Advertisement

Natural Resources Research

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 127–134 | Cite as

Ethanol Fuels: Energy Balance, Economics, and Environmental Impacts Are Negative

  • David Pimentel
Article

Abstract

Several studies suggest that the $1.4 billion in government subsidies are encouraging the ethanol program without substantial benefits to the U.S. economy. Large ethanol industries and a few U.S. government agencies, such as the USDA, support the production of ethanol. Corn-farmers receive minimal profits. In the U.S. ethanol system, considerably more energy, including high-grade fossil fuel, is required to produce ethanol than is available in the energy-ethanol output. Specifically about 29% more energy is used to produce a gallon of ethanol than the energy in a gallon of ethanol. Fossil energy powers corn production and the fermentation/distillation processes. Increasing subsidized ethanol production will take more feed from livestock production, and is estimated to currently cost consumers an additional $1 billion per year. Ethanol production increases environmental degradation. Corn production causes more total soil erosion than any other crop. Also, corn production uses more insecticides, herbicides, and nitrogen fertilizers than any other crop. All these factors degrade the agricultural and natural environment and contribute to water pollution and air pollution. Increasing the cost of food and diverting human food resources to the costly inefficient production of ethanol fuel raise major ethical questions. These occur at a time when more than half of the world's population is malnourished. The ethical priority for corn and other food crops should be for food and feed. Subsidized ethanol produced from U.S. corn is not a renewable energy source.

Ethanol costs environment food pollution 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. Batty, J. C., and Keller, J., 1980, Energy requirements for irrigation, in Pimentel, D., ed., Handbook of Energy Utilization in Agriculture: CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, p. 35–44.Google Scholar
  2. Brown, L. R., 1997, The Agricultural Link: How Environmental Deterioration Could Disrupt Economic Progress: Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC, 73p.Google Scholar
  3. CalGasoline., 2002, Ethanol Is Not a Suitable Replacement for MTBE: CalGasoline.com. (9/17/2002).Google Scholar
  4. Citizens for Tax Justice, 1997, More Corporate Giveaways High on Congressional Agenda: Citizens for Tax Justice. July 22, 1997. http://www.ctj.org/html/cgives97.htm. (9/17/2002).Google Scholar
  5. Clary, G. M., and Haby, V. A., 2002, Potential for Profits from Alfalfa in East Texas: http://ruralbusiness.tamu.edu/forage.alfcop.pdf. (9/2/2002).Google Scholar
  6. Coelho, S. T., Bolognini, M. F., Silva, O. C., Paletta, C. E. M., 2002, Biofuels in Brazil: The Current Situation: CENBIO—The National Reference Center on Biomass. http://www.cenbio.org. br/doc_port3.html. (11/12/2001).Google Scholar
  7. Croysdale, D., 2001, Belatedly, DNR Concedes Our Air is Clean: The Daily Reporter. November 6, 2001. http://www. dailyreporter.com/editorials/eds/nov07/asa11–7.shtml. (9/17/ 2002).Google Scholar
  8. DOE, 2002, Transport costs of ethanol total 8¢ per gallon: U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D. C. http://www/ eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/fuel/pdf/question3.pdf (10/8/2002).Google Scholar
  9. Duffy, M., 2001, Prices on the Rise: How will Higher Energy Costs Impact Farmers?: http://www.ag.iastate.edu/centers/leaopold.newsletter/2001—1 leoletter/energy.html. (9/3/2002).Google Scholar
  10. EPA, 2002, More Pollution Than They Said: Ethanol Plants Said Releasing Toxins: New York Times. May 3, 2002.Google Scholar
  11. ERAB, 1980, Gasohol: Energy Research Advisory Board, U.S. Department of Energy. Washington, DC, 34p.Google Scholar
  12. ERAB, 1981, Biomass Energy: Energy Research Advisory Board, U.S. Department of Energy. Washington, DC, 111p.Google Scholar
  13. EV World, 2002, Republican Charges Price Fixing: EV World, People & Technology. Reuters, April 24, 2002. http://www. evworld.com/databases/shownews.cfm?pageid = news240402–07. (10/8/2002).Google Scholar
  14. FAO, 1998, Food Balance Sheet: http://armanncorn:98ivysub@faostat.fao.org/lim...ap.pl? (10/10/1998)Google Scholar
  15. FAO, 1999, Agricultural Statistics: http://apps.fao.org/cgi-bin/nph-db.pl?subset-agriculture_Food and Agriculture Organization, UN. (11/22/1999)Google Scholar
  16. Ferguson, A., 2003, Implications of the USDA 2002 update on ethanol from corn: The Optimum Population Trust, Manchester, U.K., in press.Google Scholar
  17. Fertilizer., 2002, Fertilizer Use and Abuse: Land Use and Environmental Change in the Thompson-Okanagan. http://royal.okanagan.bc.ca/mpidwin/agriculture/fertilizer.html.(9/3/ 2002).Google Scholar
  18. Fuel's Gold., 2002, Fuel's Gold: ADM's Million-Dollar Soft Money Donations Help the Ethanol Tax Break Survive: http://www.commoncause.org/publications/fuelsgold_toc.htm. (9/18/2002).Google Scholar
  19. Giampietro, M., Ulgiati, S., and Pimentel, D., 1997, Feasibility of large-scale biofuel production: BioScience, v. 47, no. 9, p. 587–600.Google Scholar
  20. Hodge, C., 2002, Ethanol use in US gasoline should be banned, not expanded: Oil & Gas Journal, v. 100, no. 37, p. 20–30.Google Scholar
  21. Hoffman, T. R., Warnock, W. D., and Hinman, H. R., 1994, Crop Enterprise Budgets, Timonthy-Legume and Alfalfa Hay, Sudan Grass, Sweet Corn and Spring Wheat under Rill Irrigation, Kittitas County, Washington: Farm Business Reports EB 1173, Pullman, Washington State Univ., 97p.Google Scholar
  22. Hulsbergen, K. J., Feil, B., Bierman, S., Rathke, G. W., Kalk, W. D., and Diepenbrock, W., 2001, A method of energy balancing in crop production and its application in a long-term fertilizer trial: Agri., Ecosystems and Environ., v. 86, no. 4, p. 303–321.Google Scholar
  23. Kim, Y., 2002, World exotic diseases, in Pimentel, D., ed., Biological Invasions: Economic and Environmental Costs of Alien Plant, Animal, and Microbe Species: CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, p. 331–354.Google Scholar
  24. Kuby, W. R., Markoja, R., and Nackford, S., 1984, Testing and Evaluation of On-Farm Alcohol Production Facilities: Acures Corporation, Industrial Environmental Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, OH. 100p.Google Scholar
  25. Larsen, K., Thompson, D., and Harn, A., 2002, Limited and Full Irrigation Comparison for Corn and Grain Sorghum: http:// www.Colostate.edu/depts/prc/pubs/pl_pub.pdf. (9/2/2002).Google Scholar
  26. Lieberman, B., 2002, The Ethanol Mistake: One Bad Mandate Replaced by Another: Competitive Enterprise Institute. http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-lieberman031202.shtiml. (9/17/2002).Google Scholar
  27. NAS, 2003, Frontiers in Agricultural Research: Food Health, Environment Communities: National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC, 239p.Google Scholar
  28. NASS, 1999, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Internet: http//usda.mannlib.cornell.edu. (8/30/2002).Google Scholar
  29. National Center for Policy Analysis., 2002, Ethanol Subsidies: Idea House. National Center for Policy Analysis. http:://www.ncpa.org/pd/ag/ag6.html. (9/09/2002).Google Scholar
  30. NPRA, 2002, NPRA Opposes Ethanol Mandate; Asks Congress not to Hinder Efforts to Maintain Supply: National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, Washington, DC. http://npradc.org/press/6–14–00.html. (9/17/2002).Google Scholar
  31. Pimentel, D., 1980, Handbook of Energy Utilization in Agriculture: CRC press: Boca Raton, FL, 475p.Google Scholar
  32. Pimentel, D., 1991, Ethanol fuels: Energy security, economics, and the environment: Jour. Agri. and Environ. Ethics v. 4, no. 1, p. 1–13.Google Scholar
  33. Pimentel, D., 1998, Energy and dollar costs of ethanol production with corn: Hubbert Center Newsletter #98/2. M. King Hubbert Center for Petroleum Supply Studies, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO. 7p.Google Scholar
  34. Pimentel, D., 2001, The limitations of biomass energy, in Encyclopedia on Physical Science and Technology: Academic Press, San Diego. CA. p. 159–171.Google Scholar
  35. Pimentel, D., 2002, Soil erosion: a major environmental threat. manuscript.Google Scholar
  36. Pimentel, D., and Pimentel, M., 1996, Food, Energy and Society: Colorado Univ. Press, Boulder, CO, 363p.Google Scholar
  37. Pimentel, D., Bailey, O., Kim, P., Mullaney, E., Calabrese, J., Walman, L., Nelson, F., and Yao, X., 1999, Will the limits of the Earth's resources control human populations?: Environ., Develop., and Sust., v. 1, no. 1, p. 19–39.Google Scholar
  38. Pimentel, D., Doughty, R., Carothers, C., Lamberson, S., Bora, N., and Lee, K., 2002, Energy inputs in crop production: comparison of developed and developing countries, in Lal, R., Hansen, D., Uphoff, N., and Slack, S., eds., Food Security & Environmental Quality in the Developing World. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, p. 129–151.Google Scholar
  39. Pimentel, D., Harvey, C., Resosudarmo, P., Sinclair, K., Kurz, D., McNair, M., Crist, S., Sphritz, L., Fitton, L., Saffouri, R., and Blair, R., 1995, Environmental and economic costs of soil erosion and conservation benefits: Science v. 276, no. 5315, p. 1117–1123.Google Scholar
  40. Pimentel, D., Houser, J., Preiss, E., White, O., Fang, H., Mesnick, L., Barsky, T., Tariche, S., Schreck, J., and Alpert, S., 1997, Water resources: agriculture, the environment, and Society: BioScience v. 47, no. 2, p. 97–106.Google Scholar
  41. Pimentel, D., McLaughlin, L., Zepp, A., Kakitan, B., Kraus, T., Kleinman, P., Vancini, F., Roach, W. J., Graap, E., Keeton, W. S., and Selig, G., 1993, Environmental and economic effects of reducing pesticide use in agriculture: Agri. and Ecosystems Environ., v. 46, no 1–4, p. 273–288.Google Scholar
  42. Pimentel, D., Warneke, A. F., Teel, W. S., Schwab, K. A., Simcox, N. J. Ebert, D. M., Baenisch, K. D., and Aaron, M. R., 1988, Food versus biomass fuel: socioeconomic and environmental impacts in the United States, Brazil, India, and Kenya: Adv. in Food Res., v. 32, p. 185–238.Google Scholar
  43. PRB., 2001, World Population Data Sheet: Population Reference Bureau, Washington, DC, 2p.Google Scholar
  44. Schneider, S. H., Rosencranz, A., and Niles, J. O., 2002, Climate Change Policy Change: Island Press, Washington, DC. 402p.Google Scholar
  45. Shapouri, H., Duffield, J. A., and Wang, M., 2002, The Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol: An Update: USDA, Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, Agricultural Economics. Report No. 813, 14p.Google Scholar
  46. Slesser, M., and Lewis, C., 1979, Biological Energy Resources: Halsted, New York, 192p.Google Scholar
  47. Soil Fertility Guide, 2002, Soil Fertility Guide: http://www.gov. mb.ca/agriculture/soilwater/soilfert/fbd02s09.html. (9/2/2002).Google Scholar
  48. Sparks Commodities, 1990, Impacts of the Richardson Amendment to H. R. 3030 on the U.S. Agricultural Sector: Sparks Commodities, Inc., McLean, Va. Washington, DC Division, 3p.Google Scholar
  49. Spirits Low, 1999, Spirits Low as Brazil Alcohol Car in Trouble Anew: Reuters Limited, November 22, 1999.Google Scholar
  50. Stanton, T. L., 1999, Feed Composition for Cattle and Sheep: Colorado State Univ., Cooperative Extension. Report No. 1.615, 7 p.Google Scholar
  51. USBC, 2001, Statistical Abstract of the United States 2001: U.S. Bureau of the Census, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 987p.Google Scholar
  52. USDA, 1991, Corn-State, Costs of Production: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Economics and Statistics System, Washington, DC, 133p. Stock #94018.Google Scholar
  53. USDA, 1997a, 1997 Census of agriculture. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.ncfap.org. (8/28/2002).Google Scholar
  54. USDA, 1997b, Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey, 1998: 1997 Census of Agriculture. v. 3, Special Studies, Part 1. 280p.Google Scholar
  55. USDA, 2001, Agricultural Statistics: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC. USDA. I—1—XV-34 p.Google Scholar
  56. Wereko-Brobby, C., and Hagan, E. B., 1996, Biomass Conversion and Technology: John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 203p.Google Scholar
  57. WHO, 2000, Malnutrition Worldwide: http://www.who.int/nut/ malnutrition_worldwide.htm (7/27/2000).Google Scholar
  58. Youngquist, W., 1997, GeoDestinies: The Inevitable Control of Earth Resources Over Nations and Individuals: National Book Company, Portland, OR. 499p.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Association for Mathematical Geology 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Pimentel
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Agriculture and Life SciencesCornell UniversityIthaca

Personalised recommendations