Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Is Ethanol The Answer?

Much of the emphasis in the energy sector these days is directed towards getting out from under the thumb of Middle Eastern oil sheiks, who seem to enjoy the lavish lifestyles at the expense of the world's dependency on oil. Add to that the environmentalists and their desire to see carbon emissions drop and you see the stage being set for a new and innovative fuel source that can be found right here in the Midwest, ethanol.

Sounds like a win-win, doesn't it?

But not so fast.

A couple of months ago, a post by Mustang at Social Sense addressed this very subject with some startling findings that many in the energy sector are not taking into consideration. You can read it here. And today, we see another convincing "not so fast", The Many Myths of Ethanol written by ABC's John Stossel.

If you read these two pieces and are still not convinced that ethanol is a bad idea, allow me to throw one more fly into your ointment:

If you want to see a major disaster here and elsewhere in the world, just watch what is likely to happen in the corn belt, this year. All of the signs are pointing towards a drought. And if we as a nation (or we as a world) are dependent on a fuel source that is dependent on the weather, think of the potentially catastrophic repercussions a poor crop of corn would have on the economy, in any given year.

As much as I would love to see us out from under the oppressive grips of ME oil barons and guys like Hugo Chavez, I would highly caution people to think this thing through before jumping on the bandwagon of the environmentalists' latest cause, too soon.

11 comments:

Mary Ellen said...

Finally! The server keeps going down...frustrating!

Just a thought, I don't have too much time right now to get into this too much. But, I would think that the drought situation could be handled like the story of Joseph and the Pharoh in Egypt.By stockpiling the corn used for ethanol or stockpiling the fuel itself, we could get through those difficult years of drought. No?

I'll get back later to reading the links you gave....out of town company, very busy!

Greg said...

It goes without saying that ethanol is not the answer. For one thing, it's only cleaner than gas - it's not clean, it's still a fossil fuel. It still results in greenhouse gases emitting from your car's tailpipe. Also, by reducing the amount of corn available for humans and farm animals, the price of our groceries is increasing. And some say that it actually takes more energy to make ethanol than you can save by using it in cars.

Not sure an electric car you plug in is the answer either. Sure, the emissions are zero, but the electricity coming from the outlet comes from somewhere - like a coal-fired plant or a nuclear power plant, or some other facility that either runs on foreign oil or pollutes the environment.

We need more serious consideration given to truly clean forms of energy, like hydrogen. I don't think this will happen because gas is too cheap right now. That's right - GAS IS TOO CHEAP. Someday, we'll get serious about hydrogen, but only when gas is so expensive that we have to. Until then, I'll cotinue to drive to work next to people driving alone in their 2-ton gas-guzzlers.

Anonim said...

I think I agree with Greg here. I am doubtful about ethanol and plug-in electric cars. Still, whereas the ecological impact of the former is not mentioned much, the latter has some short- to medium-term merit in that it shifts the polution problem away from densely populated urban areas. Apart from that, until a technological breakthrough is made (hydrogen? or whatever), hybrid electric cars are the best option there is, and they are there to help even in the future assuming we will continue to need/want efficient use of energy. I personally find it extremely stupid when Pat Buchanon types spew ideological opposition to Pirius, the flagship of this technology. What is wrong with recovering energy that goes to waste when you press on the breaks?

(I feel, I have misspelled some things, probably some proper names. Oh well...)

LASunsett said...

ME,

//By stockpiling the corn used for ethanol or stockpiling the fuel itself, we could get through those difficult years of drought. No?//

That would be okay except for the fact that ethanol won't even meet our demand to start with. One has to assume there will be a surplus, in order to stockpile. And as you know, when demand exceeds supply you cannot save up. Just look at my checkbook sometime and you'll see what I mean. ;)

LASunsett said...

Greg,

//Also, by reducing the amount of corn available for humans and farm animals, the price of our groceries is increasing. And some say that it actually takes more energy to make ethanol than you can save by using it in cars.//

Right on both counts. If ethanol cannot be pipelined, guess what? Tankers that burn more fuel will have to be used to transport it.

LASunsett said...

Anonim,

//I feel, I have misspelled some things, probably some proper names. Oh well...//

This is a typo condemnation free zone. We will not make a man (or a woman) an offender for a typo. ;)

Mary Ellen said...

LA

//Just look at my checkbook sometime and you'll see what I mean. ;)//

No thanks, I just looked at my check book...that's depressing enough. Also, I just looked at the gas prices today in my neighborhood. $3.64/9. Oy!! I'm going to have to ride my bike for now on. If I could only figure out how to get my mom and mother in law on the back. Geez!

LASunsett said...

ME,

//I just looked at the gas prices today in my neighborhood. $3.64/9. Oy!!//

That's about what we have here. Double Oy!!!

A.C. McCloud said...

I keep hearing about this Helium-3 element available in quantity on the Moon. Not sure whether it's science or science fiction, but they've reported about it on some reputable sites.

LASunsett said...

AC,

I hadn't heard about this. But, it may just be that there will be no one single answer to this. Maybe it will be a combination of things.

Mojo_Risin said...

Ethanol -- I wish it was better, but from what I've read, and as has been said here, creating it uses almost as much, if not more, energy as it provides. And to have enough to make it worthwhile would take all of our arable land. I'm all for renewable energy, but I'd like to be able to eat, too...

Unfortunately, just about all of the alternatives to petroleum that we usually discuss share the same drawback -- too expensive to produce, too inefficient, or too hard to find. Oil shales, biodiesel, ethanol, switch grass... all of it. And many geologists, and many people in the oil industry, agree that we're running out of oil, or that getting that oil out of the ground is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive the more we drain it.

So I hate to say it, being an environmentalist and all, but I think the answer to a lot of our energy problem might just be nuclear energy, which is cleaner overall than all of the alternatives, and provides nearly boundless energy.