This is a blog I wrote in March. Following it is an editorial that appeared today in the Salina Journal written by editor Tom Bell. There are lots of similarities. Please take the time to read both, if you would please. Your understanding of this issue is vital to the understanding what our Kansas government officials are doing to our water supply by encouraging this industry and how we are paying twice for the product.
WHY WOULD ANYONE ENCOURAGE ETHANOL PRODUCTION IN KANSAS AND WHY WOULD ANY CONSERVATIONIST WANT TO USE IT?
Filed under: energy, political musings, water supply — Peg Britton @ 4:19 pm
Things you need to think about:
The Great Plains Ogallala Aquifer is the largest underground reservoir in the U.S. and one of the largest on the planet. It once held as much water as Lake Huron. It could cease to be a water source in another generation.
Once the Ogallala is drawn down beyond repair…and we are nearing that point…the exodus from America’s rural heartland shifts from second to third gear.
Most of Kansas’ water – or 86% of it – is used west of Salina.
Almost all of that western Kansas water use, or 93 %, is used for irrigation.
Almost all ground water in KS is found in an aquifer, in porous rock. Eastern KS has hardly any ground water, but has a lot of surface water. Western KS has ground water but very little surface water.
When the water level in the aquifer lowers below the stream bed, there is no water to recharge the flow.
The decline rate of water in the aquifer is in feet while the recharge rate is in inches. The Ogallala is a non-renewable resource.
In some places the water has run out. In others we have several years left before it runs out. Irrigators are using tomorrow’s water, and it’s about gone.
Irrigation is seen as a temporary prosperity for some that will lead to environmental poverty for most.
Between south Salina and Assaria, only a few miles south of Salina, there are 10 potential irrigation sites and there are six pumps on those sites that would use as much water per minute as the city of Salina uses per minute. 47,000 people live in Salina and use on average 126 gallons of water each day, per person. Then there are factories, golf courses, etc. You get the idea.
The depletion of ground water is what causes rivers to go dry. Ground water is water beneath the earth’s surface, often between saturated soil and rock that supplies wells and springs. Ground water is a non-renewable resource.
For a farmer who lost 2 feet of water in his a well last year, it would take 48 years to replace that water.
Irrigators are using most of the water. Government payments are encouraging farmers to use water by the acre feet. Our tax dollars. Stop the payments and farmers will change their operations. New farming techniques will emerge. They have made plenty of profit from the use of our water.
It takes five gallons of water to turn 21 pounds of corn into one gallon of ethanol. Kansas producers irrigate 72% of their corn. It takes 1400 gallons of water to irrigate 21 pounds of corn for one gallon of gas. So, 1405 gallons of water are pumped out of rivers and wells in Kansas to make 1 gallon of ethanol. We are growing corn today using our grand children’s water.
The price of corn has risen because of this to a point Mexico has implemented tortilla price controls because of public outcry over the price of corn. Beef, poultry, pork, chicken and egg producers are facing soaring corn prices. Catholic Relief Services intend to deliver 20% fewer tons of food to Africa and South America because of corn prices. Check the price of a box of corn flakes the next time you go to the store.
Eight dry mill ethanol plants are currently in operation in Kansas with a capacity of over 215 million gallons. Other potential plants are in various stages of planning and construction in many Kansas communities. Ethanol production in Kansas could quadruple in the next two to three years
Kansas government officials and politicians are encouraging the construction of ethanol plants in Kansas.
Can anyone explain to my why they are doing this when facts demonstrate we are quickly running out of water? It is counter-productive to use ethanol because of all the water and fuel that are required for the production of corn.
The Salina Journal editorial, July 23, 2007 by Tom Bell, editor.
Ethanol is a flawed solution
Ethanol has done wonders for ag-based communities where farmers grow corn. The crop is used to make ethanol, and demand for that fuel is on the rise, thanks to government mandates, tax incentives and to the notion that ethanol production will reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil.
However, growing demand for corn has some negative consequences.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: We don’t begrudge farmers the increased income. We thank heavens whenever producers get relief from poor prices, drought, hail, floods, high wind, weeds, plant disease, and ever-rising costs for fertilizer, fuel, parts and equipment.
But consumers need to understand the flip side. Consider the story on the front page of Thursday’s Journal. It reports that higher prices for milk and dairy products are due to higher corn prices. That’s the same reason consumers pay more for beef and other protein sources fed with corn.
Higher consumer prices are not the only problem with ethanol production. Growing corn demands vast quantities of water. Most of the corn grown in Kansas is irrigated, which contributes to declining water tables and dry riverbeds.
As reported earlier in the Journal by Duane Schrag, it takes about 1,400 gallons of water to grow the 21 pounds of corn necessary to produce a gallon of ethanol, and another 5 gallons of water to process the corn at ethanol plants. An ethanol plant that produces 100 million gallons a year requires about 1.5 million gallons of water each day. That is the size of plants under consideration in Russell and Concordia.
Another problem pops up once the ethanol is blended and at the pump. By increasing our reliance on ethanol, Americans avoid the hard task of conservation, which by far is the best way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Apparently our government would rather push ethanol then promote conservation. Lawmakers often are influenced by oil companies to keep demand higher. Additionally, greater fuel sales mean more tax revenue. Kansans pay 25 cents per gallon in state taxes, which generated $30.9 million for the state treasury last year. We pay another 18.4 cents per gallon in federal taxes, which annually pours more than $80 billion into Washington.
Products besides corn can produce ethanol. Plants are under consideration that will use switchgrass instead of food products. Development is a lengthy process and corn-based fuel will be with us for a long time. Consumers will continue to pay double for ethanol, once at the pump and again in the grocery store.
Conservation is the best way to offset those extra expenses.
– Tom Bell
Editor & Publisher