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First tortilla prices, now water shortages? More ethanol costs

We've already seen corn prices on the rise as demand rises thanks to more of the grain being diverted to ethanol production. As the population of both the United States and the planet continues to rise, the demand for fresh water goes up with it. Unfortunately ethanol production and climate change are both taking an ever larger gulp of the available supply. The recent mild winters in the great lakes region have led to less ice cover and greater evaporation from the Great Lakes. The lakes contain 84 percent of the surface fresh water in North America and 21 percent of all the surface fresh water on the planet. Loss of that supply could be catastrophic.

Ethanol production only makes that progress worse. While the ethanol industry claims that each gallon of ethanol produced consumes three gallons of water, a 2005 Minnesota study showed the ratio was more like 4.5 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol. As more areas see falling water tables due to excessive use and insufficient rainfall to replenish aquifers, the issue of ethanol production is likely to become an even bigger issue. Corn ethanol is increasingly looking like a very short term expedient at best and at worst maybe a solution worse than the original problem.

[Source: St. Louis Post Dispatch]

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