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Environmental damage caused by ethanol production

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To the editor:

Mr. Miller’s February 19 letter to the editor regarding ethanol as a fuel source is only part of the story. While the USDA is showing numbers supporting the efficiency of ethanol, others are showing data that ethanol production may not be sustainable.

There are multiple stresses on our underground aquifers due to ethanol production. Water is the root ingredient for making ethanol, and ethanol plants are pumping billions of gallons of water out of the underground aquifers. The majority of ethanol is derived from corn and corn is water-intensive to grow.

A major source of water for growing corn is derived from irrigation wells. Studies by government agencies are telling us that the present draw of water from the underground aquifer system is not sustainable. Aquifers that are being depleted take centuries or, in the case of large aquifers, millennia to recharge.

Government agencies are also shooting up red flags regarding the indirect collateral environmental damage being caused by ethanol production. More and more land is being pushed into the production of corn at the expense of ground water filtration areas. Wetlands and filtration buffer areas next to water sources are being wiped out at an alarming rate.

Tests from government agencies tell us the destruction of the filtration areas is allowing increased nitrate and phosphate runoff into surface and ground water resources. The nitrate pollution measurements being studied in test areas have shown a dramatic increase in nitrates over the last decade.

The filtration buffer areas are a major source of wildlife habitat. Pheasant populations have decreased in Iowa, North and South Dakota and Minnesota by 50 percent over the past five years. There are many variables that dictate wildlife populations but wildlife biologists tell us the primary reduction in the pheasant population is due to loss of habitat.

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