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.