Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Ethanol may complicate climate legislation

Now that I've returned my attention to ethanol fuel at the local level, I find lots of E85 news at the national level.

Jennifer Lance writes June 8 about ethanol and H.R. 2454, a.k.a. the American Clean Energy And Security Act of 2009 (aka Waxman-Markley) on http://redgreenandblue.org/. The bill is designed “to create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy.” One of its goals is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

Republicans will vote against it because that is what they do in 2009. But Democrats from farm states are expected to water down the legislation to protect ethanol. Not sure how Wyoming's Cynthia Lummis will vote on this, but I can guess. I looked at her Congressional web site for info but couldn't find any. I did read a piece recently that quoted her saying that the U.S. needs to look at all forms of energy to meet its short-term needs. She specifically referred to oil, gas, coal and wind, but she may also have said something about ethanol (I'll keep searching). We are not a corn state, but we do grow some and there are at least two ethanol plants in the state.

In her article, Jennifer Lance provides a pragraph that sums up the current state of ethanol:

Ethanol is big political business in farm country. Ethanol is an alternative biofuel that can be made from corn, sugar cane, or switchgrass. In fact, Henry Ford’s first mass-produced automobile was designed to run off of 100% ethanol, so the fuel has a long history in the car industry. When added to gasoline, ethanol reduces ozone formation by lowering volatile organic compounds and hydrocarbon emissions. This all sounds good, but there is controversy surrounding corn-based ethanol. Michael Grunwald of Time reports that one person could be fed for a year “on the corn needed to fill an ethanol-fueled SUV”. Some research demonstrates that the production of corn ethanol consumes more energy than it yields, and there is concern that corn-based ethanol is raising the price of food, although the USDA denies the increase is significant. Other concerns surrounding ethanol include antibiotic overusage in its production and its heavy water footprint.

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