Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ethanol: Ethical, Economic, Environmental Sham

Dwindling foreign oil, rising prices at the gas pump and hype from politically well-connected U.S. agribusiness have combined to create a frenzied rush to convert food grains into ethanol fuel. The move is badly conceived and ill advised.

The science is clear: The use of corn and other biofuels to solve our energy problem is an ethically, economically and environmentally unworkable sham.

~David Pimentel, professor of entomology at
Cornell University, "Corn Can't Save Us"


At 3/21/2008 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree. While I would rather see profits go to our U.S. farmers than overseas oil, this is obviously not an effective solution. Society is getting a lower quality of life because of the increased costs for food across the board.

At 3/21/2008 8:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the longest time, I agreed with the view that ethanol subsidies are a bad idea. The alternative argued by economists such as Mark is that we should let the free market work. Here is the problem.

There is NO free market capitalism in the oil industry. A cartel of despots and dictators controls our oil supply. They dictate the price by restricting supply irrespective of what the demand level is.

So, the question becomes do we want to be at the mercy of an absent minded cartel or do we want to establish our own subsidized industry. Also, if we do it correctly, we will remove these subsidies once the industry becomes viable and more efficient ethanol based fuels are developed.

The other alternatives as it stands right now are electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles. Fuell cell vehicles are ages away from being economically affordable. Honda is putting out one this summer that will cost $600 a month to lease!

Electric vehicles are more promising but the battery technology is still not there. The Chevy Volt is supposed to come out in November 2010. Its based on battery technolog that hasn't even been developed yet. As much as I wanted to succeed, I would bet against it.

So, ethanol remains the only proven way we can achieve independence from OPEC.

At 3/21/2008 10:42 AM, Blogger Dave Narby said...

Ethanol is a bad idea. Low energy density, bad payback (net units of energy produced for units of energy spent to create it), incompatible with current distribution system (Surprise! Ethanol is *corrosive*), etc.

Butanol however... I think the jury's still out on that one.

Assuming butanol is a viable biofuel (you can use waste matter, you don't need food to make it), it might provide a good counterweight to the monopoly of oil.

Competition is good!

At 3/21/2008 11:24 AM, Blogger bobble said...

i agree with you on this one, prof perry. as proposed by pres bush, ethanol is just an il conceived subsidy to agribusiness.

there may be other better ways to do it. ie ethanol from switchgrass or ag waste. but bush has it exactly wrong

At 3/21/2008 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any fool knows that the best way out of the approaching global energy crunch is in mining helium-3 on the Moon.

Why do you think so many countries are chattering about going to the moon?

Even Russia is planning a permanent moon base and mining operation by 2020.

That is 12 years from now.

Time to pull our collective heads out of our asses people and do the hard work needed to remain leaders of the world.

At 3/21/2008 10:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Using government funds to try to pick winners generally doesn't work. Expensive and not very efficacious as the Carter administration demonstrated so brilliantly.

The development of batteries using nano technology offers great promise particularly for use in cars and buses. The other variable that can change the outcome is new technology such as high efficiency lighting, building technology, and new materials.

If one looks at the nations which consume the most energy per capita, Saudi Arabia, Canada & the U.S., it is possible to change this dynamic by changing the structures that we live and work in. We now have windows and curtain wall that offer R9 for example (reg. windows offer about R2 by contrast)

Mankind has a habit of inventing new solutions for problems. The future looks interesting but somehow, I don't think ethanol will make the grade for the reasons given in the article. A well reasoned piece.


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