Powering our homes and driving our automobiles has come at great cost to the environment. The consequences of drilling for oil and natural gas and mining for coal are dire. The emissions from burning these fuels even worse.
So scientists and activists have pushed for green energy answers, ways to reduce our impact on the planet. The government has obliged, signing into law new regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and curtailing climate change.
Noble efforts for an undeniably important cause.
But somewhere in the push for green energy, someone forgot to ask a very important question: Are these green energies really green?
A recent investigation by The Associated Press into the impact of the ethanol power push suggests the answer is a surprising “no.”
According to the AP report, 5 million acres of land set aside for conservation have been wiped out as farmers plant corn to satisfy ethanol requirements oil companies are mandated to meet. Along the way, important prairie habitats have been destroyed and water supplies have been contaminated.
In Indiana alone, more than 28,000 acres of conservation land have been lost as farmers planted 750,000 more acres of corn than they did before the ethanol mandate was passed in 2007.
The cost to the environment has been so extreme many scientists have rejected ethanol as a legitimate solution to our energy needs.
Ethanol supporters, however, say there are significant benefits. Economically, ethanol has been a boon for the farming industry. It’s also saving consumers money at the gas pump. And ethanol does burn cleaner than fossil fuels.
What ultimately should be taken from the AP investigation is that careful study of environmental policies is paramount to making a positive impact for the planet. While it might be difficult to foresee certain consequences, outside-the-box thinking is necessary when evaluating the breadth of a policy and its viability.
We all want to protect the environment, and we should continue to pursue research into alternative energy sources. But we’ll need all the facts to ensure we’re not destroying the planet to do so.