Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Problem of Ethanol

It is a conundrum this ethanol. On the one hand, we know that gasoline made from oil, a finite resource, has a limited life. Once the oil runs out, no more gasoline. And as well, it pollutes the air with greenhouse gases, particulates, and cough-inducing pollution. Although ethanol-laced gasoline is supposed to produce the same emissions as regular gasoline -- not surprising since the ethanol content is so low, what else did the researchers expect? -- ethanol fuel is supposed to emit way less pollution, and it comes from a renewable resource: sugar cane for Brazilian cars, corn for North American.

On the other hand, it's been reported that the increased demand for ethanol has meant that there's less corn to feed the cows and people, as it's being diverted to feed our cars. This increased demand is a drop in the tank compared to what will happen if cars here convert to 100% ethanol. Then one wonders if we'll see houses razed to develop corn fields. And, as well, some researchers claim that ethanol raises the ozone levels (at ground level one presumes where one does not want it).

So what is an asthmatic environmentalist to do? Well, not much right now, as despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent announcement, ethanol isn't going to be a major car fuel source anytime soon. But in the long run, which technology should one back? Ethanol, hybrid, hydrogen fuel cells, electricity? It's a toughie.


Saskboy said...

We need a combination of ethanol, bio diesel, and much more efficient engines. Whereever we can't use electrice, we should be using ethanol, but it ought to be a non-vehicle [grass cutter], or a super-mileage car.

talk talk talk said...

I'd forgotten about biodiesel. I haven't heard anything against this alternative, and being diesel it goes farther than gasoline or gas alternatives.

Speaking of non-vehicle use, is there ANY way to create quiet leaf blowers?

Mark Dowling said...

I'm not convinced of the benefits of ethanol but if we want some we should be building an ethanol facility in Cuba - they have closed loads of sugar facilities (from 170 to 70 or so) and thus with some assistance from Brazil (who also produce ethanol from cane) we could have tankers heading north, infuriating the anti-Castro-ites who watch them sail past Florida.

As for quiet leaf blowers - I've heard teenagers suggested.

talk talk talk said...

That's a good idea Mark, would certainly solve the corn shortage problem and help the Cubans. LOL@ infuriating the anti-Castro-ites!

I like teenagers myself for cleaning up the garden, I just wish others would too. It's the hired gardeners who are the worst at using those noisy blowers.