Melissa and I have begun reading Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma. After I finished the second chapter, I had a few thoughts regarding the role of fertilizer in the production of corn and the role of corn in the production of fuel energy.
Pollan discusses the Haber-Bosch process that is used to convert nitrogen and hydrogen to ammonia. This is a high-energy process that requires fossil fuels to produce ammonia-based fertilizers. I am not sure what percentage of corn in the United States requires fertilizers, as farmers also grow corn by alternating fields with nitrogen-fixing crops, such as soybeans or alfalfa.
So, food for thought: So, what is the overall benefit of ethanol production when large amounts of fossil fuels are used to provide the necessary nitrogen for the plants?
I am very glad that what does not become food will become fuel. However, I think Pollan did a good job of highlighting the energy intensiveness of the production of corn.
Tags: Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma, corn, ethanol