LiberalGeek Question of the Day

Filed in Uncategorized by on April 9, 2008

With all apologies to Donviti, I have a question.  Can we all agree that Ethanol is a failure and that we need to bail out on it before we tar all alternative energies as bad ideas?

I believe that we make mistakes.  Ethanol is one of them and the sooner we cut bait on it, the sooner we can get moving on good ideas that we have out there.

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  1. jason330 says:

    Let’s begin by making the Iowa caucus less important.

  2. anon says:

    It depends.

    Yes, corn ethanol is a disaster.

    But what is the status of alternative-crop ethanol? If switchgrass ethanol or something like it comes online in the next few years, the buildup of ethanol infrastructure will have been worth it.

    On the other hand, there are a whole bunch of environmental problems any time you grow and burn anything in the volumes that would be needed.

    Perhaps switchgrass ethanol will become a useful fraction of the alternative energy basket.

  3. liberalgeek says:

    Ethanol is also promoting deforestation, as land in Brazil is cleared to grow sugar cane. Perhaps switchgrass could be used, but it does require a good amount of land to do it.

    It seems to me that we could better spend our scarce resources working on wind, geothermal, tidal and solar. We should be making the transition away from burning stuff to make our cars go.

  4. Von Cracker says:

    Why can’t we just use the souls of Bush voters? They weren’t using them anyway….

    The energy used and carbon released by machinery used in ethanol production more than offsets any gains by using it….

    I guess it’s Big Agra’s time to make obscene profits…. :-(

  5. cassandra_m says:

    GM has a partnership with an energy firm to build a full-scale celluosic ethanol pant that should come on line in the next few years. I’m not sure the grain ethanol plants are easily converted for celluosic use (but I don’t know all that much about this), but I do think that given the current price (and subsidy structure) of corn especially, grain-based ethanol won’t give up the ghost all that easily. But I doubt that any ethanol is going to be a magic bullet. It may be an incremental step in getting to something better, but all too often these incremental steps get institutionalized with all attendant government protections.

    The thing is that we will still need something to make our cars go. There are cleaner technologies than an internal combustion engine, but not many with the same cost and energy efficiency.

  6. cassandra_m says:

    Why can’t we just use the souls of Bush voters?

    Burning air is cost prohibitive AND produces no net energy. If only those souls were truly made of hydrocarbons…

  7. RSmitty says:

    Agreed. It was a pleasant thought whose consequences weren’t seen all that well. I can’t say they weren’t seen at all, because I do know some concerns were floated about, but nothing was taken too seriously at the beginning. The thought then was we’d get past the corn stage pretty quick. Ain’t it funny how the spot-market can change people’s minds?

    One thing I bet many people learned in all this: how many people do you think never realized how integrated corn actually is in our daily lives?

    VC’s first paragraph could work. We all know I NEVER, EVER voted for the guy. I can re-shape my own party when you’re done!

  8. Steve Newton says:

    Yeah, we have to get past ethanol; I took two trips out to Iowa last year, and talking with farmers it has been an unmitigated disaster, especially when they point out the amount of water pollution that the processing puts out.

  9. If we ere committed to using the waste cellulose from food stock, then there won’t be a problem with land use, water conservation or food prices. Corn stalks were supposed to be adequate sources for a fuel product, for instance.

  10. Call me crazy, but maybe we should also look for some way to reduce the amount that we need to move our cars (And I am as guilty as the next commuter, if not more). We’re like an addict desperately looking for a new way to get a fix without trying to find a way to kick the addiction or deal with the underlying emotional problems that help fuel that addiction.

  11. Al Mascitti says:

    Mike M.: You’re not crazy. You just live in Delaware, a state where “mass transit” might as well be something that happens in Massachusetts.

  12. TommyWonk says:

    Land and other agricultural inputs are finite resources.

    People are catching on the fact that enthanol uses up resources that would otherwise be devoted to growing food, which is becoming more expensive if you haven’t noticed.

    This may be one reason why a recent Pew Research poll revealed that Americans are becoming more skeptical of ethanol:

    http://tommywonk.blogspot.com/2008/03/growing-sophistication-in-public.html

  13. Disbelief says:

    Plus it tastes like crap even with tonic water.

  14. G Rex says:

    Also the shift to corn growing (instead of hops and barley) is driving up the price of beer! This is why we must drill in ANWR!!!

  15. anon says:

    waste cellulose from food stock

    Yeah but if we stop plowing our cornstalks and other “waste” back into the fields, we’ll have to start replenishing the soil with petroleum-based fertilizers… It never ends.

  16. cassandra_m says:

    Well, heck, you should have said there was beer in ANWR in the first place!

  17. Brian says:

    I agree, I think ANWR needs to be explored, at the same time I think we need to invest in Ethel cellulose, and biodiesel, and sugarcane ethanol. Wind power, and R&D for tidal and also explore for new nat gas fields around the Baja peninsula where I see there are more than a few. Corn or rice ethanol will cause starvation. Clean coal and especially nuclear need to play a big role too.

  18. Fred says:

    Do not forget that ethanol helped to get rid of MTBE and all of its nastiness. We need to find the right way to do it.

  19. cassandra_m says:

    Brian, I’d caution you on the “clean coal” business. Clean coal is a marketing term of art for folks looking to extend our burning of the stuff. And right now, there is cleaner (sorta) coal, but no production scale clean coal. The processes that rely on chemical scrubbing do reduce air emissions, but they do leave behind a contaminated fly ash which no longer has any secondary use and needs to go to a landfill. And no matter what technology ends up burning the coal, mining the stuff is one of the dirtiest processes on the planet.