Ethanol, Media Darling

ethanol-herbie.jpgI’ve been baffled by the mounting interest in ethanol over the last couple of years. It seems like every time I turn around somebody else is hyping corn-fuel as a good way to wean the US from foreign oil needs. I don’t know who to blame the most, the US auto industry, corn lobbies, politicians, or the media. One need only look to Brazil to see the effect of the ethanol industry in full effect and realize that while feasible to some degree, ethanol is by no means the silver bullet to our energy debacle. And Brazil is able to use sugarcane, a plant much better suited to ethanol production than corn, the current US poster boy of ethanol.

I won’t go into the specific drawbacks of ethanol as an alternative fuel, as this article in the Economist has a nice summation at the beginning. Though ethanol is technically green from a CO2 emissions perspective, there are other distinct drawbacks. I like that the article also goes on to discuss work being done elsewhere to develop fuels in laboratories. I hadn’t really considered engineered fuel sources like this, but I see some good ideas.

Also there’s a bit of a dig at Intelligent Design, which made me smile.

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~ by nhak on September 28, 2007.

One Response to “Ethanol, Media Darling”

  1. I think you’ve hit on one of the biggest problems with any proposed alternative fuel – everyone is looking for that “silver bullet” and there simply isn’t one. I am all for this research into synthetic fuels, and hope it yields something useful, but I don’t think it will produce a “silver bullet” either.

    Every fuel source has its pros and cons, and no one fuel alternative is going to keep us running all on its own. We need to convert to a variety of energy supplies.

    I’ve been a proponent of alcohol as fuel since I read a great book called Brown’s Alcohol Motor Fuel Cookbook. It’s a great book written in the 70s during the “energy crisis”, giving great instructions on how to make alcohol fuel and convert your car to run on it. It is difficult, and not for everyone, but it showed the potential of ethanol as a fuel.

    One thing about ethanol as a fuel is that due to a low vaporization temperature, one could theoretically rig a fuel warming system that could result in 3 or 4 times better fuel efficiency.

    I don’t think we should discount ethanol, but I don’t think we should rely on it to solve our energy and climate problems, either.

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