[Coral-List] Is ethanol production detrimental to coral reefs?
jkrumholz at gso.uri.edu
Tue Feb 21 10:33:20 EST 2012
As a (part time) midwesterner, you've got the general scope of the argument
Glenn, but miss a few details that are somewhat important. As you mention,
the conversion of corn to ethanol is not highly desirable for a number of
reasons, chief among them that the energy efficiency of the ethanol is less
than gasoline, and it takes a fair amount of fossil fuel to grow, harvest,
and process the corn, such that the net gain in terms of carbon emissions
(if you assume that carbon emissions from burning the ethanol are zero
because they're offset by the carbon sequestration from growing the corn) is
However, despite a net food imbalance globally which tends to be negative,
some areas (like the Midwest) tend to have large surpluses of corn, much of
which is not of sufficient quality for human consumption. While the large
scale production of ethanol from corn is pretty much a technological dead
end, I can certainly see small scale use (e.g. powering farm equipment)
because 1) it reduces carbon cost associated with transportation (you're
making the fuel locally, rather than bringing it in on tankers and trucks,
which aren't exactly carbon neutral) and 2) it reduces dependence on
foreign oil, which is both a political and environmental issue, because
military usage of fossil fuels is staggering (fighter jets and tanks
apparently don't have to meet CARB standards).
The other thing is that there are more efficient crops than corn (e.g.
switchgrass) from which to produce ethanol. So as the technology develops
and we move towards those options, the environmental benefits increase.
Switching all internal combustion engines to ethanol is certainly not going
to be the solution to climate change, but every little bit helps.
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of GlennPatton
Sent: Monday, February 20, 2012 4:40 PM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] Is ethanol production detrimental to coral reefs?
Is ethanol production detrimental to coral reefs?
I searched the my coral list e-mails back to 2008 and could not find a
discussion about ethanol and coral reefs.
Generally, IMHO, it seems that producing ethanol is very counter-productive
and not worth it.
There are claims that ethanol produces a lot less greenhouse gases, that
would be great if a lot of hydrocarbon fuels were not consumed to produce
the ethanol. So, there is a net increase the carbon foot print. In
addition, it takes a gallon and a half of ethanol equal 1 gallon of
I don't see how producing billions of gallons of ethanol worldwide lowers
worlds' carbon foot print. I think everyone would agree that lowering our
carbon foot print would be better for coral reefs.
Then in the agricultural process of growing corn to produce ethanol there
are all kinds of negative effects including increasing the cost of food.
Heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides eventually run off into rivers and
streams and find a way into the ocean causing negative effects to our coral
Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" caused by ethanol production Learn more:
Dead zone in gulf linked to ethanol production
It seem the best alternative is natural gas, which is a 8 times cheaper than
gasoline now and is a cleaner fuel!
Glenn Patton Key Largo, FL USA
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