Is corn ethanol clean energy?

Corn earCorn may do the body good, but filling up our cars with a blend of gasoline and corn-based ethanol could also be causing harm to the environment.

That’s because growing corn on an industrial scale requires vast amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, which often seep into rivers, lakes and streams, fouling habitat and killing off fish and wildlife.

The most well known example lies in the Gulf of Mexico, where algae blooms – largely caused by runoff from Midwestern corn fields along the Mississippi River – have cast a massive, oxygen-deprived “dead zone” over parts of the Gulf.

Meanwhile, demand for biofuels, like corn ethanol, places pressure on forests, native prairie and critical wildlife habitat as more of these sensitive areas are sought after for farmland.

Corn ethanol is also fueling global warming. The processes of making corn ethanol —  growing crops, converting wild lands to farmland and distilling ethanol — creates more greenhouse gas pollution than the gasoline it is supposed to replace.

Defenders’ president, Rodger Schlickeisen, explains all this to lawmakers today on the National Journal’s website, urging our nation’s leaders to ignore proposals to subsidize more corn ethanol. Check out his post.

Learn more about deforestation.