Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Corn Ethanol Strikes Again

Posted by jab12004 on April 8, 2009

Just when you thought that corn ethanol couldn’t be any worse for everyone but corn producers the environment, there is always some other way that it finds to outdo itself.   Extending the Cure’s blog, a place that usually doesn’t write on biofuels, provides a great description of corn ethanol’s latest problem.

Evidently, unwanted bacteria cause problems in the production of ethanol, in addition to causing troublesome infections in humans and animals. Common bacteria present in corn mixes prevent the formation of ethanol, producing lactic acid instead. To forestall this development, ethanol producers use antibiotics in distilling ethanol, Forbes reports.


These antibiotics along with antibiotic-resistant bacteria can find their way into one of the byproducts of the ethanol production process, dried distillers grains (DDGs), which in turn gets fed to livestock.  The sale of DDGs is crucial for corn ethanol refiners because without it they would need higher government subsidies  be operating in the red.  Potential dangers from using DDGs might be the last nail in the coffin for the corn ethanol industry considering how screwed it already is.  

can anyone say bailout?

Be sure to read the Extending the Cure post for more of the biology (not my forte) of using antibiotics and why this is a serious issue.  

5 Responses to “Corn Ethanol Strikes Again”

  1. Q said

    What’s with the strikethroughs? Is that some sort of cute way of making snide comments and acting like you didn’t?

    Say it or don’t say it, man.

  2. Evan Herrnstadt said

    @Q: This is a pretty common convention for many bloggers — I’m surprised you’ve never run into it.

    Also, anonymously (unless you are in fact the director of R&D for MI6) complaining about passive-aggressive comments is pretty ridiculous.

  3. Edward Robert said

    The antibiotic twist is damming indeed. A process such as this that would clearly foster the emergence of resistant strains represents a microbiological Pandora’s box that eventually strikes back at corn, other crops and the rest of the biological world.

  4. Q said

    Yes, I have run into it before — I think I saw it on The Google somewheres. It’s just a little too Olbermannish/Maddowish for my liking (i.e., Smartass, left cheek).

    Anonymously and Ridiculously Yours — Q.

  5. Carlos Ferreira said

    I can see the question looming: “Right. What else can we burn?”

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