One reason we need to pursue every potential avenue in trying to achieve greater energy independence (and save the planet) is that some of the things we try are going to fail. Others are going to turn out to be bad ideas. The sooner we know that, the better.
Most of us now know that about ethanol. But in case you thought that the only reason why it’s a bad idea is that converting cropland to growing energy instead of food leads to famine for millions and higher food prices for everybody else (as if that weren’t enough), Venkat Laksmi provided a more complete list for us today on our op-ed page. An excerpt:
…Ethanol is not a long hydrocarbon chain like gasoline, and as a
result it is only two-thirds as efficient as gasoline. In other words,
a gallon of ethanol will provide two-thirds of the energy of a gallon
of gasoline. Ethanol mixes with water, which is not the case with
gasoline, which means the transportation systems used for gasoline
(i.e. pipelines and trucks) cannot be used for ethanol.
there is a lot of inefficiency in the production of ethanol. For
example, corn-based ethanol requires 54 percent of the energy to
process the corn into ethanol and 24 percent to grow the corn. As a
result, there is a return of only 30 percent or so of the energy,
making this inefficient as compared to conventional gasoline, which
produces five times the energy required to produce it, and even
biodiesel, with its 93 percent efficiency. Even though biodiesel is
efficient, it has a long way to go for large-scale production….