An article in the San Francisco Chronicle this week blames ethanol production for the so-called “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, which it compares to the oil disaster currently facing that body of water.
The article prompted a response from Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen, who starts off a letter to the editor by saying, “it is clear the San Francisco Chronicle has a dead zone of its own where facts die and science is buried.”
Dinneen notes that scientific study of hypoxia in the Gulf, which creates what is called a “dead zone” where oxygen is depleted, has failed to find any one cause. Dinneen quotes one researcher who says, “credible evidence shows that [excess] nutrients [in the Gulf] may also be derived from atmospheric deposition, sewage and industrial discharge and fertilizer runoff from residential areas. Nutrient runoff from suburban areas roughly equals that of agriculture lands.” That would include things like golf courses, residential lawns and office parks.
As to ethanol contributing to an increase in Gulf hypoxia, Dinneen says, “The facts dispute the very basis of the article. U.S. cropland has not expanded because of ethanol. There are fewer acres of corn today in the U.S. than there were in the 1920s-1940s. Corn acres topped 100 million acres several times in the late 1920s/early 1930s. Compare that to this year’s corn acreage of 87.9 million. In fact, corn acres have fallen 6% since 2007.”