Ethanol, the Cornucopea?

As oil depletion bangs at our doors, as we desperately hunt for new sources of energy in other continents, natural gas seems to be the next revolution because of its enormous reserves and liquefaction possibility. So why are ethanol plants retrograding to the 19th century industrial model of development?

Why, Got Coal Plants, appears to be the leit-motiv in Iowa’s next step to nowadays so-called green-conscious behavior? The contradiction ignites my dilemna.

Isn’t the “greenier greeness” collective movement aiming at cleaner methods of production reducing either the dependency on fossil fuels, either the emissions of CO2 in the atmosphere?

The “uomo economicus” sardonically explains their choice by the organic and diet effect on companies’ budget. Since the United States disposes of 25% of the world coal reserves, its abundance in the soil and its stable price make it definitely attractive to the eyes of the investors. Its disadvantages, an arsenal of polluants from the sulfuric dioxide to arsenic! Do we have to take this data into consideration?

Let’s be realistic!

Ethanol is tomorrow’s gas, it will fuel the American economy as it does for Brazil. For 29 years now, Brazil is the biggest sugar cane producing country. Its ethanol exportations reach 100 million gallons per year at 54 cents per gallon. Given that California burnt alone 900 million gallons last year, isn’t it a potential and lucrative market?

Brazil did not take any risk, it adapted its abundant production (sugar cane) to its increasing demand (gasoline). The result a gasoline sugar cane-based, its hydrous ethanol fuel consequently fueled four million cars and allowed simultaneously Brazil to cut oil imports by a total of US $50 billion between 1975 and 2002. Non negligible, isn’t it?

Now imagine the US, leader with its 9.5 billion bushels of corn, that is to say 40% of the world production focusing in expanding the corn belt, and a gasoline corn-based, the cornucopia for chameleon-like farmers! Only shadow in this ideal horizon, the inflation that may occur with the increase of corn demand!

How long will it take the US to adapt? To annihilate the brazilian ethanol invoice? To diminish the oil imports? To impose its hegemony through a mass production ethanol or a low price policy? To conquer China (energy dependent)? China to adapt? To develop a rice-based ethanol? Etcetera…A vicious circle.

Meanwhile coal plants will mushroom! Isn’t it the “pretium doloris” for energy independence?

1 comment for “Ethanol, the Cornucopea?

  1. myagito
    September 24, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Good post! The Ethanol sector will also consolidate here in the U.S. and I think that will create more efficiency.

Leave a Reply