Haven’t seen Fuel yet? Get to a screening near you, because watching it will help you make sense of all the bewildering news about corn ethanol that’s making the headlines these days.

You’ll understand why ethanol — touted by ethanol producers as an American-grown, more eco-friendly alternative to oil — is creating so many problems of its own. For one, since ethanol in the U.S. is made from corn, producing the biofuel can mean less food for the needy. According to the L.A. Times, a recent congressional report said “the increased use of ethanol could cost the government up to $900 million for food stamps and child nutrition programs.”

The rising price of corn’s hurting independent ethanol producers too, who could be squeezed out of the market by big oil companies. All of that helps explain why fellow MNN blogger Karl Burkart says he’s “vehemently opposed to biofuels that rely on agricultural lands for their production (like corn ethanol and soy or rapeseed biodiesel).”

There is, however, some good news too about biofuels too these days. Researchers are experimenting with duckweed which can apparently produce clean biofuels by eating up nutrients in animal waste. But whether or not these and other newfangled biofuels will leave the research labs and be successfully brought to market in an eco-friendly and commercially viable manner is still a huge point of debate. At the NRDC’s Swtchboard blog, Nathanael Greene outlines some of the latest critiques against cellulosic ethanol — and adds in his own more optimistic outlook on the fuel. Read the comments on the post to get in on the energetic debates fueled by the promise of eco-biofuels -- but I suggest watching Fuel first for a quick primer on the basics -- and the basic debates around -- biofuels.

Image: Courtesy Fuel

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