In our “Dry Bones” world, if everything isn’t connected to everything else, almost everything is connected to something and those connections can easily become complications.
Take, for example, ethanol, or as it once was well-known – ethyl alcohol, or grain alcohol, or just plain alcohol – has long had a defining connection to alcoholic drinks. But ethanol can also fuel internal combustion engines and it’s been used as a fuel or fuel additive for automobiles since 1908 and the T-Model Ford. But it wasn’t till concerns arose about the environmental effects of gasoline exhaust in the 1970s that corn for cars opened a lucrative new market for Midwestern farmers, which connected ethanol to economics and politics.
Ethanol was sold as a “cleaner” fuel, and tests have shown it does reduce some tailpipe emissions, but other tests suggest when it comes to generating ozone, another automotive waste, ethanol is actually worse than gasoline. Which has raised another environmental question: If the world is trying to beat its gasoline habit, is ethanol as much an enabler of a dirtier environment than a contributor to a cleaner one?
And that’s without considering the environmental effects of another by-product of the ethanol-industrial process called distillers grains, used in high-nutrition livestock feed. The problem is that recently more and more of the grain in American farm fields has been grown from seeds coated with fungicides and insecticides. To get to animal-safe distillers grains you have to get out those fungicides and insecticides. Which connects to another problem – what do you do with those chemical wastes once you have cleaned them from your distillers grains?
All of which connects to a small town west of Omaha – Mead, Nebraska – home to an ethanol distiller called Alt-En and their apparent answer to the “what do we do with those pesticides and fungicides?” question – which believe it or not, presently seems to be, pile it up.
Which many residents of Mead say is no answer at all.
Carey Gillam is an American investigative journalist and author with more than 30 years of experience covering food and agricultural policies and practices, including 17 years as a senior correspondent for Reuters international news service. She has specialty knowledge regarding the rise of biotech crop technology and the associated rise in pervasive pesticide use in our farming and food production system. Gillam has won several industry awards for her work and been recognized as a leading global expert on corruption in the agricultural chemical industry. She is the author of “Whitewash- The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science” (2017) which won the coveted Rachel Carson Book Award from the Society of Environmental Journalists as well as two other literary awards and the up-coming The Monsanto Papers – Deadly Secrets, Corporate Corruption, and One Man’s Search for Justice, which will be published in March.