Monday, November 20, 2006

Save the Environment by Producing Ethanol?

Ethanol is supposed to save our country from dependence on oil from other countries. Here are some facts to dwell on: The quantity of carbon dioxide emitted when ethanol is used as fuel will be 1.56 the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted when gasoline is used for fuel. Why aren’t the radical environmentalists screaming about the additional pollution of the air caused by the use of ethanol? They were successful in stopping the growth of the most efficient energy source in the world; nuclear power. (Note that they were not successful in stopping the use of nuclear power in our navy; aircraft carriers, submarines, ect are all powered by nuclear energy) They were responsible for stopping the building of more chemical plants in the U.S. making the cost of imported gas too high to be used by industry and caused the closing 70 chemical plants in the U.S since 2004 at a loss of 100,000 jobs. They and weak politicians are responsible for thousands of laid off workers due to the closing of plants using natural gas in their products; plants producing everyday consumer products from plastic cups to carpets to semiconductors. Of the 120 chemical plants being built around the world with $1 billion dollar price tags, (think jobs) only one is in the US. Talk about outsourcing, our politicians and rad enviros are responsible for many jobs in the energy sector to be lost to countries that have used more common sense than John Kerry and Democrats of his ilk plus a few Republicans. (It’s easy for Kerry, he doesn’t need a job; he married lifetime security.)

The Gulf holds an estimated 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and a lame duck congress has an opportunity to open up 8.5 million acres to natural gas and oil drilling. Failure to act will continue to punish Americans with short supplies and high costs, causing more plant closures and job flight overseas.

All kinds of efforts have been made to use the shale formations in western U.S.; 70% of this shale is located on federal lands. Production has been stymied by high reclamation costs and environmentalists. But Shell claims to be able to make high quality products straight out the ground with little processing to turn into diesel, jet fuel and naphtha. Chevron has a plan using carbon dioxide to break the rock bearing energy shale to release oil in mainly Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Exxon tried but abandoned a 3 billion dollar Colorado project in 1982 and that failure cost the confidence and dollars of a lot of people in the community. So people have a right to be wary.

The future on energy sources remains cloudy. Fortunately, the energy sources we have depended on in our past are still available; we will just pay more or use less. Ethanol, from all I can gather is not the answer. Neither are windmills. We have the resources here in our own country. We just need politicians with guts and reasonable environmentalists’ activists.

We’ll see.

And what about those “frog eaters”, French, they were smart enough to get nuclear energy approved and are building more nuclear plants today.

The cost of corn is going up so will the cost of producing ethanol. Eventually, so will the cost of corn produced ethanol at the pump. So will the cost of all products that are produced from corn (think groceries) adding additional costs to the consumer. The beneficiary will be the farmer who already is subsidized by taxes you pay to the government. You also pay taxes to subsidize the ethanol producers, plus the touted energy producing windmills are subsidized with your tax dollars and are blights on the landscape. In fact, subsidies are becoming a way of life with our “spend and borrow” governments. Who will be responsible for tearing down these monstrosities when this country wakes up and fights back against the radical environmentalists and weak stomached politicians and, we, like the French and Russians go back to nuclear power?


Anonymous said...

I don't dispute your arguements, but wonder if the idea is not to produce cheaper or more environmentally friendly alternative to oil, but decrease uor depending on foriegn sources of energy.
I am much more at ease with $3 a gallon ethanol than $3 a gallon gasoline because the money will stay in the USA, instead of going abroad.

knight in dragonland said...

I don't think even ethanol's strongest proponents claim that ethanol by itself will save us from dependence on foreign oil. It is included as a part of the picture that includes many measures, including conservation, increasing efficiency and other alternative energy sources.

I also don't believe your CO2 figures are correct. Most estimates that I've seen indicate that ethanol and ethanol blends burns much cleaner and reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline. CO2 is produced as a byproduct of the fermentation process to produce ethanol, but that CO2 is contained and often sold as a byproduct, increasing profits.

My concern with the whole ethanol industry as it currently stands is this ... ethanol producers are currently undergoing a massive ramp-up of their production capacity. I agree - this will serve to increase corn prices as demand increases. However, the increased ethanol production, taken by itself, will tend to drive DOWN ethanol prices (simple supply & demand - more supply, less demand). So you have falling prices for your end product and rising costs of production. Uh-oh.

I also agree that we need to look into alternative ways to access fossil fuels. Colorado has massive oil shale deposits, and Canada has HUGE oil sand deposits. If those resources can be accessed efficiently and profitably, that would go a long way to ease our dependence on foreign oil - certainly more than ethanol, especially in the short run. Although Canada is still "foreign," I think the Canucks can be relied on as dependable suppliers.

In the long run, however, this does not obviate the need for research into alternative, sustainable fuel sources. These other fossil fuel options just push the problem down the road a bit.

Nuclear power is certainly one idea. However, nuclear waste is highly toxic, and some radioactive isotopes take THOUSANDS of years to degrade. Our culture is so short-sighted that we can barely countenance looking 6 months into the future, let alone a hundred millenia. Do you honestly trust the government or any corporation to look that far into the future to ensure the safety of our descendants? There are also issues of safety regarding the possibility of meltdown, as well as security concerns in these days of global terrorism. Nuclear power is an option, but not one without significant consequences.

I agree ... sometimes environmentalists go too far. But it's also true, Mr. Widmer, that to minimize costs, industry often cuts corners to the detriment of human health and safety. China is now discovering the downside to their free-wheeling capitalism. They now face an environmental nightmare of toxic rivers, poisoned ground water and unbreathable air in many of their largest cities and industrial centers.

A Nov. 13 article in Time magazine entitled "Barely Breathing" quotes that 1000 Chinese die every day from the health consequences of air pollution. Chinese government officials recently banned all car traffic for several days in Beijing before the arrival of visiting dignitaries so that the air would be breathable and the skyline would actually be visible. The Chinese are desperately trying to get things livable for the 2008 Olympics.

Environmentalism has done a lot of good for this country, Mr. Widmer. Just step outside and take a deep breath - and be thankful that you still can without choking.

Merle Widmer said...

There are few black an whites on environmental issues. I oppose free wheeling capitalist systems anywhere in the world. I certainly consider myself an enviromentalist but a common sense one and would more carefully choose my battlegrounds than those rad enviros I occassionally encounter or read about. The value of moderate enviros is so great no value can be put upon their results.

As to the CO2, I take my info from those who are qualified and make a career out of the study and effects of pollutant emmisions.

A resonable assessment of the clean-energy business can be read in the Nov. 18 issue of The Economist in an article titled "Tilting at Windmills". The possiblity of $50 oil and ceaseation or unrelabilty of subsidies could change the markets considerably as politicaians come and go and the national debt continues to balloon.

It may be too many investors will over react rather than continue to move forward at a measured pace. We can always reduce our useage but we are a spoiled citizenry.

Too many "entrepenuers" are looking for the government to make them wealthy capitalists. Many of us call it socialism. Far different from a capitlist democracy where private investment and strong individualism under resonalbe regulation and resonable concern for the environment is what will keep this country ahead of mass polluters like the Chinese.

knight in dragonland said...

I'll take a look at the Economist article ... that's always been a favorite resource of mine.

There's been some exciting news on the energy front lately - a joint project funded by the U.S., E.U., Japan, South Korea, Russia, China & India to build a nuclear fusion reactor.