Ethanol's false promise
Ethanol is supposed to be the great American replacement to fossil fuels. Congressmen and Senators from the "heartland" (including my own here in Minnesota sadly) all flock to the "promise" of biofuels. However, the "promise" may be a false promise, at least according to this Washington Post article.
"Biofuels such as ethanol made from corn, sugar cane, switchgrass and other crops are being touted as a "green" solution for a large part of America's transportation problem. Auto manufacturers, Midwest corn farmers and politicians are excited about ethanol. Initially, we, too, were excited about biofuels: no net carbon dioxide emissions, reduction of oil imports. Who wouldn't be enthusiastic?But as we've looked at biofuels more closely, we've concluded that they're not a practical long-term solution to our need for transport fuels. Even if all of the 300 million acres (500,000 square miles) of currently harvested U.S. cropland produced ethanol, it wouldn't supply all of the gasoline and diesel fuel we now burn for transport, and it would supply only about half of the needs for the year 2025. And the effects on land and agriculture would be devastating."
This is the part I love...
"Using the crop residues (called corn stover) from corn production could provide about 10 billion gallons per year of ethanol, according to a recent study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The net energy available would be greater than with ethanol from corn -- about 60,000 Btu per gallon, equivalent to a half-gallon of gasoline. Still, all of the U.S. corn wastes would produce only the equivalent of 5 billion gallons of gasoline. Another factor to be considered: Not plowing wastes back into the land hurts soil fertility."
Do you know the main reason why corn stover was first plowed back into the ground every year? Ever heard of a little phenomonon called the Dust Bowl??? HELLO ENVIRONMENTAL LOBBY!!!!!
The article even addresses the "Brazil" buzz:
"Recently, there has been lots of excitement and media coverage about how Brazil produces ethanol for its automobile fuel and talk that America should follow its lead. But Brazil consumes only 10 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel annually, compared with America's 170 billion. There are almost 4 million miles of paved roads in America -- Brazil has 60,000. And Brazil is the leading producer of sugar cane -- more than 300 million tons annually -- so it has lots of agricultural waste to make ethanol."
All of that is well and good, but this paragraph address the one thing that the ethanol cheerleaders (my governor included) never talks about...
"Finally, considering projected population growth in the United States and the world, the humanitarian policy would be to maintain cropland for growing food -- not fuel. Every day more than 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes -- one child every five seconds. The situation will only get worse. It would be morally wrong to divert cropland needed for human food supply to powering automobiles. It would also deplete soil fertility and the long-term capability to maintain food production. We would destroy the farmland that our grandchildren and their grandchildren will need to live."
Governor Pawlenty, Senator Coleman, Congressman Kennedy...any comment?????