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Ethanol, oil and water topic of panel discussion at SIUE Feb. 17

State-wide program sponsored by Illinois Humanities Council

This article originally appeared in the St. Clair County Suburban Journal

Some may think that ethanol made from grain sounds like a fine replacement for gas made from fossil fuel, but others may have objections to producing the commodity.

A group of panelists at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will talk about ethanol production, and the water and grain resources that are needed to produce it during a program sponsored by the Illinois Humanities Council.

"Crosscurrents: Ethanol, Oil, and Water in Southern Illinois," will examine the promises and limitations of ethanol, according to Dimitra Tasiouras, director of programs and partnerships for the council.

The council is producing a number of panel discussions in the state, from the overall topic of "All-Consuming: Conversations on Oil and Water," said Tasiouras, planner for the state-wide program.

From fall 2008 to fall 2009, people in each region are determining ideas, presenters, and individual topics for each program, she said.

"Steering committees in each region determine the program," Tasiouras said.

The idea behind bringing the humanities into the topic is to help bring out more nuanced conversations, she said.

"A lot of the talk is about how ethanol is good or bad," she said. "Our approach is to look at how we think about energy solutions, how we come to decisions and what is it that brought us to look at ethanol as a solution, a new resource."

The panelists will examine the promises and limitations of ethanol and the environmental and ethical questions involved in increased ethanol production, she said.

"This is the time when we have to make a lot of difficult decisions about these commodities," Tasiouras said. "It’s also about our responsibility to each other and future generations. Our approach is not to take a position, but to raise the questions."

"Ethanol production is growing across the country, particularly in Illinois where there have been 49 new or proposed ethanol plants since 2000," Tasiouras said.

The panelists for the SIUE program are Christopher Lant, professor, executive director of Universities Council on Water Resources, co-director of Environmental Resources and Policy, Department of Geography and Environmental Resources, Southern Illinois University Carbondale; John Caupert, director of National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; Christopher H. Pearson, assistant professor, Department of Philosophy, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (moderator); and Ira Altman, assistant professor, Department of Agribusiness Economics, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The discussion will taking place 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Feb. 17, at Morris University Center.

It is free and open to the public; reservations are not required.

For more information, visit or e-mail Christopher Pearson at

The program is presented in partnership with SIUE.