- The Other Gulf of Mexico Disaster: Biofuels
The Other Gulf of Mexico Disaster: Biofuels
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There was already an ecological disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico before the notorious BP oil spill happened. A giant, expanding marine life dead zone created by agricultural runoff threatens fisheries and ecosystems. Corn ethanol production has contributed to the rapid growth of this dead zone, which will reach the size of Massachusetts this summer.
Corn requires large quantities of nitrogen fertilizer, which causes severe adverse impacts on water quality and biodiversity when leeched from corn fields. Fertilizer (and copious amounts of herbicides and pesticides) are washed off the fields and down the Mississippi River, spreading out to sea in an enormous, deadly fan.
Federal policies mandating that oil companies purchase increasing levels of ethanol have exponentially increased ethanol production, and with it, corn production. As of now, there are no standards to eliminate, or even reduce, the agricultural impact that increased biofuel production has on our water and soil quality.
Biofuel production stresses already taxed river and ocean ecosystems. Massive water withdrawals from ground and river water are required to produce biofuels. It has been estimated that for each gallon of ethanol produced, four gallons of water are needed. Pollution from agriculture for biofuels, and biofuel productions and spills, create devastating impacts like fish kills and ecosystem disruption.
That’s not oil and water. That’s the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone brushing up against cleaner, healthier water.