I am no stranger to pain at the pump. I rejoice any time I can get gas for less than $3 a gallon and race to the pump to fill my tank whenever I notice that gas prices have plummeted. Recently, I started noticing signs on the pump indicating that the fuel I was putting in my car was 10 percent ethanol. Ethanol? What is that?
So I researched just what Ethanol really is. It is an alcohol derived from plants, such as corn, though in Brazil they derive it from sugar cane. Ethanol is being touted as the next best thing to fossil fuels, particularly because it is a renewable energy source and is said to be a more eco-friendly fuel choice. I looked at my spouse after reading that and said, “You are kidding me! You mean we are actually burning food while people go hungry?” He nodded his head in agreement.
While the price per barrel of oil surges, farmers race to plant corn to convert to ethanol. Americans want, nay, demand lower prices at the pump. But is ethanol the right choice? How can I justify putting ethanol gas into my car when my logical brain keeps telling me that it is a waste of food? At least petroleum is not a food source!
I am not saying that I do not agree that our country needs to move more toward self-sufficiency or at least cut down on our reliance on foreign oil. Yes, our country needs to do something about this oil crisis. Three dollars a gallon for gas for someone making $100,000 a year isn’t going to hurt as much as $3 a gallon for gas for someone making minimum wage just trying to get by. Inflated prices at the pump hurt the struggling poor and lower middle class in our country the most. I am not just talking about gas for automobiles here either. Increased gas prices mean increased transportation costs, which ultimately get passed along to the consumer.
Anything that is trucked is going to cost more. On top of increased transportation costs, using ethanol as an alternative to petroleum gas products will ultimately cause a food shortage. Farmers know a money crop when they see it. They will turn their wheat and soy and other crops’ fields into a corn field to fuel the ethanol craze. That will lead to increased costs for items made with the crops not planted because they will be in short supply. Adding insult to injury, corn based products will rise in costs due to a shortage as well, since the cash crop will be for corn to be grown for ethanol production and not for food. I am not only referring to your Kellogg’s Corn Flakes costing more here, but also meat, dairy and eggs. Corn feeds livestock! Less corn available for things other than ethanol means less food for chickens and cows, which ultimately end up on your plate as a nice chicken breast or a juicy steak. A shortage of corn for livestock can only end up in increased costs for the consumer.
We need as Americans to use other power sources. No one seems to want a nuclear power plant in their back yard, but nuclear power, at least in the United States, is a cost effective and safe energy source. Wind power, solar power and many other energy sources are available. We should focus our efforts on developing an energy source that does not deprive Americans of food or cause food costs to rise. According to an article posted on Popular Science’s website, the increased production of ethanol has already added $47 per person to American families’ food bill. Don’t believe me? Think back to what a gallon of milk cost a year ago. I would bet it was at least $1 cheaper per gallon. Eggs, once a relatively cheap food product, are now upwards of $2 a dozen. Just about any food you can link to corn costs more now than a year ago.
Our country needs to focus on making cheaper energy alternatives more easily affordable for Americans to use on a realistic basis. Congress can step up to the plate by offering more incentives to Americans who outfit or build homes which utilize solar, wind or other technologies to reduce heating and cooling costs, and thus the strain on our country’s already strained energy resources. While ethanol may help lower the cost at the pump, the savings ultimately end up as an added expense to your grocery bill.