To the editor:
An excellent Sentinel editorial on severe food price increases as the result of ethanol production might also have included the following facts.
One acre of farm land yields 7,110 pounds of corn that can be processed into 328 gallons of ethanol. $347 of fossil fuel is required to bring the corn from the planting to harvest. The cost for a gallon of ethanol, for starters, is $1.05 per gallon. Fermenting and distillation require additional treatment and energy. An energy comparison would be: To make a gallon of ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are required. Ethanol has an energy value of 77,000 BTUs per gallon.
Ethanol from corn costs about $1.74 per gallon; 95 cents to produce a gallon of gasoline. Did we forget any other costs? You bet we did - the cost of the seed corn, environmental damages include irrigation with ground water, at a rate 25 percent higher than the natural recovery rate and corn production erodes soil 12 times faster than the soil can be reformed. Not counting the damage ethanol inflicts on internal combustion engines and the lowering of miles per gallon when blended with gasoline, this will add a minimum of another 23 cents per gallon.
Why is the cost of ethanol competitive with that of gasoline? Because you are paying the taxes for the $1 billion a year in federal and state subsidies for ethanol production. If I offered to sell you a dollar bill for $1.25 would you buy it? You are now.
A high school physics course is not a requirement for a community organizer, however; in the four years of "on the job training" one would assume some research would have been in order. Perhaps in the next four years.
Could there be a more intelligent alternative? Open up fossil fuel production in this country. "It will damage the environment," cry the green people. If you have severe back pain, you know that a pill will provide relief. You know that exceeding that dosage every four hours could result in some liver damage. Would the pill be banned because abuse could cause harm? I doubt it. We have a giant energy back ache in this country but the cure has been banned.
It will take 10 years to build refineries," cry the green people. The Empire State Building was built - without government intervention - in 16 months in the 1930s and involved 3,400 workers. Cut that construction figure in half with 21st century technology and no government intervention. That is shovel ready.
Why isn't there a cry for a rein-in on EPA useless and politically motivated regulations? Ignorance. In Pennsylvania this exists in abundance and there is no shortage of it in the other 49 states or, as our fearless leader says, "in the other 58 states." As was recently said, "we don't have to fear our president but fear the people who elected him."
If all the automobiles in the United States were fueled with 100 percent ethanol, a total of about 97 percent of U.S. land area would be needed to grow the corn feedstock. Corn would cover nearly the total land area of the United States. Does this sound like a winner?
Charles E. Deibert