Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Let them eat (and drink) ethanol ala Marie Antoinette

Energy, Environment, Ethanol, Going Green, Legislation, Truth, Unintended consequences

Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" is quoted a lot these days in regard to ethanol and rising food prices. There are many interpretations as to what she meant by it--some debate whether she said it at all.

The most interesting explanation I ever heard came from a UWM theater department teacher. She said that "cake" was the term for a gasket made from dough strips used to seal oven doors. When the baking was finished, the very over-baked, virtually inedible dough gaskets were scraped off and discarded. The poor would dig these out of the garbage and attempt to eat them. In other words, the bakers used food for a purpose other than human or animal consumption, and the insensitive Marie said the starving could always eat the gaskets.

I think that explanation fits in rather well with today's food for fuel fiasco. But I am adding to the travesty of diverting food into ethanol production, the misuse and abuse of water used for producing biofuel. Hence my version of Marie's statement, Let them eat and drink ethanol!

People are waking up to the fact that ethanol is not the answer to energy independence. Even Former President Clinton, at a campaign stop for his wife in Pennsylvania, said, "Corn is the single most inefficient way to produce ethanol because it uses a lot of energy and because it drives up the price of food."

Some people are aware that food-to-fuel mandates have increased demand on water resources. Corn in particular requires irrigation in most areas. We noted this on our last few trips out west--hundreds of acres of corn fields all being irrigated. Water is becoming a rare resource in some areas. (If you live west of the sub-continental divide on Sunnyslope Road, you have probably been paying attention to water rights issues.)

But what most people don't realize is that ethanol production causes water pollution too--both in the growing of corn and in the production of ethanol itself--regardless of the plant source. 

Corn is a nitrogen needy plant and is very soil depleting. (Remember how the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims to put a fish in each hill of corn?) Well today's farmers rely heavily on nitrogen rich fertilizers. The Washington Post stated, "Increased agricultural production also means increased fertilizer use. The National Academy of Sciences reported last month that meeting the congressional food-to-fuel mandate by 2022 would lead to a 10 to 19 percent increase in the size of the Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone" -- an area so polluted by fertilizer runoff that no aquatic life can survive there."

Polluting farmland runoff is not the worst of it. Ethanol factories also exude an alarming amount of polluted water. I have heard it described as a glycerin type effluent that causes fish die off.

Water Use and Pollution Syrup, batches of bad ethanol, and sewage are dumped into streams, threatening fish and plants with chloride, copper and other wastes which deprive waters of oxygen when they decompose. A state inspector in Iowa reported that a creek next to the ethanol plant in Sioux Center was milky and smelled like sewage.

Water Supply Can't Meet Thirst For New Industry ...Nowhere is the growing clash between economic development and water conservation more evident than in the push to build ethanol plants that typically guzzle 3½ to 6 gallons of water for every gallon of fuel produced. Minnesota's 15 ethanol plants together consume about 2 billion gallons of water per year.

Drunk on Ethanol MTBE pollutes ground and surface water, but so does ethanol. With each gallon of ethanol you get 12 gallons of sewagelike effluent produced by the fermentation/distillation process.

So, let's see... biofuel production causes local and world wide food prices to rise, food shortages, water shortages due to irrigation, pollution from fertilizer runoff, and pollution to waterways from ethanol production. (Don't forget air pollution from burning ethanol.)

And most politicians are still chanting the ethanol mantra in order to save the planet from supposed CO2 pollution? (Explanation: The corn grower / ethanol lobby is very influential.) 

Let's hope these increasingly anti-ethanol articles and news stories about world food shortages and pollution will embarrass our Federal and State legislators into voting against or better yet repealing global warming and ethanol mandates. Otherwise, I am afraid we won't have much choice but to eat and drink ethanol! 


Riots, instability spread as food prices skyrocket

Ethanol's Failed Promise

Let Them Eat Cake

The World's Growing Food-Price Crisis

Hunger fuels food riots in Haiti 

Go, Jim and Jeff, Go! Repeal Those Ethanol Mandates (links to legislators included)


Links: Don't forget, Free Pass To Movie Preview of "The Enemy God" Saturday at 3pm

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Brookfield7, Fairly Conservative, Betterbrookfield
Vicki Mckenna


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