Apr 19, 2007

Corn ethanol: it really does suck

Grist lays it out on ethanol... 
"Yes, this is another bitter polemic against ethanol, but I want to make one point up front, because I sometimes forget to: The only concrete alternative energy/climate policy that our political class can agree on -- a plan that unites Democrats and Republicans to commit some $5 billion per year and rising -- is a clear and obvious boondoggle: a cash sieve that has done and will do much more harm than good."

This is our main public intervention into the energy markets on behalf of "alternative fuel"? The opportunity costs alone are staggering. Say what you want about Amtrak, but its annual federal budget amounts to about $1 billion per year. I suppose building out a woefully inadequate train system doesn't quite match the urgency of churning out flex-fuel Hummers and the like.

As for the grand hope of cellulosic ethanol, here's what the authors have to say:
The logistical difficulties and the costs of converting cellulose into fuel, combined with the subsidies and politics currently favoring the use of corn and soybeans, make it unrealistic to expect cellulose-based ethanol to become a solution within the next decade.
So cellulosic is ten years off -- not five, the timeframe its boosters have been flogging for the last, oh, 15 years.