Ethanol and the ‘Dead Zone’

Subsidizing corn ethanol in America has become the early 21st century textbook example of how government subsidies often do more harm than good. It has contributed to higher food prices because more arable land is allocated for energy production, not food. Corn ethanol is touted as an environmentally-friendly solution. But is it really? Excess nitrogen fertilizer pumped into corn fields washes into the Mississippi River and then down into Gulf of Mexico. This causes hypoxea (low oxygen), which kills off the marine food chain for up to 6,000 square miles, an area aptly called the Dead Zone.

It comes as no surprise that the politically influential corporate farming industry, not small farmers, are the big beneficiaries of the subsidies to produce corn ethanol. Maybe that’d be acceptable if corn ethanol were an efficient biofuel like from switchgrass or sugar cane, the latter proving to be a Brazilian bonanza.


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