I Hate Corn Derived Ethanol - A Possible Alternative, Cellulosic Ethanol

A few years ago, the government mandated ethanol as a gasoline additive, in an attempt to make gasoline more ecofriendly, and as a replacement for MTBE, which has been shown to cause cancer. Problem with that is, there is no solid proof that leaking ethanol is any better than leaking lead or MTBE.

Problem two, is it really economically viable? The only reason it is cost effective now, is because of government subsidies.

For each billion ethanol-equivalent gallons of fuel produced and combusted in the US, the combined climate-change and health costs are $469 million for gasoline, $472–952 million for corn ethanol depending on biorefinery heat source (natural gas, corn stover, or coal) and technology, but only $123–208 million for cellulosic ethanol depending on feedstock (prairie biomass, Miscanthus, corn stover, or switchgrass).

Problem three, the energy content of ethanol is approximately two-thirds that of gasoline by volume. So it takes more ethanol to run your car than gasoline. That means the more ethanol in your gasoline, the worse your mpg. Now, I don't claim to be a scientist, or even to have a vast knowledge of the environmental sciences, but I can still deduce that lower mpgs can't be good for the environment.

Furthermore, ethanol is made by turning sugar from corn into alcohol. In order to become alcohol, that sugar needs to be distilled and distillation requires heat. Heat requires energy, energy makes pollution. So again, the lower emissions seem at best, mitigated.

And last, but not least, you have to consider the cost of food. Ethanol dramatically increases the demand for corn. It is said that the grain required to fill the gas tank of a minivan with ethanol is sufficient to feed one person for a whole year.

Ethanol is currently taking about 6% of the US corn crop to make 90% of all US ethanol. What does this mean? Well, since the government mandate, corn has gone from $2.00 a bushel to $3.78+. That is a doubling in cost. The increase in cost, of course, is passed onto the consumer. In fact, food prices are expected to go up 7% in 2009.

Fox news:

At a recent teleconference, arranged by a group of major foodmakers, economists predict that food inflation could be 7 to 8 percent.

This year's corn, wheat and soybean crops — major ingredients in feed rations — are said to fetch prices at the farm gate that are double their 2005 levels.

I hate corn derived ethanol.

Sources and further reading:
Will Cellulosic Ethanol Take Off?
Cellulosic ethanol output could "explode"
One Molecule Could Cure Our Addiction to Oil
Coskata CEO explains how to get to $1 a gallon ethanol


Franklin's Locke said...

I hate it too. Not only did it drive up corn prices but it affected wheat prices because farmers grew corn instead of wheat last year. Basic supply and demand kicked in and bread went up since there was less wheat on the market. This asinine concept of burning our food (corn) drove up prices of milk, chicken, eggs, beef, and any pork products. Why? They all eat CORN!

These people are complete idiots!


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