Natural Resources Research

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

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

  • David Pimentel


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 


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Copyright information

© International Association for Mathematical Geology 2003

Authors and Affiliations

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

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