Straight talk on Ethanol
Let me get something out there right off the bat. Ethanol will never totally satisfy America's appetite for fuel. It won't even come close. In fact, if it ever reached the 15-20% mark of our total fuel needs, then I would be completely surprised. The critics who bemoan ethanol don't have the mental capacity to see this. Instead of looking at the big picture, they would rather cry out loud that ethanol is a waste of resources for this reason or that.
The price of food is too high now... cause… ethanol.
Farmers are plowing up too much land.. cause.. ethanol.
Water aquifers are drying up.. cause.. ethanol.
None of these excuses hold much merit. First off, the left over material from the corn that is used to make ethanol with is eventually resold as feed. Most responsible farmers rotate their crops every year and very rarely plow up additional land mainly because there are many subsidies out there to apply for that keep them having to do that. Water aquifers have been in trouble for a long period of time and has nothing to do with increased production of corn but rather a misuse of irrigating practices and growing city populations.
Right now, America imports somewhere between 55-60% of its oil needs (a third of which comes from the volatile Middle East). This number has continued to grow since the early part of last century. For the first time we have a chance to stop this increasing number. The renewable fuels that are popping up everywhere are one sensible domestic answer that doesn't disrupt our comfortable lives too much.
Why pooh-pooh that? It doesn't make any sense. Sure, ethanol is not the total answer, especially corn ethanol. Even if we turned over all the farms in America to growing corn for ethanol, which is a ridiculous thought, and stopped exporting 20% of each years crop yields, we would still need to import almost 45% of our oil needs. There are better crops for ethanol like switch grass, which has the potential to yield almost eight times more fuel per acre than corn, but again, it's not a cure all... but it's a start and it is attracting a lot of smart people and entrepreneurs into the field.
And that is a good thing. Don't put it down. Embrace it. It's better than importing more oil from the Middle East. Anything is better than importing more oil from the Middle East even if it's not the cure all end product. Heck, we can import ethanol from friendlier places like Brazil. Also, did you know that the big oil companies had profits of over $135 billion this past fiscal year? At any rate, there has to be a process by which we move from one antiquated fuel to another future fuel. Ethanol and other renewable fuels is that process.
Where it leads only time will tell.