Assignment 4: Disadvantages of Corn-based Ethanol Production (Biofuel)

Topic: The disadvantages of ethanol production for energy use

Scientists are searching for the right alternative source of energy to replace the harmful fossil fuels used in our environment. One of these alternative energy sources is converted from food grain into ethanol fuel(biofuel). However, some research suggests that the energy that’s supposed to be helping the planet’s sustainability problems might not be worth producing, due to several drawbacks. Growing biomass, such as corn, for ethanol requires a significant increase in crop production. This means we need a huge amount of fertile land, and an extreme amount of water and sunlight to produce enough crops to make biofuel and supply America’s energy needs. Ethanol also has a smaller enery density than gasoline. Ethanol generates a waste product, known as “swill”, which can be extremely toxic to aquatic life. There are several environmental impacts of corn ethanol. There is also concern for the subtracted amount of food production, especially for the world’s malnourished population. Is it really worth producing this energy fuel if there’s more disadvantages than benfits for the sustainability of the environment? 

Mathematical Questions:

  1. How much more does ethanol cost to produce compared to gasoline?

2.5-3.75 times as much as gasoline

Governments pay: $6 million per year in subsidies (60 times more than gasoline)

  1. What percentage of oil consumption would ethanol replace?

20% of corn crop = 1% of of U.S. oil consumption

The entire national corn crop = only 7% of U.S. oil consumption

  1. How much would growing crops for ethanol decrease the world’s food production?

In 2008, global food prices increased 83% in one year, with biofuel production as a main contributing factor

60% of the world’s population is malnourished

 Alternative energy sources should be very important to the scientific research community today. However, researchers should be aware of the many complications of ethanol, instead of investing in this controversial energy source right away. Should the American population really be wasting their money on corn-powered machines if their paying too much money and burning up a huge portion of our their own food? I think the researchers need to take in to consideration all of these disadvantages before producing any more ethanol fuels for the national population.

Sources:–corn-cant-save-us. Good resource. Has great content on the cons of biofuel, and was found on the “themes and suggestions” page on the math blog Good resource. The page has high-quality, licensed information. It has helpful numbers and prices of ethanol that could be used for mathematical argument. Good resource. This is a scientific article, and includes great content on biofuel’s influence on the nation’s food production

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