Friday, May 25, 2007

The ethanol-from-corn and food vs. fuel debate: Ethanol has its problems

Is the energy obtained from ethanol from corn less than the energy required for its production? Do people care enough about the irrefutable negative environmental consequences?

With regards to the first question, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) would have us presume and accept that seeking a way to produce ethanol with a sufficient net positive energy as a replacement for gasoline is a futile academic undertaking with little or no value for public policy debate. However, this premise defeats the goal of "think outside the box" academic exercises carried out by academicians and researchers searching for answers. And a number of ramifications surround the second concern, e.g., sustainability. Is the technology sustainable? What other factors do we need to consider here? Soil erosion? Soil depletion? Where do we go from here then?

Ethanol has been heavily touted as a magical elixir to solve every conceivable economic, environmental, and foreign policy question. A vocal proponent of this is none other than President George W. Bush. However, the most powerful man in the world has failed to realize the facts on the other side of the ethanol-from-fuel/food-for-fuel debate. Either that or he is a nonsensical person who continuously ignores such important issues and concerns.

These are the facts. Ethanol is exuberantly expensive and wasteful, has no commercial merit with regards to the topic at hand, and difficult to transport. Yet, it enjoys horrific taxpayer subsidies in the United States, even by Washington standards! But why do you suppose that the majority of stations in the US sell 10% ethanol/gasoline blend; and only 1,100 out of the 170,000 filling stations sell it in more pure form (85%-E85) ethanol.
Could it be that ethanol is potentially damaging to automotive engines? Go figure.

Indeed, it is most unfortunate that food items are being converted to liquid fuel. What is clear though is this: Corn-based feedstock is the catalyst of the biofuels market, not its holy grail. And I kid you not!


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Audi Forum said...

Hi. I hear you when you mention that the use of ethnanol does have its problems. However, it really can't be any worse than the environmental impact of fuel usage. And what with ever-increasing fuel rates, it's a double-whammy.

We need alternative sources of fuel and we need it sooner rather than later.

take care and thanks for a well-written, informative article.

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