Ethanol And Its Effects On The Environment

Ethanol in gasoline is said to have lasting impacts on the Earth and its environment. In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act in an effort to reduce the amount of carbon being emitted into the Earth, promote energy independence, and invest in renewable resources. It is an extremely controversial topic and in order to side with or against ethanol’s effect on the environment, one must be educated on the background information surrounding this topic. Ethanol impacts air quality, biodiversity, and water quality; however, individuals argue whether it provides a positive or negative impact.

Ethanol is said to have a massive influence on air quality. Data shows that the manufacturing of corn-based ethanol creates more pollution than the manufacturing and usage of gasoline without any. Also, industrial corn and soy farming are known to be hazardous to the environment as it requires large amounts of fertilizers and herbicides. This gives reason to believe ethanol used in gasoline has a fatalistic effect on the environment. However, other studies show ethanol reduces pollution as it is non-toxic and biodegradable. Data shows that ethanol is a cleaner fuel than gasoline; therefore, it reduces emissions when mixed with gasoline. To further explain, ethanol is useful as a healthy alternative to just plain gasoline. Scientists have trouble agreeing on the effects of ethanol the environment and constantly contradict in their ideas.

The effects of corn-based ethanol go beyond air quality. Ethanol is also said to be impacting the Earth’s biodiversity. 40% of the ninety million acres of land for corn are sectioned off specifically for the production of ethanol. Every acre of corn grown for ethanol affects biodiversity in ways we do not always realize. According to an article written by Ben Larson regarding the new studies on ethanol production, “Our analysis shows an undeniable connection between corn ethanol production and habitat destruction.“This massive loss of wildlife habitat is happening under the radar of the public and many policymakers — even though the impacts are enormous.” In other words, Larson stresses the severity of ethanol’s negative impact on wildlife. 

Finally, ethanol has impacted the Earth’s water quality. Corn demands tons of water and fertilizer. The impact of this is the fast expenditure of vital sources of water like the Ogallala Aquifer and increased contamination of water sources like the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Corn acreage, which has expanded by over 35 percent in response to ethanol demands, requires massive amounts of fertilization. This adds to the nitrogen and phosphorus that runoff into lakes and streams and eventually end up in the Mississippi River. This is aggravated by systems of subterranean tiles and drains that accelerate field drainage into ditches and local watersheds. As a result, loadings of nitrogen and phosphorus into the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico encourage algae growth, starving water bodies of oxygen needed by aquatic life.

There are numerous results of the effects on air quality, biodiversity, and water quality. Regarding biodiversity; pastures, plains, and other habitats near ethanol plants have witnessed the most excessive rates of change and transformation due to cropping production, and these rates of change decreased as the distance from ethanol plants increased. As for water quality, problems have arisen regarding the algal blooms in Lake Erie.

It is difficult to fully determine if the effects of ethanol are beneficial or detrimental; however, from the points provided, it is evident that it does have a vital impact on the environment. Whether positively or negatively air quality, biodiversity, and water quality are heavily impacted by this biofuel. This extreme controversy has had scientists feuding for years. In some cases, air quality is polluted by ethanol and in others, it improves it and is said to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There are no hardcore facts regarding this topic, only well researched and educated opinions. As ethanol began being used in 2005 in order to reduce carbon emissions and to save money, it may have gotten out of hand within the past 10 years there are studies showing it increased gas emissions and increased use of fertilizers have led to the destruction of our most vital sources of water such as the Gulf of Mexico. If ethanol does prove to be harmful, we must work to prevent this matter from getting further out of control than it already is.  

Works Cited

  • “Environmental Impact of Ethanol.” Rethink Ethanol,
  • “Ethanol Effects on the Environment Essay - 1265 Words.” StudyMode,  
  • “How Does Changing Ethanol Capacity Affect Local Corn Basis?” PolicyMatters, 
16 December 2021
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