What are the disadvantages of consuming ethanol

Advantages and disadvantages of bioethanol production


Bioethanol is the most environmentally friendly fuel of the future, as the CO2 is released when bioethanol is burned, which was previously absorbed by the plants through photosynthesis during growth. In addition, bioethanol is not a fossil fuel because it is grown anew every year. So this is a continuous raw material base. Furthermore, the renewable raw materials, grain, maize and sugar beet, can also be cultivated well on arable land that was previously unused.

This means that even more arable land can be used for ethanol production, which was previously worthless for other types of fruit. Ethanol is cheaper than premium gasoline. This is because there is no mineral oil tax and because there is a lower energy density per liter. While the environmental fuel business was running a long time ago in Brazil and the USA, Germany is only now starting to do so. It is assumed that Germany is imitating the other countries because they have noticed that it brings profit, that it is worthwhile and that there will still be opportunities for improvement in the future. Another positive advantage is that many people would then get a job again. As this “ethanol production” project will still take place in the future and will continue to develop, these jobs will be secure for a certain period of time. If this project now develops well, more workers will be needed, i.e. more jobs. Another advantage of bioethanol is that it can be made from all raw materials containing sugar or starch. This in turn means that the raw material base is very broad and therefore a good, continuously expanded base is available. One example is the sugar beet. It is the most sugar-rich plant in Europe. A sugar beet field of one hectare (100m by 100m) provides 10 tons of sugar. That would be an annual requirement of around 300 people. It also provides us with 6,000 liters of bioethanol. This could supply five cars with fuel for a year. It also binds 15.5 tons of CO2, which is as much as about 4 people cause on average each year.


But there are also many disadvantages. Among other things, the petrol station network is not very widespread. At the moment there are very few petrol stations that sell bioethanol as a fuel. There are many gas stations that have planned it but have not yet implemented it. A very big disadvantage is that it contains 30 ostentatiously less energy than petrol made from oil, which increases the consumption per kilometer by 25 ostentatious. There are also many extra costs associated with this, which the consumer will probably not agree with and will therefore refuel with petrol made from oil. Another Handykap of bioethanol is that a cold start problem can occur in newer vehicles. This will not occur with classic cars. Thus, the proportion of gasoline has to be increased in the colder seasons. The addition of 15 percent gasoline is used to improve the cold start ability, since bioethanol has a lower vapor pressure than gasoline.

The consumer must also expect that he has to have his car converted if he wants to drive with bioethanol, as it quickly attacks the lines of the car, so we will face a lot more trouble. A major problem for the environment is water pollution from pesticides, as the raw materials are sprayed even more intensively because they are supposed to produce a high population density and high yield. This means that the water is polluted even more than before.

The water consumption increases considerably.

Basic food is becoming more and more expensive as more arable land is used for renewable raw materials. This comes about because this is currently more in demand and you can make more profit. One advantage is that no more CO2 is produced when bioethanol is burned, but during production. The machines that work the field and harvest the raw materials create CO2 through the exhaust gases, so what has been saved is blown back into the air in the end. This harms the environment and it is not a solution for global warming in the end.

Food price increase

After a long argument between the demands of the farmers and the trading group, food prices have risen. The farmers demanded 27 cents per liter of milk. This wouldn't have been so bad, but now it's 62 cents that we have to pay. So you can see that the state plays an important role in the price increase. The high prices are good for the state because they get more into their coffers, but not for us consumers because the pressure against us is increasing. The main cause of the price increase is the demand from newly industrialized countries and regions, such as China, East Asia or Russia. This means that the demand for biofuels is increasing. Another cause is the removal of arable and cattle grazing land for production. The final cause is the higher raw material prices. Politicians want to protect the world from global warming with bioethanol, but don't think that people in the third world will starve to death. In the USA the farmers who grow raw materials for bioethanol instead of for food get money for it (51 cents per dm³). As a result, the farmers naturally cultivate this more. The bioethanol is mixed with gasoline in large refineries. Because more and more gasoline with bioethanol has to be mixed with gasoline, US refineries have invested heavily in the construction of ethanol distilleries. The number that is being built at the moment exceeds the number of oil refineries that have been built in the last 25 years. If the ethanol distilleries are put into operation in the next one to two years, the demand for grain and corn will double compared to today. The use of arable land around the world for bioethanol is seen and promoted as the most important growth industry. Bioethanol is seen as THE SOLUTION to the global warming problem, although it is not. The claim of the climate hysterics bioethanol can "save up to 60 percent of CO2 emissions" is not true. Bioethanol has no effect at all on the emissions levels in today's cars, it actually contains more toxic substances. This has the consequence that it is highly corrosive and therefore not environmentally friendly and not a better fuel. Since bioethanol contains 30 percent less energy than petrol made from oil, consumption per kilometer increases by 25 cents. In Mexico nobody can no longer afford the staple food corn and in the third world it is even so bad that people already pay with their lives. The belief that the world will achieve dependence on oil by replacing bioethanol is a lie. The intention of the government and the agricultural corporations is to bring the genetically modified grains to the people in this way. In the USA, farmers have already converted 48 percent of the long area to bioethanol instead of food products in order to get the extra money for it. They grow so much that since 2001 the use of bioethanol has increased by 300 percent. In 2006, much of the corn harvest was used for bioethanol. This was as much as the world exported together. This year the proportion should increase even more. With the US being the largest exporter of grain and now shifting the acreage to the detriment of food, the amount for export will decrease and animal products will increase. Brazil, China and the EU are also following the trend. The EU has the goal that a minimum of 10 percent of gasoline must be replaced by bioethanol, which means that 18 percent of the cultivated land is burned instead of eaten. If you add together what diesel is needed for the tractors in the field, the fertilizer, the transport to the refinery and the production of the ethanol, then it is an energy loss of minus 22 percent. Instead of reducing the need for oil, it gets even more.

We are now in a position where food and gasoline are interchangeable commodities, since they can all be used as fuel for cars.

Water balance

The allegedly good and successful carbon footprint of biofuels is becoming more and more discredited. The production of ethanol from biofuels is still successful, but the effects on the environment are getting worse and worse than was actually expected. In particular on the water supply, i.e. on the water loss. The latest studies show that growing the plants required for bioethanol production will consume fairly large amounts of water. Growing plants for a single liter of biofuel consumes up to 3500 liters of water, depending on the region and area. The farmers are now considering how they can make more profit, because with so much water it must be profitable in the end. Thus they grow more renewable raw materials (maize, grain and rape) on their arable land than plants and vegetables to eat and survive. This has a dire consequence, as people then no longer have any food to survive. Thus, the increase in hunger in these areas or countries will increase sharply. In addition, vegetables and grains would then have to be imported in larger quantities. Since the people there have very little money to survive anyway, many people will no longer be able to buy the expensive imported food. They may have one meal a day, but they can't stand it for weeks and end up starving. With that they would starve themselves to death. They are practically paying with their lives, and the strain on the already tight water supply will become even greater. Above all, Southeast Asia is most affected by the threat from the water balance. Another example is India and China. Plantations with corn and sugar cane, which are created for the production of bioethanol, could exacerbate the already considerable water shortage there even more than it already is. China wants to increase its biofuel production to almost 18 billion liters by 2030 compared to the amount in 2005 (3.6 billion) by 6 percent. India is planning similar goals and aims to bring biofuel production to around 8.3 billion liters by 2030. To pursue this goal, China would have to increase its corn yield by 26 percent. India would have to grow 16 percent more sugar cane. With these goals, the need for irrigation for both plants would place even more demands on the water balance. To be able to produce one liter of ethanol from Chinese corn you need 2400 liters of water. In India you need 3500 liters of water to produce one liter of ethanol from sugar cane. In Europe and Brazil, the rain ensures that the plantations are irrigated. But in India, China and Southeast Asia, there is very little rain, which is just enough for the actual fruit in the fields. If the farmers want to or have to grow 2-3 times more so that they earn more, the rain is no longer enough. So the farmers themselves would still have to irrigate their fields. But none of them can do that because, firstly, there is a lack of water that is needed and, secondly, they have no money. Because if they have to spend the money they have to spend on water supply and irrigation for more grown and harvested renewable raw materials, it is no longer worth it for any farmer.

In addition, you have to spray significantly more fertilizers and pesticides in the arable areas with renewable raw materials. These fertilizers and pesticides are used to achieve a good stand density and to make plants resistant to diseases. Because a lot of spraying has to be done, these substances end up in rivers and oceans.


So we can say that the production of bioethanol can have many advantages, but in retrospect also have many disadvantages. Especially on the environment and on the living situation in water-threatened and poorer countries. You can of course look at it from two different angles.

Furthermore, people will continue to discuss whether it makes sense to continue producing bioethanol for a very long time.


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By: Vanessa Schneege and Sandra Putz