Combustion is the culprit — Ethanol is not a cure
Most of our air pollution is produced by internal combustion engines — trucks, trains, pumps
and autos burning gasoline. Now we are being hyped to embrace ethanol made from plants,
mainly corn. As cleaner, more efficient and independent from oil, but  ethanol production
actually uses 70% more energy than is in it...
And ethanol is still internal combustion... And it still pollutes.

 Here’s what some University of Minnesota researchers found about ethanol:
“Compared with gasoline, it produces 12% less "greenhouse" gasses linked to global
warming, according to the study. But the researchers also said it has environmental
drawbacks, including "markedly greater" releases of nitrogen, phosphorous and
pesticides into waterways as runoff from corn fields. Ethanol, especially at higher
concentrations in gasoline, also produce more smog-causing pollutants than gasoline
per unit of energy burned.”
Read a longer report here.

Ethanol production and use is a net loss of energy

David Pimental, a leading Cornell University agricultural expert, has calculated that
powering the average U.S. automobile for one year on ethanol (blended with gasoline)
derived from corn would require 11 acres of farmland, the same space needed to grow
a year's supply of food for seven people. Adding up the energy costs of corn production
and its conversion into ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make one gallon of ethanol.
One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTUS. Thus, 70 percent more
energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in it. Every time you
make one gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 BTUs.
See longer storyCombustion is the culprit — Ethanol is not a cure.

So.... We should be talking about reducing combustion like in hybrid, electric or
fuel cell cars. With Ethanol we are just trading one centralized, inefficient,
resource that even relies on the original nonrenewable, oil (also coal), to
produce it. Ethanol is like whistling in the dark.

See comments from a couple readers and SunMt’s response


from David Crabtree:
Hi.  Good info.  Any idea of the net loss of energy in the production of gasoline? 
What about the ratio of energy production/loss of photovoltaic cells?  And what
about the production related polution of these forms of energy? 
 
Much of the difficulty in being a responsible consumer is getting straight answers
with real comparisons to make infomred choices - assuming the choices are
actually real. 
 
Sustainability and real cost issues are important.  Politics, and the associated
power struggle for dominance and survival, provides a spin (or several) that
seems to get in the way of reliable info.
 
Have you read "The Soul of Money" ?  Good story.  Very hopeful and optimistic. 
Not sure of its validity from a planetary point of view.  As human nature expresses
itself (and evolves?) the direction wer are headed often seems the natural progression. 
 
What about  the notion of "The Hundreth Monkey"?  Given that the largest  group of
people on this planet are of a different level of access than the resource hungry North
American and European consumer, what must their perspective be such that the humans
on this planet continue on the path of self-destruction?
 
Good to get your mail.
 
Just some thoughts.  I find it only gets harder to make good choices


from Jane Yett:
With all due respect for all the positive work you do, I quote you here:

So.... We should be talking about reducing combustion like in hybrid,
electric or fuel cell cars.


"Duh!" -- to quote my teenage son.

We should be talking about conservation, our largest, cheapest, least polluting
"source" of energy. Most of us don't need to drive so much, so fast. Some of us
can bike or walk. Many of us could use public transportation, especially if it were
there to use. Many of us could learn to travel fewer miles and still live well.
Conservation uses no corn, uses no acres of fertile soil, wastes no irreplaceable
topsoil, uses no pesticides, causes no damage to water sources, creates less smog,
fewer greenhouse gases, less ozone depletion, and more. Conservation probably
would contribute to an increase in  public health via more exercise and cleaner
environments, and an increase in social contact across communities, via public transit.

We would need to give up a measure of personal comfort, convenience, and efficiency
in getting from place to place. Those have been the gains that now threaten to destroy
our way of life, and to give us, not too long in the future, a profound loss of all that
comfort, convenience, efficiency, plus shifts in weather and climate patterns, food
production stability, species depletion - maybe even our own species, and
more catastrophes.

Again, your quote:

So.... We should be talking about reducing combustion like in hybrid, electric or
fuel cell cars.

But electricity is generated largely by fossil fuels as well. Conservation is key.
It's not the whole picture, but it needs to be a major part of the picture.

Smiling seriously,

Your ally in peace and kindness for all,.


SunMt’s response:
Whatever we do is some kind of compromise especially when we’re dealing with
the internal combustion engine and its possible replacements or complements like the
hybrid car which does have the virtue of generating some of its own power.

Even conservation is a compromise. But we must do this dance if our race is to survive
on this earth.

Beyond THE engine there are many almost totally uncompromising dances we can do.

SunMt gets all of its hot water between May and November from a passive solar water
made essentially from discarded regular water 40-gallon water tanks. See.

In summer months we cook in a solar oven, small insulated box. See.

We have an indoor composting toilet which uses NO water. See.

We have a few other living habits which we billed as “Fighting Terrorism at Home,”
but also are effective dances to cool Big Mama. See them here and here.