LETTER: Ethanol and the Dead Zone

August 6, 2008

To the Editor:
Related Editorial: Death in the Gulf of Mexico (August 4, 2008)
Re “Death in the Gulf of Mexico” (editorial, Aug. 4):
The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by agricultural, sewage and industrial runoff, is expected to grow just as the Environmental Protection Agency is considering a petition to waive the federal ethanol mandate in the 2007 energy bill.
The mandate spurred higher corn production. From 2006 to 2007, 15 million new acres of corn were brought into production in the United States, contributing to the depletion of fresh water supplies and adding to agrochemical runoff from the country’s corn belt that has already created an enormous dead zone.
The E.P.A. should apply the brakes and more carefully consider the ways in which biofuels threaten water quality, climate and biodiversity.
The 2007 energy bill authorized studies of the effects of expanding the renewable fuel standard. Those studies should be undertaken at once, with the goal of creating a sustainability standard for ethanol production before dramatically increasing investments of acreage, infrastructure and other resources.
Kyle Rabin
Network for New Energy Choices
New York, Aug. 5, 2008