Ethanol The Right Way And The Wrong

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Greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol (biofuel) are lower than for gasoline, but not by much. The difference varies by the source; for corn-based ethanol, it is usually 10 to 20 percent. Regardless, by 2007, driven by a 51-cent-a-gallon federal subsidy, ethanol fever had struck Capitol Hill. One bill under consideration required the use of biofuels (partially corn-based, with others from other plants) to climb to 36 billion gallons by 2022, more than six times the capacity of the nation's 115 ethanol refineries that were presently operating. "There's almost a gold rush in this sector at the moment," said Philip R. Sharp, who served in the House of Representatives for 20 years and in 2007 was a lobbyist as president of Resources for the Future (Mufson, 2007, D-1).

Sugarcane, used to produce ethanol in Brazil, is a much better source of energy than corn, the primary source in the United States. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have estimated that converting the entire U.S. corn crop to ethanol would replace only one-eighth of U.S. gasoline consumption. In addition, corn must be grown and transported, after which ethanol must be manufactured. Replacing a gallon of gasoline with a gallon of ethanol does not save a gallon of gasoline because most of the energy that goes into raising and transporting of corn comes from fossil fuels. The real savings is more like a quarter of a gallon—so, in reality, the United States could consume its entire national corn crop and replace only 3 percent of its gasoline usage. With all our corn in gas tanks, what would we ea£? As early as January 2007, rising prices for corn were igniting demonstrations by tens of thousands of people in Mexico City, where the price of tortillas hit record highs as President George W. Bush touted corn ethanol in his State of the Union message. The price of corn shot up from $1.90 to $5.00 a bushel between 2006 and 2008.

As he promoted ethanol in his 2006 State of the Union message, President George W. Bush ignored some of its problems. Many farmers also cheered the "ethanol express," with its 51-cent-a-gallon federal subsidy, without much thought to the problems it caused. Prices for farmland in Nebraska soared 15 percent in 1 year, even as some farmers expressed concerns regarding ethanol's impact, especially its requirements for scarce water. Other concerns include truck traffic in rural areas and air pollution with a sticky-sweet smell that resembles that of a barroom floor after a busy Saturday night (Barrett, 2007, A-1). Residents in Webster County, Missouri, sued to stop construction of an ethanol plant on grounds that it would use more water than all of the county's 33,000 residents combined. By March 2007, the United States had 114 ethanol plants in operation, 80 under construction, and several dozen in planning stages (Barrett, 2007, A-8).

Rising costs of farm goods, provoked partially by demand for biofuels (including corn, sugarcane, and palm oil, among others), has been pushing up food prices around the world. This rise in prices is causing distress among many poorer people in China, India, and other nations. If rising food prices are sustained, social unrest could result. Rises in prices for basic foods also drives up costs for other things, such as beef, eggs, and soft drinks. Corn, for example, is used to make corn syrup and feed livestock, as well as cereal and other more obvious products. By some estimates, about 30 percent of the U.S. grain harvest will go to ethanol by 2008, double the proportion in 2006 (Barta, 2007, A-1).

The competition for food was global in scope, with grain stocks worldwide at a 30-year low in 2007. China had only a 2- to 3-month grain supply in storage as of early 2007. In Hungary, food price inflation was running at 13 percent by March 2007, versus 3 percent in 2005; in China, food prices were rising at 6 percent in 2007, versus 2 percent a year earlier. In the United States, food price inflation was annualized at 3.1 percent at the same time, up from 2.1 percent in 2005. Food prices rose 15 percent a year in Turkey during 2007, having risen fivefold in a year and a half (Barta, 2007, A-9). A night at the movies even got pricier, as the price of popcorn rose 40 percent between 2006 and 2007. --

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Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Your Alternative Fuel Solution for Saving Money, Reducing Oil Dependency, and Helping the Planet. Ethanol is an alternative to gasoline. The use of ethanol has been demonstrated to reduce greenhouse emissions slightly as compared to gasoline. Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know why choosing an alternative fuel may benefit you and your future.

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