Initially, ethanol seemed like a good idea, presented as a viable and renewable alternative fuel source. Unfortunately, the corn-based biofuel has not lived up to environmental expectations and may present more significant challenges. Ethanol blends produce air pollution, reduce fuel efficiency, increase corn and related food prices, and potentially cause engine damage to the vehicles which use them, according to this year’s report from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Environment Impact of Biofuels
In June, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released Biofuels and the Environment, a second triennial report to Congress which reported these findings and concluded corn-based biofuels are likely not the best approach for ensuring environmental health. Specific conclusions from the report include:
- Land Use
Approximately 90 million acres are used annually for growing corn, with more than 40% dedicated to producing corn-based ethanol. This increased demand for corn cultivation creates a lack of biodiversity, deforestation, and competition for land.
- Air Quality
Emission impacts of ethanol production and distribution should include considerations for volatile organic compounds, particular matter, and nitrogen oxides.
- Water Use
Growing corn requires water, and the increased demand for corn-based ethanol is stressing aquifers and surface watersheds.
- Soil and Water Quality
Biofuel feedstocks negatively impact soil and water quality through erosion, loss of nutrients, and excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
- Invasive Species
Due to genetic modifications, herbicide-resistant feedstock, and associated herbicides, cultivation practices within the biofuel industry are creating herbicide-resistant weeds.
EPA’s Plan of Address
Recognizing a critical need for a plan of action, the EPA proposes several mitigation factors, including:
- More research to better understand land use changes due to biofuel feedstock production
- A federal effort to improve efficiency and sustainability in the biofuel supply chain
- A complex evaluation of the impact of environmental and natural resources through biofuel production
- Improving understanding of changes locally to enhance information resources for mitigation of adverse impacts
- Encourage, incentivize, and promote conservation and sustainability in agriculture.
At Central Metal Fabricators, we see the value in environmental care, EPA guidelines, and appropriate actions for conservation. As a leader in gas turbine silencing equipment since 1948, CMF produces a wide range of products used by both the standard fuel and biofuel industries.