Friday, June 23, 2006

Ethanol Wars

A CNN article with a new take on Ethanol -- according to the article, the adoption of ethanol is a foregone conclusion, and the only debate is over what it will be made from. The most straightforward answer -- sugar -- is apparently complicated by subsidies and the corn lobby, which make it too expensive to import sugar (it competes with high fructose corn syrup. If you wonder why every soft drink and candy bar contains it, that's why).

But corn is not efficient to use as a fuel. It's a high-maintenence crop -- you burn around a gallon of ethanol to create a gallon of corn ethanol to the pump.

So companies are looking into other ways to produce ethanol. Importing refined sugar ethanol from Brazil is one possibility, but might run afoul of the corn lobby, again. The big-bet alternative seems to be making ethanol from the non-edible portions of plants (or non-edible plants). This is where the President's oddball comment about "switchgrass" in his state-of-the-union address comes from.

Also interesting is that the increased ethanol content in new gasoline has apparently doubled the price of fuel-grade ethanol.

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