Volume 85 Issue 42 | p. 28 | Concentrates
Issue Date: October 15, 2007

Ethanol Linked to Water Problems

Department: Government & Policy

Increased production of ethanol from corn kernels is likely to significantly degrade U.S. water quality and lower water supplies, says a new report by the National Research Council. Noting that nearly all the U.S. annual production of 5 billion gal of ethanol comes from corn, the report predicts that efforts to meet the Bush Administration's goal of producing 35 billion gal of ethanol by 2017 will have a huge impact on water quality and supply. Corn production, the report says, is a high-impact crop using large quantities of water and is associated with the greatest application rates of fertilizer and pesticides per acre when compared with other crops. Consequently, a switch by farmers from other crops to corn for ethanol or an expansion of corn production into regions with little agricultural production is likely to have a significant impact on water quality and use. The report calls for a "technology and policy bridge" to provide incentives to reduce water use for ethanol production and to help shift ethanol feedstock from corn kernels to cellulosic ethanol feedstocks, such as perennials, switch grass, and poplars. The report is available at www.nas.edu.

 
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ISSN 0009-2347
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