by Manfred Kroger. Kroger’s point is simple: ethanol is far from being the silver bullet to cure our fuel woes. In fact, ethanol may require more energy to produce that it provides (there is some disagreement in the scientific community about this) and, more importantly, it requires, in effect, burning our food to drive our cars.

Nationally, nearly half of the gasoline being sold today contains 10 percent ethanol. But the ramp-up in ethanol production has become all too apparent. The Earth Policy Institute warns that ethanol is on track to consume half of the U.S. corn crop by next year. That’s still about 22 billion gallons short of President Bush’s renewable-fuels goal. Yet researchers at the University of Minnesota estimate that if the entire corn crop is used, it would replace only 12 percent of U.S. gasoline. A new corn-ethanol surge could produce more problems than it solves.

The problem, as James Kunstler has repeatedly warned us, is not simply a matter of finding new fuel sources. The problem is our utter dependence on the automobile and an economy that has destroyed local production in the name of efficiency.