Monday, February 17, 2014

"Tom Tanton: Making ethanol is wasting California's water"

"A biorefinery that produces 100 million gallons of ethanol per year uses the equivalent of the water supply for a town of about 5,000 people — approximately the size of such Central Valley farming communities as Fowler, Gustine and San Joaquin. All in all, it takes 34 times the amount of water to produce one gallon of corn-based ethanol as regular gasoline. Ethanol's water utilization rate doesn't seem to fall in line with the idea of a "renewable fuel." All this water lost and for what gain? The answer is not much for our environment nor for California food producers. The Environmental Protection Agency's analysis has shown that lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of corn ethanol were higher than those of gasoline in 2012 and will still be higher in 2017. Moreover, from 2008 to 2011, the mandate has contributed to plowing up more than 23 million acres of wetlands and grasslands — an area the size of Indiana — to grow crops, largely corn. This rapid conversion is driving up greenhouse gas emissions even higher by releasing carbon stored in the soil and by increasing use of fertilizers that swell emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.
What's more: As more and more corn is diverted to ethanol production to meet the RFS, less is available for livestock feed. High demand for corn on account of the RFS has caused extreme price volatility for this key commodity, forcing prices through the roof and at one point increasing prices up by more than 200% from pre-RFS years. Elevated corn costs drove prices for feed — the single largest input cost to food producers — up by 32% in 2012, increasing production costs for food producers across the state. This proved a deal breaker for many of them in the first year of California's drought, which saw countless farmers forced into foreclosure. Just look at the California dairy industry that has been forced to slash herd sizes and lost hundreds of farms since 2012."

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