The Berkeleyan, has, I notice, an article on the pros and cons of ethanol as a fuel... Is it a useful alternative while other technologies ramp up? Or do its costs already exceed its potential payoff?
In this welter weight contest we have: in the red corner, Dan Kammen, The Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy and in the blue corner, Tad Patzek, professor of civil and environmental engineering:
Quoting from the Berkeleyan
Kammen's latest research shows that corn-derived ethanol — produced from the U.S. corn crop through an expensive and resource-intensive process that uses just the corn kernel — saves significantly on gas but reduces greenhouse-gas emissions only by about 15%.
My feeling is that Patzek , although less favourable than Kammen is perhaps more realistic in his view that Ethanol is probably not going to help the world much. Then I'm a pessimist who hopes for the best, not an optimist who expects the worst. Let's get that straight.
"Biofuels will not solve existing problems with automotive fuels," Patzek says, "but they will increase the rate at which we burn natural gas and coal while adding to CO2 emissions."
He also takes a wider view on the environmental impact of biofuels aside from the win of burning carbon that has been fixed from atmospheric carbon dioxide, all views that have been expressed in this blog.
Growing fuel crops of any kind strains the water supply, he adds, and is accelerating the collapse of the Midwestern-prairie-soil, tropical-forest, and savannah ecosystems through soil erosion, overuse, and land reclamation.
Biofuels would not be viable, without the generous federal subsidies that have cost U.S. taxpayers $144 billion in the last 10 years and end up lining the pockets of investors in agribusiness giants like Archer Daniels Midland, the leading U.S. ethanol producer.
US taxpayers pay twice for ethanol: first through crop subsidies to corn farmers, and again in a 51-cent subsidy on every gallon of corn-derived ethanol sold as fuel. Even worse, Patzek says, policymakers and drivers are being lulled into a sense of false comfort by what they think is the magic bullet of biofuels.
Is he too depressing? Is there any truth in his assertions? let me know