Friday, August 17, 2007

Ethanol a Scam and Hurts the Environment

Ethanol Scam: Ethanol Hurts the Environment And Is One of America's Biggest Political Boondoggles

According to historian John Steele Gordon, oil was drilled in western Pennsylvania in 1859 and the U.S. produced 2,000 barrels that year. Ten years later, production of oil was 4.2 million barrels. Today, the American economy consumes 7.6 billion barrels of petroleum a year.

Since the burning of oil produces pollution and carbon dioxide, a Greenhouse gas, many believe that it is crucial that we turn to alternative sources of energy. Most of these believe in big government financed research and mandates to make this change. I hope those folks will read the July 24, 2007 article by Jeff Goddell at “Ethanol Scam: Ethanol Hurts the Environment and Is One of America's Biggest Political Boondoggles”.

In the article, it claims:

■ “Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World”

■ “giving farmers in South America an incentive to carve fields out of tropical forests that help to cool the planet”

■ “Corn is already the most subsidized crop in America -- twice as much as wheat subsidies”

■ “ethanol subsidies amount to as much as $1.38 per gallon -- about half of ethanol's wholesale market price”

■ “Ethanol is nothing more than 180-proof grain alcohol…It can be distilled from a variety of plants, including sugar cane and switch- grass. Most vehicles can't run on pure ethanol, but E85, a mix of eighty-five percent ethanol and fifteen percent gasoline, requires only slight engine modifications”

■ “But as a gasoline substitute, ethanol has big problems: Its energy density is one-third less than gasoline, which means you have to burn more of it to get the same amount of power. It also has a nasty tendency to absorb water, so it can't be transported in existing pipelines and must be distributed by truck or rail, which is tremendously inefficient”

■ “In Brazil, ethanol made from sugar cane has an energy balance of 8-to-1 -- that is, when you add up the fossil fuels used to irrigate, fertilize, grow, transport and refine sugar cane into ethanol, the energy output is eight times higher than the energy inputs. That's a better deal than gasoline, which has an energy balance of 5-to-1. In contrast, the energy balance of corn ethanol is only 1.3-to-1 - making it practically worthless as an energy source”

■ “Ethanol is propped up by more than 200 tax breaks and subsidies worth at least $5.5 billion a year”

■ “Under the Senate bill, only 15 billion gallons of ethanol will come from corn, in part because even corn growers admit that turning more grain into fuel would disrupt global food supplies. The remaining 21 billion gallons will have to come from advanced biofuels”

■ “even if ethanol producers manage to hit the mandate of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022, that will replace a paltry 1.5 million barrels of oil per day -- only seven percent of current oil needs. Even if the entire U.S. corn crop were used to make ethanol, the fuel would replace only twelve percent of current gasoline use”

■ “corn production depends on huge amounts of fossil fuel -- not just the diesel needed to plow fields and transport crops, but also the vast quantities of natural gas used to produce fertilizers. Runoff from industrial-scale cornfields also silts up the Mississippi River and creates a vast dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico every summer. What's more, when corn ethanol is burned in vehicles, it is as dirty as conventional gasoline”

■ “E85 reduces carbon dioxide emissions by a modest fifteen percent at best, while fueling the destruction of tropical forests”

■ “biggest problem with ethanol is that it steals vast swaths of land that might be better used for growing food”

■ “since America provides two-thirds of all global corn exports, the impact is being felt around the world. In Mexico, tortilla prices have jumped sixty percent, leading to food riots”

■ “By 2025, according to Runge and Senauer, rising food prices caused by the demand for ethanol and other biofuels could cause as many as 600 million more people to go hungry worldwide”

■ “imagines a future in which such so-called ‘energy crops’ are fed into giant refineries that use genetically engineered enzymes to break down the cellulose in plants and create fuel for a fraction of the cost of today's gasoline

■ “could provide a gateway to a much larger biotech revolution, including synthetic microbes that could one day be engineered to gobble up carbon dioxide or other pollutants”

■ “replacing fifty percent of our current gasoline consumption with cellulosic ethanol would consume thirteen percent of the land in the United States - about seven times the land currently utilized for corn production”


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