Saturday, March 25, 2006

Carbon cloud over a green fuel

The Christian Science Monitor has an article today thats shows what a waste this biomass energy program is.

An Iowa corn refinery, open since December, uses 300 tons of coal a day to make ethanol. Late last year in Goldfield, Iowa, a refinery began pumping out a stream of ethanol, which supporters call the clean, renewable fuel of the future.

There's just one twist: The plant is burning 300 tons of coal a day to turn corn into ethanol - the first US plant of its kind to use coal instead of cleaner natural gas.

An hour south of Goldfield, another coal-fired ethanol plant is under construction in Nevada, Iowa. At least three other such refineries are being built in Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota.

The trend, which is expected to continue, has left even some ethanol boosters scratching their heads. Should coal become a standard for 30 to 40 ethanol plants under construction - and 150 others on the drawing boards - it would undermine the environmental reasoning for switching to ethanol in the first place, environmentalists say.

"If the biofuels industry is going to depend on coal, and these conversion plants release their CO2 to the air, it could undo the global warming benefits of using ethanol," says David Hawkins, climate director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington. Read it all


Anonymous ManyMoose said...

We have to start converting from petroleum some where, and first starts typically are not too efficient. But if you don't make the first start, when DO you make a change?

The Natural Resources Defense Council needs to come up with some solutions, because from here it looks like they are part of the problem.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Bill Millan said...

Oil's fungible. Doesn't make any difference whither we produce it here or buy it from Venezula, it will cost us the same. What we need to do is make it as profitable as possible for our oil companies to find more of it. The more they find, the lower and more stable the price.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Mark in Texas said...

I am personally more concerned with the vulnerability of the US economy to events in the Mid East due to our dependance on petroleum.

Coal is the right economic choice for ethanol plants right now because the environmentalists have made it the wrong choice for any new build electric power plant. That is why coal is relatively cheap and natural gas is relatively expensive.

I want to see the United States get the infrastructure in place to where we could operate most of our transportation fleet even if terrorists blow up the Saudi Ras Tanura terminal.

Hawaii could revive its moribund sugar industry with ethanol and it would make a lot more economic sense to burn the bagasse for fuel the way they do in Brazil. Actually the Brazillians burn the gas to generate electricity and use the waste heat from the power plants to distill the ethanol.

In the long run the US and Europe would wind up importing a lot of our transportation energy even if most cars used the E85 blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. The difference is that we would be importing a lot of ethanol from Africa and less petroleum from Russia and the Middle East.

Then the ethanol producers and the petroleum producers could compete on price for market share.

12:28 PM  

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