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Friday, August 19, 2005

Ethanol

Posted by: Hammer / 10:07 AM

Pharyngula has a thorough, accessible op/ed on ethanol, which I found through Minnesota Politics. The gist is that ethanol is probably a net energy loss now, but has promise for the future. It seems to mostly be an engineering problem. Right now, the best technology only uses the kernels of corn (which contain the sugars) to create ethanol. The rest of the the corn -- stalk, husk, leaves, tassels -- is left in the field to rot. If we're able to convert cellulose (the material that forms cell walls and is the most "abundant form of living terrestrial biomass") into ethanol, then we can turn most any plant into ethanol. The most likely candidate is switchgrass. Even with fields of switchgrass from the Red River Valley to Topeka, though, ethanol won't come close to meeting our ever-increasing fuel demands.

We've got a real choice as a nation. We can wait for the crisis of gasoline shortages to prod us into action, or we can commit our famed spirit of innovation and imagination into solving the energy problems for generations yet to come. We need to put America to work drilling for answers, rather than drilling for oil. If we can hit a bullet with a bullet to knock an ICBM from nowhere out of the sky, surely we can engineer super-effecient energy production from domestic sources. Such technology will secure our nation from its enemies and turbocharge our economy for a generation.

Instead, we get an energy bill with no vision, but lots of pork, pork, pork.


Now if we could just get cars to run on cellulite, we'd be set. Are you with me, ladies? C'mon, let's hear it! (Of course, I kid about the cellulite, because in my world, all my blog posts are hi-larious.)

5 Comments:

OR we can stop buying huge assed SUVs and living less than 10 mins from where we work.

or maybe the fats could get out of thier cars once in a while.

or maybe you could set up a treadmill with a caramel roll on a stick with a fat on it.

By Anonymous Tard Patch, at 10:45 AM  

We could probably provide enough electricity to power the state of Minnesota for a week just by incinerating the Taco Bell wrappers from the back seat of your car.

By Blogger Hammer, at 11:43 AM  

CP met some corn farmers on his trip to farm fest. According to their latest estimates, a gallon of ethanol still doesn't match the BTU output of a gallon of gas, but they have moved beyond the point of a net energy loss. The big problem comes with transportation. Unless we build a pipeline, the cost doesn't play out for a nation wide solution to the energy crisis.

The switchgrass argument is a good one. The farmers all told me that ethanol is basically hootch and it can essentiall be made out of anything. The problem is finding something that can be made in every state (or in every major region) to solve the transportation problem.

Another problem is getting the automotive industry to go along with putting the flex fuel option in your car. Right now, we mix gas and e85 at about 70-30. We can take the car into the shop and get the engine configured to use e85. It doesn't cost a whole lot but it will void the waranty. I'm better off just mixing a blend with the waranty in tact.

The really sad thing is that American car manufacturers sell flex fuel engines to places like Brazil...but they won't do it here.

cp

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:59 AM  

correction...they will do it...just not as widely as they could very easily do.

cp

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:00 PM  

It's also worth noting that ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline, so there are air quality benefits to using it. We need an national energy strategy, including a national ethanol strategy. All we have now are interlaced tax credits. We need a coordinated effort to increase supply, increase demand, and increase efficiency.

By Blogger Hammer, at 12:13 PM  

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