Ethanol is a great fuel product that reduces greenhouse gases and preserves our fossil fuels. The dilemma that comes with creating ethanol is if it’s worth the problems that come with producing it. Ethanol is produced by processing feedstocks like corn and sugar cane. This sounds great because ethanol would create more jobs for farmers and people in rural areas. The issue that appears to be happening is that farmers are converting parts of their land for ethanol production, which use to be used for food production. If farmers are converting most of their land to be used for ethanol, then less food is being produced for the population.
Ethanol Production Affects Food Costs
The risk of having a food crisis is more prevalent than ever as more and more land gets converted for ethanol production. The tradeoff for preserving fossil fuels in exchange for less food doesn’t seem very logical. There’s already a hunger problem in the world and ethanol production could worsen this problem. Less food production would cause a price hike in food cost. Consumers could be spending less on gas but would be making up for that in food costs. Ethanol production would also affect a shortage in animal feed. In order to make up for the shortage of food for animals price hikes in meat would start going up as well.
One crop that doesn’t seem to be having an issue is corn. The United States is the lead producer of corn and produces more than is demanded. Corn also creates a byproduct grain that can be used in animal feed. Since an abundant amount of corn is produced much of it can be used for ethanol production without any kickback. That isn’t the case for many other feedstocks that are produced in other countries. Other countries have had shortages of certain foods and needed to import more to satisfy their consumers.
Better Managing Practices and New Technology
Ethanol can still be a great alternative fuel that is better for the environment and not a concern to food production. Farmers would need to start managing their land better in order to keep a good balance of food and ethanol production. If farmers kept a good balance then there wouldn’t be food shortages or hikes in food pricing. Another solution would be new technology that creates second-generation biofuels. These second-generation biofuels are created by the cellulose of feedstocks and other materials. Second-generation biofuels can be created from waste products of plants and materials such as dead trees. Creating ethanol from waste products would be the best alternative and solution for this food vs fuel debate. Unfortunately, the technology for creating second-generation biofuels isn’t perfect and still needs time to be used correctly.
The production of ethanol isn’t a straight shot best method of fixing the fossil fuel dependency. As ethanol gains popularity, the issues in producing it need to be address and fixed. There are solutions to the issues with producing ethanol. As long as land managing practices and new technologies fall in place ethanol will remain a great biofuel choice.