Having decided in 2005 to authorize a corn-fed ethanol plant in Varennes, the government of Quebec has now officially said that corn ethanol has no future in the province. While the future use of alternative feedstocks is not ruled out, the Quebec Minister for Natural Resources have said that this pilot plant will be the last of its kind. An article in the Montreal Gazette supports the idea that “[b]acking away from ethanol makes sense.”
This is a good thing for a number of reasons. To begin with, ethanol made from corn probably doesn’t have any positive environmental effects. It takes as much oil to grow the corn, make the ethanol, and distribute it as it would have taken to power the ethanol cars in the first place. As such, the effect of using corn ethanol on greenhouse gas emissions is negligible. Furthermore, intensive corn agriculture has problems of its own. Pesticide use peppers the environment with toxins – including persistent organic pollutants. Fertilizer runoff causes the eutrophication of rivers and algae blooms in the sea.
Wherever a sustainable future for transportation energy lies, it is not with ethanol made from corn.