I heard this great piece on NPR this morning about the land usage required to get the same amount of energy out of some renewable sources compared to traditional power plants. The numbers were staggering. It takes 72 more times the square acres for wind and (here’s the big one) 300+ times for ethanol production for every square acre of traditional power plant.
I’m currently reading The Omnivore’s Dillema, and Michael Pollen spends a lot of time discussing the monoculture of corn in the mid-west and it’s negative impact on the ecology of those areas, the farmer’s economic situation, oil usage to grow the corn at such high yields, pesticide application, and the fact that other crops are not being grown. I feel like adding government pressure to grow this heavily subsidized crop for fuel will exacerbate these problems. Plus I find of scary to have our food system so intimately tied to our energy generation. This piece struck me because the legislation to increase ethanol production is having a great effect on what is grown in this country, and how it is grown. Corn for ethanol production can be Genetically modified, sprayed heavily with pesticides, and most consumer’s won’t know or care. But all the while it will be having an effect, and we shouldn’t be ignoring it.
One great thing about the story on NPR was that the big solutions presented to our energy problem was greater efficiency (i.e., low energy consumption appliances/higher miles per gallon cars) and curbing consumption. Hopefully more people will jump on that bandwagon.