Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Best Defense is the Truth

For those of you who have kept up with my posts over the past month or two, you will know that I try to refute misinformation about ethanol whenever possible that is presented in a way that the public who is not consistently surrounded by ethanol news might be able to understand. Although I think I have done a relatively good job, I recently read an article that hits the nail on the head -- not trying to cover all information but rather showing how casting ethanol away as an unaccomplished piece of garbage is not the right thing to do. And even though I enjoy writing my entire posts, this time I'm going to copy and paste the article because it is so well written. Please read Bruce Dale's article "Demonizing Ethanol," found below. Dale is a distinguished professor for chemical engineering and materials science at Michigan State University and this is what he had to say about recent attacks on the worthiness of ethanol:

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s famous line: There they go again.On opinion pages around the country, including this one, a procession of critics has taken to lambasting domestically produced renewable fuels in general and ethanol in particular. The latest entrant into the debate is syndicated columnist Walter E. Williams, who recently cited a half-dozen wildly distorted reasons for concluding that ethanol is a “cruel hoax on the American consumer.” This is a puzzling spectacle. The price of oil is floating around $110 per barrel—meaning that, as a nation, we are now writing daily checks for the jaw-dropping amount of $1.4 billion to feed our foreign oil habit. And yet the chief object of the critics’ scorn is a clean-burning renewable fuel that is made in America, by American farmers and workers, with American crops and technologies, to the clear benefit of the American economy. It doesn’t make sense. But the critics have created an echo-chamber effect by repeating each others’ recycled canards about ethanol in a way that presents a veneer of validated truth. Take the issue of water use. Cornell University entomologist David Pimentel—the fountainhead of quasi-scholarship for the anti-ethanol movement—makes the bizarre claim that it takes 1,700 gallons of water to produce a gallon of ethanol (if you count rainfall absorbed by corn plants as a bad thing). The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page gleefully repeats it. Walter Williams repeats it again. And so it goes, ad infinitum. Pimentel is also the source of the yarn—repeated by Williams—that it takes more energy to produce ethanol than the ethanol itself contains. The critics never mention that it takes more energy to produce gasoline than the gasoline itself contains (because it takes petroleum-powered equipment to drill, transport and refine crude oil). Nor do they mention the fact that a substantial percentage of the energy required to produce ethanol is the free solar energy that makes plants grow. Details, details.Another oldie but goodie is the argument that ethanol can’t stand up on its own in the marketplace. Williams hits that theme hard, as does the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, repeatedly. The reality is that the world marketplace for transportation fuels is effectively under the control of state-owned oil companies…and some of these states are actively hostile to us. Even the publicly-traded oil majors are not likely to let in competition unless the government compels them to do so with targets and incentives. The howls of “let the market decide” are remindful of the position Microsoft took during the Internet browser wars of the 1990s—when the company was simultaneously using its total control of computer operating systems to muscle out any competing software. There should no longer be any doubt that America has a national interest in weaning itself off of foreign oil—a national interest that deserves a robust policy response. Congress and the president rightly passed legislation in 2005 and 2007 requiring renewable fuels like ethanol to be blended into the country’s fuel supply, and providing incentives to make it happen. It’s working. American renewable fuel producers supplied nearly 7 billion gallons of ethanol in 2007, and the industry is on track to meet a target of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels of all types by 2022. How is that not a good thing?Critics say: Corn ethanol will only cover 10 percent of our current fuel consumption. But 10 percent is huge. And the reality is renewable fuels like ethanol are just one part of what will have to be a multi-pronged solution to America’s energy problems. We also need more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, alternative vehicle technologies such as batteries good enough to let drivers plug in to the electricity grid—and renewable energy sources to power the grid itself. The big difference between ethanol and a lot of those other technologies is that ethanol is readily available today. We don’t have to wait for some future innovation to start making a dent in the country’s energy problem. By any measure, ethanol is better for the planet than gasoline—and it is getting better all the time. Today’s ethanol made from corn is priming the market for the coming generation of alcohol fuels that will also be made from wood chips, urban waste and other feedstocks, not just agricultural crops. America can invent its way out of its current energy problems. In fact, with renewable fuels, we’re already on our way.


Anonymous said...

How about all of the world-wide food riots and hunger that has resulted from corn ethanol driving up the cost of food?

Anonymous said...

You mаy easily explore diνeгse гange of
fan modеlѕ as per yοur design and сhoice requirements.
Investіng іn this type of lighting unit
is ѕomething that yоu should do for you can bе sіttіng in your livіng room, dining room οг bedгoom and
marvеling at the lights anԁ beautіful bladeѕ
thаt they have plus you gеt to experіence coοl breezes
аt the same time. that your еlectrical box is
sρecіfically rated foг fans.

Also vіsit mу wеbpagе - hunter ceiling fans with lights at menards