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Ethanol Dries You Out

Posted by feww on April 18, 2009

US: One drought away from food crisis

Alcohol Dries You Out and Eats Through Your Food Security

Disturbing facts about ethanol production in the US:

  • In 2008, the United States was responsible for 52 percent of ethanol production in the world production, fermenting mostly corn to 9 billion gallons (~34.1 billion liters)  of fuel ethanol.
  • Ethanol production rose by 38.5 percent in 2008 compared to the previous year (from 6.5 billion gallons, or 24.6 billion liters in 2007).
  • United States imported an addition 557 million gallons of ethanol in 2008, from Brazil, Jamaica,  El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica.
  • Federal mandates encourage more ethanol production [not less overall consumption.]
  • The U.S. target for  for 2015 is 15 billion gallons, though it’s difficult to see where the industry is planning to get the water from.  [Data from the Renewable Fuels Association.]
  • As of January 2009, at least 170 ethanol biorefineries were operating in the United States with 24 additional ones (new location or expanding plants) being planned.
  • Corn is a thirsty crop requiring about 109 gallons of water for each pound (910 liters of water for each kg) of corn (shelled maize).  [Other estimates include 20 inches of soil moisture per acre of maize planted, producing about 150 bushels of corn per acre). Most of the water usually comes from the rain.
  • Research performed at Cornell University showed that 26.1 pounds of corn is needed to produce a gallon of ethanol (3.13kg of corn per liter).
  • Based on various sources, fresh water consumption is increasing globally by at least 1.2 percent per year, and the rate is rising.
  • Typical ethanol plants use about 4.2 gallons of water to make one gallon of ethanol, says the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. However, the ethanol  industry insists the water requirement is ‘only’ a ratio of 3 to 1.
  • Annual harvest of corn in the US (2008) was 12,101 million bushels (307.37 MMT). [Source: USDA]
  • Total amount of corn used to produce ethanol in 2008 was a staggering 3,600 million bushels (91.44MMT),  or 29.75 percent of the annual US corn harvest.[Source: USDA]
  • Total amount of water needed to produce 15 billion gallons of ethanol, the US production target for 2015, is about 22 million-million gallons (83.5 trillion liters). That is about a fifth of the estimated volume of water in Lake Erie.

Notes:

1. A bushel of shelled maize (corn) weighs 56 pounds ( 25.40 kg).
2. MMT = Million Metric Tons.
3. FEWW calculations show that about 14.28 percent of the ethanol produced in the US in 2008 came from milo, other feedstocks, biomass, cheese whey and beverage waste.

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