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Ethanol Utopia?

January 10th, 2007 by Viv

Many people think that ethanol production will provide wins for the whole community – farmers, the community and the environment.

There is no free lunch.

As usual with government promotions, the benefits are obvious but the costs are hidden.

The benefits will fall on those growing cereals and sugar cane or building ethanol factories – they will get higher prices for their products than they would otherwise.

The majority of farmers will be losers – all those using grains or molasses for supplementary feeding of cattle, horses, chooks, sheep and pigs will see their feed prices increase.

Higher prices for grains and sugar will then pass thru feedlots and factories to show up as rising costs for cereals, bacon, eggs, milk, meat and all sweets – a hidden ethanol levy on every breakfast table.

In addition, the inevitable government subsidies or tax breaks for ethanol will consume tax dollars, giving higher taxes for tax payers or lower services for tax consumers.

Then there are environmental costs. We will use heaps of diesel fuel to bring marginal land, either grassland or bush, into a dead mono-culture of cereals or cane. And the excessive cultivation and chemical fertilisers used will reduce the soil organic matter and produce – – – – – more greenhouse gases.

Then when we burn ethanol in cars, we get water and . . . . . the same old dreaded greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide – releasing exactly the same amount of carbon dioxide that was removed from the atmosphere by the growing plant a few months before.

Moreover, the cultivation, harvesting, transport and processing of the ethanol inputs adds more pollutants to the atmosphere – in fact, careful energy audits show that there is less energy in a gallon or ethanol than is required to produce it from plant material. (

And what do we do in drought – burn our cereals and sugar in ethanol cars and import food to eat?

Finally, who pays for the damage or modifications required to many engines to allow them to use ethanol?

If people think ethanol can be produced profitably in a competitive market with no tax breaks or subsidies, they should be free to try with their own dollars.

Taxpayers and consumers should not be forced to subsidise the ethanol industry – I believe the costs outweigh the benefits.

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