Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More Big Eth

Dad29 reminded me in the comments over here that all my crazy ethanol-to-food cyphering is not that far out of line. I ran into this column recently, which quotes Cornell University scientist David Pimental, a vocal critic of corn-based ethanol use.

Still, Americans are seduced by the idea that there is some "alternative fuel" that will permit them to keep driving giant gas guzzlers while also cutting oil imports. I told Pimental about watching a 110-pound woman emerge from a four-ton SUV that pulled up next to me in a parking lot. He did some quick calculations in his head.

"The tank on that car would hold 30 gallons," he said. "It takes 22 pounds of corn to make one gallon of ethanol, so that's 660 pounds of corn to fill that tank just once."

That's 660 pounds of corn that won't make it into the food chain. Yet Congress grants exemptions to the fuel-economy rules for gas guzzlers set up to run on E-85, a fuel that is 85 percent ethanol. Since ethanol has less energy than gasoline per gallon, the fuel economy on these monsters can drop as low as 8 mpg. If you think we can end our dependence on foreign oil with vehicles that get 8 mpg, then you belong in a mental institution -- or in Congress

Dr. Pimental has published some very controversial research, showing that using ethanol causes more petroleum to be imported, not less, due to the inefficiency of the corn-to-fuel process. I have steered away from Pimental's results, using Big Ethanol's published data instead. I still have found corn-based ethanol to be agriculturally unsustainable and an incredible waste of food for very little benefit.

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