Fueling With Ethanol: Groundbreaking or a Corny Joke




Marwitz, Tyson R.

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This thesis investigates implications relative to the production and use of corn ethanol as a fuel source in the United States. In simple terms, such implications encompass both, impacts on the environment, and economic consequences on the national scale. Discourse in this thesis challenges an understanding of renewability regarding corn ethanol by illustrating a negative energy balance in the production of the fuel source. To add, analysis on carbon dioxide demonstrates that using ethanol leads to more greenhouse gas emissions being emitted into the atmosphere than gasoline when one takes into consideration all sources of energy used in the production of corn ethanol. The paper further analyzes corn ethanol in context of the water network. Such context includes irrigation rates, water pollution, and how pollution impacts both, human health and U.S. citizens’ financial means. Such financial implications are predicated on federal subsidies, taxes and how the destruction of underwater ecosystems wreak havoc on fishing communities and the hospitality business. The paper will note that political motives for implementation of corn ethanol include a goal to achieve renewable energy and lower U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil. However, research illustrates that broad incorporation of corn ethanol as a fuel source leads to a conflict of goals outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency by facilitating water contamination. Ultimately, this paper will conclude that the renewable elements of corn ethanol are limited, and in some cases the use of ethanol has deleterious effects on ecosystems and economic construct in the United States.



ethanol, corn ethanol, renewable fuel standard, energy balance, harmful algal blooms, red tides, oil spills, fertilizer, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide, biofuels, nitrate contamination, erosion, soil health, ecological footprint, negative energy balance, irrigation, Safe Drinking Water Act, fishing, hospitality, recreation, federal subsidies, corn belt, farm belt, emissions, Honors College


Marwitz, T. R. (2021). Fueling with ethanol: Groundbreaking or a corny joke (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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