Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ethanol and Water

As mentioned in Dr. Webber's class last Tuesday, corn based ethanol has its many problems including the use of ~14000 gallons of water. I found this fact extremely interesting since the "great" ethanol is linked not only to problems with food but water as well. By the way, I've seen at least three different commercials in the past week that advertise how wonderful corn-based ethanol is for the environment because it's so clean. On the same day that I saw one of these commercials, I read an article about people in Africa buying dirt to make cookies because corn has become too expensive since most of the individuals survive on $2 a day. Even a slight increase in the price of corn makes a significant impact on their diet.

I read this letter to the editor of the Plainview Daily Herald about regarding the Ogallala aquifer. "Environmental Defense notes that “water demands associated with individual ethanol plants are no higher than demands from other industrial or agricultural users, but construction of new plants in areas of existing water stress will create bitter conflicts if water is already scarce." As the aquifer water table declines, groundwater pumping exceeds rates of replacement." The individual's argument is for sustainable-yield management use of the aquifer instead of the current Rule of Capture in order to establish a sustainable water source. With more ethanol plants in the area, this goal is greatly hindered. The water required for the production of one bushel of corn is "2,600 gallons of irrigation water in counties in or near areas of high Ogallala depletion." This will further strain the aquifer resources making it hard to implement a sustainable-year management goal.

Ethanol's negative effects have leaked into our water resource management problems. Texas is already showing signs of drought conditions, can our aquifers handle continued droughts and excessive irrigation for ethanol plants? Are we willing to sacrfice two important necessities, water and food (grains), in order to perpetuate our excessive energy consumption? Something's gotta give. I'm in agreement with Vivek, conservation of all resources needs to be part of the solution.

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