Blog Action Day - The Enviroment

Well today is October 15th, 2007, and as you can tell from the topic it is Blog Action day, a day when bloggers all over the web will unite to discuss one important issue in the hopes of bringing attention to the topic and with any luck bring about some change. This years topic is the environment, a topic we have heard a lot about on the campaign trail and on T.V.

I know there has been a lot of buzz about E85 ethanol and the benefits it provides for a clean renewable energy. What many people don't realize is that the effect that the manufacturing of this fuel has on the environment. E85 ethanol is made from corn which can be grown in a variety of locations, the problem however, is that the process of growing the corn requires lots of fertilizers and pesticides that can pollute our waterways and cause a significant negative effect on the ecosystem.

So what does that leave us?

Cellulosic ethanol is the answer, it is made from plants that are easy to grow and require a minimal amount of fertilizer or pesticides to maintain. Not only that, but the plants grow rapidly and will be fairly easy to maintain once they are widely accepted, not to mention they are not a food source and unlike corn, a commercial adoption will not drive up food costs.

So what's the problem?

Bugs, more accurately the cost of the bugs that break down the plants into a usable material. The science is there and the technology is there, the money, however, has just started to come in for developing a process that can be cheaply used to mass produce fuel from these plants.

Once again the almighty dollar takes center stage over what the morale thing to do is. That's a touchy word I know, what is morale? Who gets to decide? The simple answer is, the majority of a civilized society decides what is morale for them. This is a sensitive subject better discussed in a separate entry.

Closing, what we need are a few people with some really deep pockets who are willing to put whats right ahead of whats profitable.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but "people with really deep pockets" -- unless you mean the government -- are not likely to invest in an ethanol feedstock that would cost (conservatively) four times as much as corn ethanol does today, only to end up with a product (ethanol) exactly the same as ethanol made from corn, sugar cane, etc.

Finding a way to break down the cellulose into sugars and starches is only one of the challenges faced by cellulosic ethanol -- another is HOW the huge quantities of grasses would be transported for refining. Corn kernnels are energy-dense and easy to transport. Tons and tons of grass are not.

I agree with you that cellulosic ethanol has promise, but to over-hype a product and process that does not yet exist is repeating the same mistake many corn ethanol supports made years ago. Let's hope the breakthroughs are made soon and I'm proven wrong.

We can't afford to stop trying, or to go crawling back to the oil barrel in failure.

Bob Moffitt
Communications Director
Clean Fuels & Vehicle Technologies
American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest