articles‎ > ‎

The Folly of Making Ethanol from Food Crops

posted 24 Feb 2013, 06:35 by Mpelembe   [ updated 24 Feb 2013, 06:35 ]

Why is it that stupid ideas find so many followers?
European Governments, the US Federal Government, and an
increasing number of US State Governments have issued
legislation that requires the use of ethanol in cars.

Making ethanol from corn was promoted by the US

agricultural lobby as the best approach for producing
biofuels.  None of the decision makers listened to the
advice of scientists, who pointed out correctly, that the
benefits of ethanol were minute.  Ethanol is incapable of
reducing consumption of petroleum-derived fuels and of
reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Almost all of the food
producing acreage in the US must be converted to growing
corn before a sizeable reduction in foreign petroleum
imports can be expected.

For the agricultural lobby the financial rewards of the
ethanol craze have been spectacular.  When future prices of
corn began to escalate, more and more farmers decided to
plant corn in favor of other crops like soybean and wheat.
Predictably, food prices started soaring.

Now we must deal with the sorry political mess that the
ethanol subsidy of the US Federal Government has left
behind.  Poor countries have been hit hard with escalating
prices for grains and other basic food staples.  Protests
are growing across the globe demanding price reductions or
price controls.  Demonstrations are stoking social unrest
in many countries.  Demands are growing to prohibit the
production of biofuels altogether.

What originally began as an effort to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions and an attempt to reduce consumption of fossil
fuels and petroleum, may instead be perceived as a
worldwide failure of renewable biofuels.  Such result would
be unfortunate and ultimately disastrous.

We know for sure that petroleum reserves are getting scarce
and will be depleted soon.  We know for sure that global
warming is caused by greenhouse gases produced by fossil
fuel combustion.  We know for sure that economies will
begin to fail, when liquid motor fuels become scarce and

We must replace fossil petroleum sources with an alternate
source for liquid fuels or world economies are doomed to
fail and contract.  Only biomass meets the requirements for
such a new energy source.  However, virtually all the
biomass crops, which are being used, have one common
shortcoming.  Instead of using plants with exceptionally
high energy yields, we are converting low-energy food crops
into ethanol, a low-energy fuel.

Only high-energy crops can become the savior of our huge
transportation sector.  The wellbeing of this sector is
absolutely vital for the continuing functioning of world
economies.  Famines will result if we convert instead
low-energy food crops into liquid fuels.  There are not
enough arable lands on this Earth to provide food for an
additional three billion people during the next fifty years
and grow simultaneously sufficient amounts of low-energy
biomass for replacing petroleum as source for liquid motor

Substitution of petroleum with motor fuels derived from
coal or oil shale is not sensible, either.  These synthetic
fuels will increase greenhouse gas emissions and will
accelerate global warming.  Therefore, there remains only
one single choice for securing the supply of affordable
transportation fuels; we must learn to convert high-energy
biomass into standard motor fuels.

This will involve the development of new approaches and new
technologies for finding, breeding, and growing high-energy
crops on fallow and arid lands.  We must protect tropical
and primal forests and we must assure that arable lands are
sustained properly.  Arable lands will become scarce and
must be protected from exploitation.

The world has huge areas of deserts and arid lands with
exceptionally high solar irradiation.  We must learn to
grow biomass with high-energy yields on these ignored and
neglected lands.  We must develop new irrigation and
cultivating technologies for arid areas and we must learn
how to achieve high-energy biomass harvests without
excessive water use and without the wasteful and expensive
fertilizer runoff.

High-energy plants need plenty of sunshine.  We must breed
new high-energy plant hybrids and we must develop new
agricultural techniques that are effective under these
adverse conditions.  We must prevent exploitation of
forests across the world and we must find ways to protect
and preserve tropical and primal forests.

It is mandatory that we bring the recent inflationary wave
of food prices under control soon.  It is important that we
prevent any speculative manipulation of grain prices and
that we avoid any irrational reactions to this artificial
food crisis.

Above all, we must not blame the concept of renewable
biofuels for the artificially created food crisis.  Liquid
fuels from biomass are our only hope for simultaneously
controlling global overheating and preventing
hyperinflation of liquid fuel prices.

If we fail to succeed in this crucial and fateful endeavor,
we must prepare the world for the collapse of world
economies and the disappearance of civilizations.

About the Author:

Dr. Hemsath recently published the book CLIMATE CHANGE -
GOLD RUSH OR DISASTER? For 50 years he has worked as
scientist, process engineer, Director of R&D, Corporate
Vice President of R&D, Company President, Chief Executive
Officer, and Inventor.  He holds more than 60 US Patents.
Visit his site at
He is now working on a second book, THE SOLUTION TO GLOBAL