Though it is not yet as popular as gasoline, the production and use of Ethanol is growing at exponential rates in the United States. Advertised as the answer to the world’s limited fuel supply, what is the real deal behind this ‘miracle resource’?
Ethanol: What is it? How is it used? Is this the answer in the world of alternative energy? These are questions that are floating in the heads of many of us as the ethanol vs natural gas debate continues to burn.
Ethanol is a type of fuel that is most commonly derived from Corn. After the corn is crushed into a powder, mixed with water, and heated, an enzyme is added that causes the corn mixture to ferment and turn into alcohol. Another process then breaks this mixture down further to create a highly alcoholic substance. After a small amount of gas is added to the formula, ethanol becomes a viable replacement to gasoline as an alternative fuel.
An alternative to gasoline? Sounds great, right? Lets break it down into some pros and cons (because I seem to love doing that lately):
- Ethanol is renewable
- Produced on US soil (getting us out of bed with the Middle East)
- Burns cleaner than gas.
Promoters of Ethanol push the above three pros to the extreme, claiming that ethanol is the answer to our search for alternative fuel. Why the debate then? What seems to be the problem with making our cars drunk enough to operate? Here come the cons:
- Requires more energy transport than it supposedly saves: Ethanol cannot travel in normal pipelines and must therefore be shipped or trucked to its delivery destination.
- Requires more energy to produce than it supposedly saves: All of the resources used in growing and breaking down corn into ethanol require more fossil fuels than are saved with ethanol. Thus, completely defeating the purpose.
- More expensive than Gas: At the time of analysis, ethanol was $3/gallon where gas was $2.28
Like it or not, Ethanol is already becoming incorporated into our gas. Right now, gasoline at the pump is about 10% ethanol, and these numbers will probably grow in the future.
An energy bill passed in 2005 requires ethanol production to increase by 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.
Who benefits most from increasing ethanol production?? Surely not you. Mr. Monsanto is quite pleased though! At least now, the copious amounts of zombie corn have a place to go besides slaughterhouse feedlots! GREAT!!!!!!
Ultimately? By upping ethanol production, our government is pouring even MORE money into subsidizing corn and that does very little to improve our current economic and environmental situation.
Sure on the outside ethanol seems a lot better than drilling deep into the earth, or calling our friends the Bin-Ladens for oil, but this is only a surface level analysis of the situation.
Perhaps it would be more viable in the future when better technologies are developed to make production and transportation methods more efficient. But right now, Ethanol is nothing more than environmental alcoholism.
Where does the money go? Check it out.