Monday, September 26, 2005

Berkeley Prof: Ethanol harming environment

Dare to speak out against an industry subsidizing farmers in key Presidential election State Iowa and prepare to get attention.

It began benignly enough as an assignment for the 15 freshmen in Tad Patzek's UC Berkeley college seminar class. But it soon mushroomed into something much larger.

Patzek found himself in the national spotlight as his scientific paper published in June touched raw nerves throughout the nation's energy and farm industries. Gas prices were climbing higher; Congress was in the midst of drafting an energy policy; and the article criticized one possible solution -- making ethanol fuel from corn.

Hundreds of newspapers wrote about the publication. E-mails flooded Patzek's in-box. People yelled at him over the phone. He was invited to the National Press Club in Washington to debate the issue and to Chicago to speak to investors.

Patzek and David Pimentel, a Cornell scientist who had been a lone public voice against corn ethanol for more than 30 years, argued that corn ethanol did the environment more harm than good. Growing corn, fertilizing the fields, transporting it to the factories and then out to where it was needed took more energy than the resulting ethanol would ultimately generate, they said.