Thursday, May 25, 2006


Devastating analysis on ethanol

This guy is right on, except for allowing the ethanol coproducts to be counted as beneficial in the energy calculation:

If we're going to widen the analysis boundary to include the coproducts as a positive addition to the output of ethanol, then consistency requires that we look beyond the simple addition and consider the uses of those coproducts. 

The point being that dried distillers' grain (DDG)--the main coproduct that the ethanol lobby wants us to count--is used to prop up an insanely energy-wasteful system of beef production, which uses incredible amounts of grain and water for each kilo of beef product, which is then shipped incredible distances using petroleum products.  And the greenhouse gas contribution of beef cattle is anything but negligible: cows fed on grains fart and belch a LOT (just as you would if you were not being fed your natural diet staple), making a significant contribution to global methane production (20x more heat-trapping than an equal volume of CO2).

If you're not ready to add all that into your calculus to determine whether corn ethanol is beneficial or a net negative, then a rigorous analysis would exclude the DDG entirely.

Not to mention that corn is a voracious soil waster--probably the best thing one could do with corn ethanol coproducts is figure out how rapidly they can be reintroduced into the soil as a step toward preserving some of the tilth that corn destroys.

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