Thursday, November 29, 2007

More bad news about ethanol

American Enterprise Institute and Brookings weigh in:
If annual production increases by three billion gallons in 2012 -- a plausibly modest number when the EPA made its own calculations -- we estimate that the costs will exceed the benefits by about $1 billion a year. If domestic production reaches the more "optimistic" Energy Department projection for that year, net economic costs would likely top $2 billion annually.

Our analysis is deliberately weighted to give ethanol the benefit of a doubt. For example, we assume that, on balance, ethanol from corn reduces greenhouse emissions, even though recent science suggests that substituting ethanol for gasoline might actually have a negative impact (it increases emissions of nitrous oxide, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). Ethanol distilled from grasses and waste materials has a better environmental payoff, but has much higher direct production costs.


  1. Let's assume for a second that bio-fuels actually offer a semi-legit fuel alternative, which given the research numbers presented looks dubious. Why over complicate the matter by trying to develop our own from scratch? It seems that one of the few things the Brazilians have done half-way well is to develop a domestic industry that converts their excess sugar into combustible fuel to operate their vehicles. I guess they have several decades of experience in this matter. Perhaps it would be more efficient to actually learn the details of the Brazilian model to see if its feasible rather than embrace the ethanol scam for the sake of appearing politically correct and being trendy. The more one reads about ethanol, the more one realizes what a lame idea it actually is.

  2. Agreed, except for the fact that Brazil has a little secret. In order to meet the global supply that they have generated for ethanol, they are carving further and further into the Amazon Rain Forest. In fact, Pres. Lula has given authorization to construct the Trans-Amazonian Highway, a highway that carve directly through the center of the forest almost the entire length of the country. After the construction of the Trans-Amazonian highway, Brazilian deforestation has accelerated to levels never before seen and vast swaths of forest are being cleared for subsistence farmers and cattle-ranching schemes. The primary lobbyists of this plan: commercialized soy-growers and ranchers. Despite attempts to restrict construction, powerful lobbyists are resorting murdering the outspoken opponenets, a common practice in developing nations. See Reuters Article "A Brazilian rancher who ordered the murder of U.S.-born nun and human rights activist Dorothy Stang in a land dispute in the Amazon rain forest was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 years in prison." (Tue May 15, 2007) We have a long way to go before we find easy fixes such as ethanol to resolve our increasing demand for energy in the world.