Sunday, January 28, 2007

Not so Fast with the Ethanol

Environmental reporter Jeff Montgomery writes in the News Journal that the benefits of ethanol are quite so clear once we start to take a closer look. For instance, ethanol production requires the buring of fossil fuels:
The current generation of ethanol refineries relies on expensive grains normally used as human or animal food. They also use too much fuel in the process of heating the grain to produce ethanol.
We need to develop a process that converts plant waste to ethanol without burning a lot of fuel, said John Reilly, associate research director of the Joint Program on Climate Change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Using the plant waste would also allow the good stuff to go for other uses, like food. As more corn is used for fuel production, food prices could go up. So if we could use the stuff that isn't eaten, that would be a good thing, right? Well, maybe not:
Even producing ethanol from plant waste could have an economic effect on farmers, [Sussex County farmer William] Vanderwende said.
"The plant matter that you don't use adds organic material back to the soil right now," Vanderwende said. "If we take the whole crop off, we're going to have to put a cover crop or replace the organic material some other way."
This business of growing fuel in the ground is getting more complicated, which is why we should think this through before we start offering subsidies for selling ethanol here in Delaware.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt very much that cellulose to ethanol will be anywhere near 100% efficient. There will be some volume of residue as well as dead bacteria to be disposed. This material will be well on its way to compost. It will be finer in particle size than the raw source. It should be able to be more evenly distributed in the soil. The question is would there be an adequate volume to maintain soil conditioning.

5:34 PM, January 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much money does one make from ethanol? Would it possibly benefit a small farmer who is having tough times, allowing him to keep his farm? Could the profits from ethanol production be enough to increase a farm's profitability enough so that the farmer would not have to sell his land out to developers?

Since all plant life feeds on CO2 and gives off Oxygen, perhaps we should envision combining urban domestic dwellings and small farms together in close proximity, which could help improve the breathing quality of every urban population. One can not help but wish for the razing of decrepit abandoned buildings and the subsequent planting of prairie grasses in their place.

3:50 AM, February 06, 2007  

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