Sunday, August 10, 2008

Big Win for Biofuels

Looks like the EPA denied Texas' request for a waiver from the mandate to add more ethanol to the fuel supply. We spoke about this in a post entitled, "Ethanol Industry Braces for EPA Decision on Its Future." We'll have to see how this plays out over the next year or so, but so far we've seen an unpleasant increase in corn prices, which has caused an unpleasant increase in food prices. I wonder when we will learn.

2 comments:

dh said...

I have to quibble with you about the price of corn--it didn't rise solely because of biofuel, although it hasn't helped. Food prices rose due to a combination of drought in Australia, weird weather patterns in Europe, and production costs as a result of the high oil and fertilizer prices. Also, subsidies in the U.S. and other developed countries have kept food prices artificially low for a long time, which has not encouraged developing countries to be agriculturally self-sufficient.

But biofuel has meant farmers planting lots of corn instead of other crops (which is not such a good idea ecologically or for long-term business) and in places better left unplanted--farmers make more money planting corn than taking payments from the USDA to conserve sensitive areas near stream banks (for example).

And some have found that while the burning of biofuels themselves is better than petroleum, biofuel production--the whole process, soil preparation to planting to harvesting to transportation--may actually cancel out any benefits. Paul Crutzen (of the ozone hole discovery) and others say in this article that the N2O release from biofuel production negates any CO2 reduction benefit from replacing petroleum with ethanol.

Crutzen et al think other crops, like switchgrass, would be a better idea. Certainly this is no excuse to keep on with the petroleum status quo.

Sigh. Why is everything so complicated?

justin rickard said...

You're right dh. I simplified the issue a little bit in that post. Perhaps I was even intellectually dishonest. But a good editor like you picks up on these things. Thanks for the quibble.

Wishful Thinking

*Before adding PV, wind, or solar thermal to your residential or commercial structure, the first step is to analyze this structure's energy consumption through a professional energy audit. I'd like to see some public education on the importance of an energy audit for any structure. Remember Smokey the Bear's forest fire shtick drilled into our heads over the last few decades? How about something like, "Henry the House" desperately wanting to know how much energy he consumes and wastes throughout the day?

*With over 300 sunny days a year on the Front Range is it too much to ask for solar PV and thermal modules on every residential and commercial unit (after an energy audit of course)?


*How about affordable plug-in electric cars that go more than 100 miles on a charge with PV and wind powered recharging stations?

*Dreaming of companies large and small adopting business sustainability practices to maximize profits, reduce their carbon footprint, and enhance the lives of their employees and the communities that surround them.

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