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When Renewable Is Not Sustainable


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When renewable is not sustainable

In These Times

by Robert Glennon


"Renewable energy is sold to the public as an environmentally benign

alternative to energy produced by fossil fuels. With respect to

ethanol and solar power, however, the debate has ignored how land and

water use is affected by refining ethanol, growing corn and siting

solar plants. Energy production requires water. Producing petroleum,

natural gas, coal or methane consumes a lot of water, but much less

than it takes to make ethanol. In 2008, researchers at Virginia Tech

quantified the amount of water it takes to produce one million British

Thermal Units (BTUs): natural gas requires three gallons, ethanol as

much as 29,100 gallons. Even in a state-of-the-art refinery that

recycles its water, four gallons of water are consumed for every

gallon of ethanol produced." (09/10/09)



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