Save 75% - Only $49.99 for 1 full year! digitalPLUS subscription offer ends 12/1
NewsOpinionReaders Respond

U.S. must abandon corn-based ethanol

Renewable EnergyBiofuelsEthanolGasoline IndustryChemical IndustryOrganic Chemical Industry

The use of ethanol in gasoline has a long and sordid history ("Food or fuel?" Aug. 3). By the early 1990s, EPA regulations had reduced tailpipe emissions from new cars by over 95 percent of 970s levels, and only about 3 percent of the hydrocarbons in the atmosphere were from automobile exhausts. Nevertheless the government legislated the use of reformulated gasolines containing oxygen to facilitate complete combustion. This lead to the inclusion of MTBE in gasolines.

After oil companies spent tens of billions of dollars to build government-mandated MTBE plants, ground water contamination from leaking fuel storage tanks forced the government to abandon MTBE and replace it with ethanol. There is no net reduction in carbon dioxide in ethanol from corn so proponents for its use segued into the national security issue.

The use of ethanol in fuel was questionable from the beginning. Stanford University studies showed that E85 — a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline — increases the production of known carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Burning pure ethanol adds 22 percent more hydrocarbons to the atmosphere than gasoline; increases smog including tropospheric ozone which has been linked to inflamed lungs, impaired immune systems and heart diseases in prior research.

The U.S. is the world's largest producer of corn. In 2000, the U.S. used 15 million tons of corn to produce ethanol. After the 2005 EPA ethanol mandate, we used 85 million tons per year of corn to produce ethanol and today over 40 percent of the corn produced in the U.S. now ends up in gasoline.

At least 1 billion people in the world exist on less than $2 per day. The U.S. doubled the price of food worldwide as corn supplies became tight and wheat and soy bean production was shifted to more profitable corn production and we have been responsible for civil unrest in the third world as low income nations are faced with devastating food price increases.

Starting with last year's drought in Texas and the southeast, the U.S. now has dust bowl era conditions throughout the entire Midwest with rapidly rising food costs. Ranchers are now slaughtering cattle at record rates because of the lack of feed.

Added to the U.S. woes, India is suffering through an immense drought and loss of crops as the monsoons have not arrived in typical fashion. Corn required to fill a 25-gallon SUV tank with ethanol would feed a starving Asian for a year. Filling that 25-gallon tank twice a month requires a ten-acre farm. Estimates are that 30,000 children die every day somewhere in the world from starvation or diseases induced by malnutrition.

Various international agencies have signed onto a recommendation to remove provisions of current national policies that mandate biofuels production. There is no debate. The use of corn-based ethanol in gasoline was a flawed policy at its inception and should be eliminated.

Charles Campbell, Woodstock

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
Renewable EnergyBiofuelsEthanolGasoline IndustryChemical IndustryOrganic Chemical Industry
  • Corn-based ethanol fuel won't solve our energy problems

    My recent letter of questioning the use of corn to produce ethanol prompted the expected rebuttal from the Renewable Fuels Association ("U.S. must abandon corn-based ethanol," Aug. 28).

  • If criminals don't wanted their cellphones tracked they should stop committing crimes
    If criminals don't wanted their cellphones tracked they should stop committing crimes

    Regarding your recent editorial on the privacy issues raised by police tracking suspects through their cellphone numbers, I would gladly give up some of my personal privacy if law enforcement were allowed to locate and arrest criminals before they do me or my family harm ("The police are...

  • Bag ban casts Baltimore as 'Chump City'
    Bag ban casts Baltimore as 'Chump City'

    Nobody asked columnist Dan Rodricks about banning plastic bags, and nobody asked Baltimore retailers or shoppers either ("Nobody asked me, but City Council needs spine," Nov. 23).

  • Ehrlich's 'cult of anti-Obamaism'
    Ehrlich's 'cult of anti-Obamaism'

    Though I am 1960s retread boomer and unrepentant liberal who usually disagrees commentator Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., I read his column regularly. No surprise that he recently panned Obamacare — again — but what I never hear from Republicans is the Plan B, i.e., how we deal with the...

  • Let's just ban the bags
    Let's just ban the bags

    I have a problem with plastic bags and the bag tax issue ("Council passes body camera bill, plastic bag ban, but veto looms," Nov. 17). So much time and energy has been spent on this issue. When we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, there are so many daily issues, each much more...

  • 'Rain tax' not optional
    'Rain tax' not optional

    The recent sub-headline on the editorial regarding the "rain tax" was patently false ("The bogus 'rain tax' repeal," Nov. 23).