Amber waves of ethanol

And today’s NYT had more about the growing ethanol industry. Speaking of the food/fuel nexus, guess who one of the biggest players is? That’s right NPR-listeners, the corporation who brought you “Supermarket to the World,” ADM—Archer Daniels Midland—who apparently have decided that fuel is a better growth industry than food, and is shifting its already significant ethanol production capacity into high gear. And who can blame them? According the the Times article, ethanol producers are making $5 net profit on every bushel of corn they pay farmers $2 for—oh, and that’s before 51 cent per gallon tax credit they get. There’s a sidebar article that discusses the ethanol efficiency issue as well.

It is really demoralizing to see the first glimmers of awareness that oil is a problem and then see such a grossly American response. We won’t change, that’s not what we do, we’ll just burn more resources. Some not-so-future generations will have to live—and die—with our mess.

I have been very critical of the Times’ slowness in waking up to the problems facing us both in terms of energy and environment, but there has been some solid recent coverage, including a number of harrowing articles on the situation in China, as it consumes its land and people in order to “modernize.” Easy to shake our heads about China—but their problems are our problems on this tiny, increasingly crowded planet.

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2 Responses to Amber waves of ethanol

  1. Jeff says:

    Ethanol is not the answer, and certainly not ethanol made from corn. Corn is one of the worst feedstocks you can use for ethanol production. The yield is substantially lower than from other feedstocks. It also has a much lower energy content (about 35%) than gasoline, and it cannot be used in unmodified gasoline engines.

    A much better biofuel would be butanol, which can be made from many of the same feedstocks that are used to make ethanol. It can be burned in unmodified gasoline engine with only about a 10% power and mileage penalty.

  2. Gina says:

    I so agree and share your frustration with the American response.
    I wonder tragically about our human future. Thanks for providing the links!

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