Thoughts on Ethanol

Ethanol gasoline is meant to address two problems: fuel prices and global warming. Adding ethanol to gasoline is intended to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we use in order to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles, which is a significant contributor to global warming. Ethanol is also cheaper to produce, so it lowers the price of gasoline. 

Unfortunately, we are not getting as much environmental or economic benefit from ethanol as we think. The production of corn and processing it to make ethanol creates nearly as much carbon emissions as what is decreased in vehicle emissions from using E15.  Ethanol gasoline also gets lower mileage than standard gasoline, so you get fewer miles per gallon of gas. As a result, the overall benefit from ethanol is minimal. 

Carbon capture pipelines are being planned across Iowa to help reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from ethanol production.  Unfortunately, carbon capture only results in a minimal net reduction in carbon emissions from ethanol production because fossil fuels have to be used to power the equipment to capture the carbon. There is also a significant safety risk if a carbon capture pipeline ruptures, since carbon dioxide gas is heavier than air and displaces oxygen in a large area around the rupture, suffocating people and animals in that area. These pipelines will potentially be placed in farmland without owner consent through use of eminent domain. 

Ethanol does have economic benefits for Iowa because we are the largest producer of ethanol, and it is a short-term solution to gasoline shortages, but I feel we can’t look at it as a long-term solution to Iowa’s energy needs or for addressing global warming. As a member of the Iowa Senate, I will support legislation that promotes the shift away from fossil fuels to renewable green energy sources such as wind and solar. One of the most important things we can do as a state is to develop infrastructure that makes it possible for individuals, businesses and government entities to switch to electric vehicles. We need a network of electric charging or battery exchange stations in all parts of the state, including rural areas, so that electric vehicles become as convenient and practical as gas vehicles.