Corn and Ethanol: Effects on land and water in the Midwest United States Synopsis The increased demand for corn and ethanol in United States has brought about many environmental changes including, increased area of corn cultivation, decrease in cultivation of other food crops…
In this context, the objective of this study is to find out which are the effects of corn cultivation and extraction of ethanol from corn, on land and water in the Midwest United States. This area of US is rightly called, the corn belt (World Book, 2002, p.1060). It has been a known fact that “land use and land cover change … cause important changes to the hydrology of the [Mississippi] basin through their impacts on the land surface energy and water balance” (DeFries, Asner and Houghton, 2004, p.254). Also it has been observed that land cover change can “alter evapotranspiration, soil moisture, water yield and river discharge” and also “the quantity and quality of water” (DeFries, Asner and Houghton, 2004, p.255-256). As the majority of ethanol production factories are situated in the Midwest United States, environmentalists have been drawing attention to the impact of this industry on environment (Soetaert and Vandamme, 2009, p.43). Another interesting and alarming finding has been that “clearing natural vegetation to make way for bio-fuel crops also deprives the planet of “sponges” [humus and grasses] that absorb carbon (Shaffer, 2009, p.141). ...
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Figures have shown that “about 82% of the world’s energy needs are currently covered by fossil resources such as petroleum, natural gas and coal” (Soetaert and Vandamme, 2009, 1). The United States, which has less than 5% of the world’s population, is utilzing more than 20% of the world’s available “commercial energy” (Sinha, 1998, 2).
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