Environmental News This Week: The Ethanol Buzz

Last week the EPA made a decision to allow a 15 percent blend of ethanol in fuel for cars made in 2001 or later. The fuel blend was previously deemed safe for cars built after 2007. The new regulations are leading to some confusion. Many people aren’t quite ready to test the fuel on their own vehicles, unsure if it could cause damage to engines not made to burn corn-based fuel. The corn growers and ethanol plants in Michigan are happy about the decision and excited for what it might do to the economy. Others worry that the increased demand for corn will raise corn prices and make it harder for other farmers to feed their animals, possibly leading to increases in prices of foods like chicken, turkey and eggs.

Increased use of ethanol fuel could help to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Some, however, are concerned about the idea of powering our vehicles with food product while many people around the world are hungry and starving. And altogether, the environmental benefits of corn-based ethanol are questionable and controversial.

Renewable Energy Technologies LLC has plans to produce ethanol from sources other than corn. The plan is to turn the former Big Dutchman facility at 694 E. 40th St in Holland into a plant that would produce ethanol from sugar and alcohol waste. This could eliminate a lot of the controversy, as ethanol would be created from waste materials that would otherwise be thrown away. The plant, which will eventually be powered by ethanol produced on site, could lead as to many as 50 new jobs.

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