AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File


Ethanol has been getting a bad rap lately. People talk about ethanol as if it were worse than regular gasoline. Ethanol isn't perfect. It's not a global-warming panacea. It isn't going to rebuild the ozone layer, feed the starving or cure the lame, but it is better than standard gasoline.

There are two major criticisms of ethanol. Many say that it is just as bad as gasoline, because cars get poor gas mileage when they are fueled by ethanol. According to a study at the UC Berkeley, using ethanol while you drive reduces greenhouse emissions by ten to fifteen percent. That's not a lot, but it is better than nothing.

The other major criticism of ethanol is that it wastes food. This is not completely true. Corn is used to create ethanol, and corn is a type of food. Ethanol production, however, does not utilize the entire kernel. The process mainly involves the starches. Ethanol production leaves most of the protein behind. That leftover corn can be fed to livestock. Fifty percent of all corn is fed to livestock anyways.

There are food shortages in the world, but I don't think ethanol is the cause. Nobody is complaining about soybeans. They can be used to make food, but a great deal of soybeans go towards feeding pigs. Pigs are a type of food. They are less efficient than soybeans, but they are still food nonetheless.

Ethanol is not the miracle product that it was once thought to be, but it is still better than gas. It didn't cause world hunger. Use it at the pumps for now. Reduce greenhouse emissions by 10% to %15 and lower our dependence on tanker-shipped oil.