The Dernogalizer

July 7, 2010

Not so Fast Ethanol

Filed under: environment,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 12:13 am
Tags: ,

As I noted in my punching back against ethanol post, as ethanol companies try and take advantage of the oil spill by pushing their product, it’s important to recognize the environmental implications of ethanol as well.  A recent SF Chronicle article shows how the dead zone caused by ethanol production in the Gulf is about the same size as the current dead zone caused by the BP oil spill.  Check out this pic…

Photo from the San Francisco Chronicle's Todd Trumbull, and Professor Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium

The reason?

“Each year, nitrogen used to fertilize corn, about a third of which is made into ethanol, leaches from Midwest croplands into the Mississippi River and out into the gulf, where the fertilizer feeds giant algae blooms. As the algae dies, it settles to the ocean floor and decays, consuming oxygen and suffocating marine life.

Known as hypoxia, the oxygen depletion kills shrimp, crabs, worms and anything else that cannot escape. The dead zone has doubled since the 1980s and is expected this year to grow as large as 8,500 square miles and hug the Gulf Coast from Alabama to Texas.

As to which is worse, the oil spill or the hypoxia, “it’s a really tough call,” said Nathaniel Ostrom, a zoologist at Michigan State University. “There’s no real answer to that question.”

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