Conversions of Wetlands & Grasslands to Croplands
The EPA mandate for increasing the use of corn ethanol in the manufacture of gasoline has resulted in farmers plowing up their wetlands and grasslands and planting corn. In the last four years, 23 million acres of wetlands and grasslands were turned into cropland. In just four years, more wetlands and grasslands were lost than were lost in the previous 40 years. Some of the negative effects on the environment include:
Croplands do not absorb as much carbon as wetlands and grasslands: Grasslands capture carbon better than croplands. This means more carbon is released into the atmosphere when the lands are turned into croplands. Any advantage to carbon reduction in using ethanol over gasoline is therefore lost. Because of this, experts have determined that any carbon footprint benefit to using corn ethanol over gasoline cannot possible be realized for at least 93 years.
Growing corn uses up the water supply: Corn needs more water than any other crop. Currently, drought conditions exist in the corn belt of the Great Plains and the Midwest. Some reports say the groundwater levels have plummeted by more than six feet.
More water means more fertilizer and pesticides: When more water is needed for irrigation, more fertilizer is washed off the fields. When fertilizer is washed off the fields, the pesticides are also washed off and seep into the underground water system. The water becomes polluted.
This also results in the destruction of wildlife habitats. The poor quality of the water due to the infiltration of fertilizer and pesticides also kills aquatic life due to depriving the water of oxygen, resulting in “dead zones." The Gulf of Mexico has a dead zone of more than 5,800 square miles which is associated with the polluted water resulting from corn production for ethanol.