Clinton backs push to cellulosic ethanol

Bill Cliniton, sometime US president, has been talking at the National Clean Energy Summit, in Las Vegas, last night. According to earth2tech, in 10 Things the US Government should do for clean power he said:

We need to accelerate the move from corn-based ethanol to moresustainable biofuels. The conversion ratio is twice as good, but theenzyme process is twice as expensive. Many of the corn ethanol plantscan be easily modified to produce cellulosic ethanol from the waste offarm crops. We can’t continue to raise the price of food and skewproduction patterns. It seems worth it to have differential taxincentives to do this right.

We should consider doing a joint investment with Brazil, potentiallyin the Caribbean, which would import sugar cane-based ethanol into theU.S, but it would not be subject to the tax that is placed on the restof Brazilian ethanol. It might not be politically feasible, Clintonadded.

This is part of a speech for the audience, its unlikely, in my opinion, that it would be politically possible to import cheap ethanol to the US from Brazil, even if there was a joint project between the countries in a third Caribbean nation.

Clinton also sugests

Biofuels are also just a transition to electric and hybrid cars. Wehave this electric vehicle technology today, and it’s made in America.The technology would probably require larger tax credits, but it wouldbe worth it because the prices for electronics would immediately drop –think the iPhone or a flat screen TVs.

So the interest in Biofuels could only be there for the medium term. This idea is pretty much pie in the sky until battery technology improves and there is an environmentally acceptable carbon free route to electricity generation.

He doesn’t explicitly, according to this report, speak about the need for automotive efficiency, which is a missed opportunity.

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6 Responses to Clinton backs push to cellulosic ethanol

  1. NDN 19 August, 2008 at 4:30 pm #

    Bill Clinton is fundamentally wrong on getting away from corn-based ethanol. The U.S. has an abundance of corn and the technology on ethanol is improving everyday. I know it’s not perfect, but it’s not like we can run our 747′s on water tomorrow. Ethanol is the best option we have right now and we need to encourage more of it, not less.

  2. larry hagedon 19 August, 2008 at 8:31 pm #

    Now that is funny. Clinton is sure ignorant about bio-fuels.

    In fact bio-fuels are only a few of thousands of co-products also produced from the various bio-feedstocks. We make thousands of pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, human food, animal feed and other products from those various feedstocks, besides the many fuels.

    While we are at it we are beginning to use up and clean up our sewage, garbage, oil spills, chemical spills, old landfills, farm manure, road kill, packing house and cannery wastes, old computers and cell phones; cleaning up America and our streams and oceans while we are at it.

    I think we will keep on doing what we have begun. It is working just fine and turning pollution disasters into profit centers.

    larry hagedon

  3. Simon Robinson 20 August, 2008 at 9:24 am #

    That might be true in very local circumstances if you are making ethanol and delivering it locally. But there are issues of transportation, you don’t have an ethanol pipeline network in the US and, don’t look like getting one built soon. So you’ll have to rely on rail cars and trucks to get the stuff to market in the large population centres where it is needed. Each of which have environmental costs. Ethanol will only substitute a tiny proportion of the gasoline used in the US each year. You’ll take a good chunk of the corn crop to do it. If the US brings more land into corn production that will have implications for water resources and fertiliser use. Corn is a pay day loan, it might get you through the week-end but its no long term solution.

  4. Simon Robinson 20 August, 2008 at 9:44 am #

    If we can make biofuels from a range of wastes economically, that may be good for the environment. But you’ve got to remember that there will still be waste products from biofuels, even if they are made from waste themselves.

  5. NDN 20 August, 2008 at 5:17 pm #

    Simon said, “Corn is a pay day loan, it might get you through the week-end but its no long term solution.”

    Why so pessimistic? Technology will just keep getting better and more efficient as we keep using corn ethanol. In the short term, we need to ease gas prices. In the medium-to-long term, we need to be developing more sources on energy domestically.

    I see corn ethanol as a smart solution.

  6. Simon Robinson 21 August, 2008 at 10:00 am #

    Transportation, moisture absorption, irrigation requirements, fertilizer needs, short term destabilisation to global food markets — all of these are problems that I think need to be solved for corn ethanol. Additionally, corn ethanol can only meet a tiny amount of the ocean of fuel that the US consumes each year using conventional processes.
    That’s why I’m not convinced about corn ethanol. Technology will help to solve problems but it is probably not wise to rely on inventing your way out of a problem to a timetable.

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