Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Ethanol Bust

As oil prices have plummeted from $145 to just $35 in six months and with that collapse the burgeoning ethanol industry in the US is collapsing as well. I'll be the first to admit that I only have a limited knowledge about corn ethanol so I'll let the farmers and politicians battle over it's ultimate value. However, it's been pretty clear in every study that I've seen that corn ethanol is a very inefficient product as it takes nearly as much energy input to produce a unit of ethanol output.

However, last year everyone was on the ethanol bandwagon - particularly before the Iowa primaries (hmmm, what would people in Iowa have to gain from increased use of corn?).

"VeraSun Energy, one of the nation’s largest ethanol producers, has suspended production at 12 of its 16 plants and is planning to sell production facilities. In recent days Renew Energy, Cascade Grain Products and Northeast Biofuels have filed for bankruptcy protection. Pacific Ethanol said it would suspend operations at its Madera, Calif. plant.

Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group, estimated that of the country’s 150 ethanol companies and 180 plants, 10 or more companies have shut down 24 plants over the last three months. That has idled about 2 billion gallons out of 12.5 billion gallons of annual production capacity. Mr. Dinneen estimated that a dozen more companies were in distress."

Biofuels can and should be a part of our long-term energy solutions but I'd rather see it focus on switch grass and/or sugar cane.

Maybe I'm just bitter because I got a notice from my auto manufacturer that "it has been determined that ethanol fuels with low moisture content will CORRODE the internal surface of the fuel rails. Over time, the corrosion will create a pinhole resulting in fuel leakage." Great.


Sowpath das said...

nice post

Sarah Parton said...

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