Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ethanol In Your Tank - It's Not The Answer

Putting Ethanol into gasoline to stretch gasoline usage might be Congress's simplistic short term fix on the road to energy independence, but doesn't anyone remember this study from Cornell University?

Cornell researchers said: Turning plants such as corn, soybeans and sunflowers into fuel uses much more energy than the resulting ethanol or biodiesel generates and that "Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation's energy security, its agriculture, economy or the environment," says David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell. "Ethanol production requires large fossil energy input, and therefore, it is contributing to oil and natural gas imports and U.S. deficits." He says the country should instead focus its efforts on producing electrical energy from photovoltaic cells, wind power and burning biomass and producing fuel from hydrogen conversion..
In terms of energy output compared with energy input for ethanol production, the study found that:

* corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced;
* switch grass requires 45 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced; and
* wood biomass requires 57 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.

In terms of energy output compared with the energy input for biodiesel production, the study found that:

* soybean plants requires 27 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced, and
* sunflower plants requires 118 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.
According to some mechanics, ethanol eats up the plastic-like lining of the fuel tank and injectors. So it may not be too great for the inside workings of your car either.

Maybe if our legislators at least took some time to read some of these research papers, they would not be so hasty in passing legislation like requiring more ethanol to be put in gas tanks. It might work as a transitional technology to stretch gas mileage - but it's not the wave of the future - and it is not a panacea. It kind of reminds me of mom putting more bread crumbs in the meatloaf to feed a few extra mouths. The extra fillers are not always a good thing when you have a steady diet of it. Maybe it's time to look for another main course.

Quite frankly I am quite annoyed at the Republicans in Congress who refused to allow a vote on a measure that would have required electric utilities to produce at least 15 percent of their power from wind, biomass or other renewable energy sources. Although I don't like the government meddling and requiring businesses to do anything, we need to start making some changes... and soon. We have a lot of technology at hand, and we should start taking advantage of it.