Saturday, July 13, 2013

"The One Issue Republicans and Democrats Can Agree On" Slate

"The fact that most ethanol is made from corn means that an increase in the ethanol content of gas could create, or exacerbate, a variety of problems, like higher food prices and elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Ethanol production has also been linked to the spread of a dangerous form of E. coli."

"Ethanol fuel’s many problems have drawn together an orgy of strange bedfellows, including the petroleum lobby, environmentalists, foodies, food processors, auto enthusiasts (cars don’t like ethanol, either), and citizens of all political bents—basically everyone outside of the corn belt and D.C.’s Beltway."

"Already, the increased demand for corn created by ethanol policy in recent years has led to more land being cleared for agriculture. This activity, and the intensive tillage of the industrial farming system that produces most corn, has resulted in widespread loss of topsoil: We’ve only got about 60 years’ worth of topsoil left at the current rate of loss, by some estimates. The vast and expanding monocultures of corn that blanket the Midwest are part of this problem."

"Topsoil sequesters carbon dioxide. The more topsoil that’s lost, the less carbon dioxide is sequestered, and the more carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere. Thick, healthy soils are also an important natural reservoir of water; thin soil is less able to retain rainfall and irrigation, which increases the demand for water."

"Meanwhile, on the food-safety front, a mushy yellow byproduct of ethanol production called distillers grains, which is widely used in cattle feed, turns out to be a rich source ofE. coli 0157, the pathogen behind several recent recalls of E. coli-tainted beef. Though links between distillers grains and specific cases of food-borne illness have yet to be established, it has been demonstrated that the higher the percentage of distillers grains in cows' diets, the higher the level of E. coli 0157 in those cows."

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