Hidden Costs of Ethanol Fuel: Not What It's Cracked Up to Be

You may be thinking one of the best uses for corn -- a grain people aren't adapted to consume very well -- is to produce ethanol-based fuels. There's big concerns emerging, because a new ethanol plant near you may soon be tapping your local water systems to the tune of millions of gallons a day.

For example, Illinois is the second largest producer of ethanol behind Iowa, yet plans are on the drawing board to open at least 30 new plants. A proposed ethanol facility near Champaign and Urbana, tapping the same aquifer that sustains both towns, would need nearly 2 million gallons of water every day to operate.

Although it takes some 300 million gallons of water to make 100 million gallons of ethanol, based on figures from the Renewable Fuels Association, water experts aren't concerned industry's thirst for water will drain our systems dry. Besides, newer plants require far less water than older ones and most recycle it anyway.

Perhaps, a safer, healthier solution for our environment: Building cars with hybrid engines that burn tiny amounts of water.

USA Today June 19, 2006

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