The Ergosphere
Friday, July 01, 2005
 

THERE's a surprise

Researchers (including neither of the usual suspects, Pimentel and Patzek) have concluded that fuel ethanol is not worth the impacts of producing more of it, in either the United States or Brazil (!).  Article:  Physorg.

They produce an estimate of the energy payback from ethanol in the USA in the expected range:  about a 10% gain over the inputs.  This isn't anything like the return required to be worthwhile.

If we are really, really lucky, sanity just might prevail in the House-Senate conference committee handling the energy bill, and they'll get rid of all the ethanol subsidies and mandates.  And maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt.

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Comments:
I think ethanol subsidies are best understood as a disguised farm subsidy, rather than an energy program. This is similar to the light-truck CAFE loophole, which is best understood as a domestic auto industry subsidy (in a world where World Trade Organization limitations make direct subsidies very difficult), rather than an energy, transportation or safety related provision.
 
Which is why I think that they should be replaced by set-aside subsidies and payment to grain elevators to provide a buffer against unexpectely small harvests or high demand.

Paying farmers to produce excess corn so that we can pay again to turn it into motor fuel, paying a third time in bid-up prices for home-heating fuel and the like, is insane.
 
This film Destination Earth:
http://www.archive.org/details/Destinat1956
shows the official US Oil Industry attitude of 50 years ago. I will not even try to comment on it - just watch in amazement.
 
Ethanol is indeed not worth the effort. Biodiesel is. Biodiesel is already much cheaper than regular diesel. And it has an "EROEI" of 6 to 1. As you may know, new palm hybrids yield 60 barrels of oil per hectare. No other technology beats this.
 
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