Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tales from BusinessWeek

Hello, all. First of all I'm back at my desk, woohoo. Second I can talk about an interesting article I read in last week's BusinessWeek. I find it interesting that Al is posting about something about business and I'm discussing something about the environment, but I digress.

So I'm not going to pretend that I'm an expert on renewable forms of energy. However, I know that global warming is a reality. I read an article yesterday that said Europe and Africa experienced record temperatures over the course of the last few weeks. People all over the world are starting to realize that environmentalists aren't deluded. The earth's temperatures are the highest that they have been in 350 years.

So the article I read talked about alternatives to fossil fuels: biodiesel, animal fat, and ethanol. It talked about the unfair advantage that corn based ethanol has (subsidy-wise) compared to further alternative energy sources.

Now I've been reading a lot about corn-based ethanol. I know that the price of corn is rising, and meat as well, based on the government backing it as a viable alternative to oil. Another huge issue is Ethanol can't be used in high concentrations in existing pumps and pipelines (huge infrastructure concern)--why isn't anyone talking about this?

From an environmental standpoint, ethanol is a deal with the devil.

From what I understand, correction might be warranted, sugar based ethanol is more efficient than corn-based ethanol ($0.51/gallon subsidy). I know that sugar-based ethanol is widely used in Brazil (thank you Amazing Race). Well the article mentions that corn-based ethanol contains less energy than gasoline (30% less in fact). So you would lose gas mileage. It mentioned that biodiesel ($1/gallon freezes easily, kind of a problem in the winter. Can you imagine a frozen tank in a cold winter, bad idea? It also mentioned that biodiesel can smell rank. Also, neither option has really been proven to offer major advantages to the current global warming issues (Al I expect you to comment on this one--I know when we discussed this article you mentioned the problem would be that we'd still be using a combustion engine. However, both biodiesel and corn-based ethanol have been backed by Congress and some other options are not being given a level playing field (subsidy-wise).

Thanks to years of lobbying by ethanol and biodiesel producers, two fuels get the big breaks. A number of states mandate that ethanol or biodiesel be blended with oil based fuels...the laws also narrowly define biodiesel in terms of a specific process, shutting out innovations and improvements.

This seems ridiculous to me. We should be exploring any viable alternative energy source. One such fuel is generated by animal fat. In this scenario you would use a waste product for fuel, quite intelligent if you ask me. The article mentions that it would be beneficial for farmers that are being hit hard with higher corn prices. Other options include butanol, which can be used in existing pipelines and pumps, and hydrogen (which President Bush--the only compliment that you'll ever see me give him)--earmarked over a billion dollars for--or at least he claimed to have done so in the 2004 election and set a firm timetable for us to switch over from our dependence on gasoline.

It's a global issue, people. The United States needs to play ball internationally if we are going to see any real change. It has it's share of the environmental damage to account for, but it also needs to team with other industrialized nations--hello ratify the Kyoto Protocol--if we are going to have any realistic changes.

Forgive us Mother Earth.


Liza said...

My dad worked for the biggest, most evil oil company, and so I witnessed its hostility to the very idea of global warming. Who cares if it's bad for the earth if it's good for business? I think the smart oil companies realize they are in an unsustainable industry and are beginning to embrace alternative energy.

Anyways, there's an article in the New Yorker about Obama, and it begins with him speaking to a group of Illinois farmers about Ethanol. I thought you might find it interesting.

Excalibur said...

Thank you, Liza.

Your first comment! I did read a couple pages of the article. I'm going to have to print it out and read it in detail tomorrow. It was cool to get the farmer's perspective.

I remembered reading about tariffs being put on Brazilian ethanol to keep the country from being flooded with imports.

It seems the powers that be are afraid of being so reliant on one nation for energy. There are talks of countries trying to collude to become OPEC-like if they are responsible for a large share of renewable energy.

Okay I'm rambling. The cellulosic ethanol solution seems like something we should really consider. Perhaps the Obama approach of listening and talking to farmers is far wiser than people that preach and know little about the science (political regurgitators--special interest profiteers)--disgust me (like Rudolph Guliani).

With that I say farewell.

elizabeth said...

This is a GREAT article, Liza! Thanks for linking to it! And Jamaal, it's great of you to be posting about stuff like this. We need to find real solutions to this problem because it's not going to go away!


P.S. Sorry for the deleted post. It had an unforgivable, totally accidental, 100% unacceptable grammatical error. And so.

Excalibur said...

Thank you 2xE. I will remove the deleted comment, no worries. What's really interesting, kudos to McGraw-Hill, is that each BusinessWeek edition contains an article about the environment. I've learned so much from reading these articles.

This one made me actually have to go back, wanted to get the numbers accurate.

It's almost like McGraw-Hill is telling the business world--make money, but make sure you realize the ramifications of not paying attention to what's going on in the environment. One only has to go to www.businessweek.com to read the comments on any article concerning the environment and you will see that most business-oriented individuals are still in denial. For every fact that's presented they have a counter claim. It's all about deception.

Can't we all just get along? LOL