A major downside of producing corn ethanol is the amount of energy required: Ethanol made from corn returns only 25% more energy than is consumed to make it. This means that each gallon of ethanol fuel is only 25% “renewable” energy (a 4:1 ratio). In contrast, Brazilian cane ethanol yields 800% more energy than is consumed in its production (a 1:8 ratio), and is a much better alternative as a sustainable fuel.
Basic chemistry dictates that gallon for gallon, burning ethanol produces only 2/3 as much energy as burning gasoline.
Ethanol production increases the price of corn used for food. The price of corn is skyrocketing, which raises the price of all corn-based products. 24% of the U.S. corn crop is now mandated to go to ethanol, which is causing shocks to global markets as third-world nations must pay more for this food staple. Ethanol production competes with land space for other food products, using an estimated 11 acres worth of land per vehicle fueled by ethanol per year.
Ethanol appears to be “environmentally friendly,” but it is not.
Ethanol releases 19% more carbon dioxide than gasoline. For those who believe that human-produced carbon dioxide plays a role in global climate change, this is not a good statistic.
Ethanol production requires enormous water resources. According to the Water Education Foundation, a pound of corn requires 118 gallons of water to grow. Given the 21 pounds of corn required to produce one gallon of ethanol, that’s almost 2500 gallons of water used, not including water in the distillation stage. So when filling their gas tanks, most Americans now indirectly consume over 2500 gallons of water.
Given the global water crisis, is this good for the environment? Can we say that ethanol is a clean, renewable fuel that paves the way to the future if its negative environmental effects are even worse than those of regular fossil fuels?
Perhaps the most devastating effect of the ethanol industry is the destruction of the small engine. An in depth analysis shows that when a gasohol mixture contains more than 0.5% water (which can easily accumulate due to humidity on a hot day), the ethanol starts to decompose, forming a single phase separation layer of ethanol and water at the bottom of a fuel tank. Because this small layer of ethanol and water does not support combustion, it gets sucked into the engine, clogging up and permanently destroying the carburetor.