Clean and green?
The ecological footprint of an ethanol plant includes not only:
- the impacts of producing the grain
- using diesel fuel,
- nitrogen fertilizer which is made from natural gas, and
- herbicides made from petroleum products,
- water requirements
- energy inputs for fermenting and distilling
but also the
impacts of the use or disposal by-products:
- drying the distillers grains
- use of DDGS (distillers dried grains with solubles) in intensive livestock operations
- GHG emissions of feedlots and ILOs
- Water use of feedlots and ILOs
- contaminated wastewater and atmospheric emissions
as well as the impacts of distribution since ethanol cannot be shipped via pipelines, the cost of transporting ethanol by truck and rail tanker to storage and distribution points.
The ecological footprint of an ethanol plant is significantly larger than one would imagine as it includes much more than the impact of its water consumption for fermenting and distilling or the production of grain required to feed it (which alone consumes diesel fuel, nitrogen fertilizer made from natural gas and herbicides made from petroleum products).
Ethanol production also impacts the environment through the use or disposal of byproduct like spent mash which requires energy to dry and then sustains greenhouse gas emitting intensive livestock operations. Operations that in turn produce contaminated wastewater and emissions while consuming large quantities of water in their own right.
Finally, distribution of ethanol also impacts the environment as it cannot be shipped via pipelines and relies instead on truck and rail tankers for transport to storage and distribution points.