When thirsty people plant thirsty crops to fuel thirsty car and trucks, watchdogs of the world’s water begin to worry. Robert Glennon, professor of law and public policy at the University of Arizona, wonders whether President-Elect Barack Obama and his newly nominated Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack might already be overlooking the significant amount of water needed to produce ethanol — an alternative energy option that Glennon suggests both candidates enthusiastically support.
Mr. Vilsack is in for an unpleasant surprise.That’s because while many of ethanol’s problems (energy inputs, land use, food prices and more) have been thoroughly discussed, we have oddly (or maybe purposely) overlooked its true Achilles heel: water. And if we stick to our current plans to massively boost ethanol, an ethanol-fueled water crisis will come fast and furious. Producing ethanol requires enormous amounts of water. Water America does not now have. That’s true for corn ethanol and its supposedly more efficient and environmental cousin, cellulosic ethanol made from husks, wood chips, and other waste. The most efficient ethanol plants need 4 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol fuel. That doesn’t account for the feedstock, and in the case of corn, it takes 2,500 gallons of water to grow enough corn to produce 1 gallon of ethanol. That’s right, 2,500 gallons.
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Source: The Huffington Post