Strike Three for Ethanol (this week)
Posted by jab12004 on April 14, 2009
Corn ethanol just can’t catch a break it seems. In the wake of the CBO report which found that ethanol will likely increase GHGs in the long run and the study on antibiotic resistant bacteria from ethanol production, comes a study which finds ethanol uses three times more water than originally thought. Here is a summary.
Previous studies estimated that a gallon of corn-based bioethanol requires the use of 263 to 784 gallons of water from the farm to the fuel pump. But these estimates failed to account for widely varied regional irrigation practices, the scientists say. The scientists made a new estimate of bioethanol’s impact on the water supply using detailed irrigation data from 41 states… a gallon of ethanol may require up to over 2,100 gallons of water from farm to fuel pump, depending on the regional irrigation practice in growing corn. However, a dozen states in the Corn Belt consume less than 100 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol, making them better suited for ethanol production. link
My knowledge of water is limited, but I do know that using 2,100 gallons of water for a gallon of ethanol is terrible. Proponents of ethanol might point out that the Corn Belt ratio of 100:1 isn’t that bad, and I would agree. The problem is that as we continually increase corn ethanol production, we will have to further expand production out of this region into less efficient areas. Right now, the U.S. produces around 9 billion gallons of corn ethanol per year. I’m scared to think about our water situation will be when we reach the 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol mandated under the RFS in 2015.