Wednesday, July 31, 2013


As Corn-Free July comes to a close, I want to touch briefly on a subject I've run screaming from since I started this project, but deserves some discussion. As we know, everybody eats corn: people, cows, dogs, cats, fish, pigs, chickens, you name it. It's appalling how many different ways corn gets sneaked into our food, both directly and indirectly. But someone else eats corn, too: cars.

Your average Mobile station in the U.S is serving up a gasoline cocktail that's actually 10% ethyl alcohol derived from the same exact Midwestern corn farms that source our Pop Tarts and cheese burgers.

I haven't talked much about the ethanol issue in the past because it comes with a whole different set of baggage than the food issue does. There's really no "pro" argument to speak of in defense of the way our processed food is sourced. It's unhealthy and it can't be sustained.

Our cars' food though...that's a little bit of a different issue. Plant-based fuels burn more cleanly than petroleum based fuels, and they cut down on the need for drilling oil, two huge environmental concerns. Not to mention that whole Middle East thing.

But then there's the issue of how much fossil fuel is needed to grow the corn in the first place. Some numbers suggest it's actually more than we save. And runoff from pesticides end up polluting the water supply. So are we really coming up in the black on the environmental issue or not?

There's also the concern that we're literally burning food. "I know there are people starving, but I really needed to put that corn in my gas tank so I could drive to Starbucks" isn't a particularly compelling argument.

I'm not sure where I stand on this issue. I don't have enough of the facts. What I do know is that in July I drove my car 661 miles.

661 miles at my Forester's average of 25 miles per gallon means I used 26.4 total gallons of gas. If 10% of that was ethanol, then that means a little over 2.6 gallons of ethanol. It takes about an acre of corn to produce 50 gallons of ethanol, which means that not including fuel for buses and other modes of transportation that I used, and various other non-food items like charcoal and plastic bags, I'm responsible for 2,178 square feet of corn this month.

That's a corn field twice the size of my apartment. Just this month. Just in fuel.

I have no agenda with this post. I have no idea how many acres of corn the average American uses in a month. It just seems like an awfully big number.

What does that number mean, you guys? Should I ignore it? Should I do more research? Do I need to take the project to the next level for 2014 and stop driving as well? Where do you stand on the crop as motor fuel issue?

As always, thank you for reading. To check my statistics on the back end and see that even one more person has found this site is a feeling that I hope never loses its thrill.

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