America has decided to grow corn to ferment into ethanol, and that will help solve our high gas prices.
It’s driven the price of corn through the roof, which has exacerbated the food shortage, which has helped drive food prices through the roof worldwide. This corn is grown using lots of fossil fuel in the tractors that plow, seed, weed, and harvest the corn.
All this plowing increases erosion in the Corn Belt. How many acres of topsoil went down the Mississippi during this spring’s floods? What about all the agricultural chemicals—produced with huge inputs of fossil fuels—used to grow the corn? What about the effect on the environment of all those chemicals? What about the genetic modifications made to that corn that are contaminating non-GM corn?
While this misguided attempt to make money off of high gas prices is going on, America for the most part throws its organic garbage into plastic bags that are sent to landfills, where it decays and pollutes ground waters.
But what if municipalities across the country passed ordinances requiring homeowners to keep their organic garbage—paper, leaves, yard waste, kitchen scraps, and so on—separate? What if all this garbage was not discarded, but was taken to centers where it was treated with simple enzymes that turn starches into sugars, and those sugars were fermented into ethanol?
Not only would we have a virtually free source of ethanol, but the garbage that emerged from these fermenters would be richer in fertilizing power than the garbage that went in. The bazillions of microorganisms that fermented the garbage and turned sugars into ethanol would add their bodies to the mix, making the resulting fermented garbage rich in plant nutrients.
This “waste” product could be used to reconstitute America’s farmland, adding precious organic matter back to the soil, enriching the soil, fertilizing plants, all without the use of fossil fuels.
But no. We farm corn for ethanol, and studies show that the energy in the ethanol that results is less than the energy it takes to produce it.
I don’t know if you go to a dump on a regular basis or contract with a waste company to haul your organic garbage away. But most Americans do. The EPA estimates that anywhere from 300 to 500 millions tons of organic matter find their way to landfills and dumps in this country every year.
America needs a National Soil Fertility Program that composts and ferments that waste to produce finished compost as fertilizer and ethanol as fuel. Additionally, scientists estimate that enough solar energy falls on America each day to create enough electricity to power every household in America for a year. Add to that the potential of wind and wave power, geothermal power, heat pumps, and other non-carbon-based fuel sources and one realizes that we don’t have an energy crisis. We have a lack of leadership to utilize the non-carbon-based energy sources we are rich in.
Forget offshore drilling for oil, or drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. All that will get us is more oil, more atmospheric CO2, more greenhouse gas, more global warming. All that is a grab for more drilling leases by big oil. Forget oil shale and more coal plants. They are just more producers of CO2, more greenhouse gas, more global warming.
We have plenty of resources to make clean energy. We just need the social will to harness them.