Bob's Links and Rants

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Tuesday, June 03, 2003

One of my favorite blogs, Politics in the Zeros, has a short post about Ethanol. It begins with this quote from an LA Times article:

Like it or not, ethanol is coming to the nation's gas tanks, courtesy of the U.S. Congress.

A measure requiring the corn-based fuel to be added to the gasoline supply is expected to survive a challenge in the Senate this week, despite objections from lawmakers representing coastal states. They say that transporting ethanol from the Corn Belt to the East and West coasts could drive up prices at the pump and that the plan serves no purpose other than to curry favor in some politically important Midwestern states.

Polizeros adds: And it also provides a renewable home-grown source for fuel and cuts reliance on foreign sources. A good idea, I'd say!

Sorry, I'm not sold. While a quick google search only turned up pro-ethanol-industry web sites which say that using ethanol actually saves energy (like this one), I have read somewhere that when all externalities are included (fertilizer production, irrigation, processing, transport, etc.) that there are no real energy savings from ethanol.

BTW, that Canadian web page says that half the vehicles in Brazil can run on pure ethanol. If something like that happened here, how much of our landscape would be converted to corn monoculture? How much of that would be genetically-modified corn, with possibly devastating effects on biodiversity? Would it provide the excuse for still more destructive irrigation projects, such as the raid of Canadian rivers described in Cadillac Desert?

As far as I'm concerned, ethanol, hybrids, hydrogen and so on must be seen as only offering slight amelioration of massive problems. Without massive cutbacks in energy use, no matter where it comes from, they will only delay the inevitable. If, as fuel cells have already, these just provide excuses for doing nothing for a while and letting waste and sprawl to continue, allowing them to be presented as solutions may actually be harmful.

And I think Senator Feinstein (see the article) has a point--this may be really just another way to transfer even more money from blue to red states.