The large “dead zone” that grows in the Gulf of Mexico every summer is nothing new. The toxic runoff of nitrogen fertilizer used on conventional crops in the Midwest leads to a huge swathe of sea that is incapable of sustaining life. The nitrogen-rich fertilizer leads to an increase of algae life, which in turn removes oxygen from the water. The end result: a dead zone that typically grows to the size of New Jersey.
Corn is the biggest culprit in creating these environments, and now that the U.S. is looking to biofuels as a solution to its energy needs, the problem’s only getting worse. Bush signed legislation at the end of 2007 that will triple the amount of corn ethanol produced over the next several years.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Journal of Sciences forecasts that the increased runoff will also overburden the waterways that shuttle the fertilizer to the Gulf – including the Mississippi River.
The damage to the fishing industry is the least of our worries; we’re literally killing the world around us piece by piece.
Ethanol use in particular has been shown to lead to an increase in smog, respiratory illnesses, and deaths. All of these negatives don’t even address the pure stupidity of using corn as a fuel source. Corn is quite simply not a good source of energy – over 90% of the energy that goes into producing a gallon of corn-based ethanol is used in its production. In other words, nine-tenths of a gallon of fuel (fossil or otherwise) goes into the production of one gallon of ethanol.
Sound efficient? Of course not! But it does put money in the pockets of the nation’s giant agribusinesses, and it’s their interests that clearly drive the policy of the current administration. Bush’s attitude in the face of the protests and science, as stated by Solve Climate: “Let them eat corn!”
We’ve said it in many different way before, but I’ll briefly recap here: More efficient cars don’t cut it; The "green car" is a myth; and a carectomy is better than a better car. The solution to our energy, environmental, and pending health crises is simple, altough it may not be politically popular: we need to consume, and specifically DRIVE, less.
Photo via flickr by Jordon.