While I do live in a state that produces a lot of corn and have several friends and neighbors who raise corn and I do know different individuals who have been very close to the forefront of ethanol production I do have to agree with doing away with the subsidies.However, I would rather see the focus on reducing the subsidies for corn.I do not have the numbers, however, I would venture our government spends way more dollars artificially raising the price of corn than it does lowering the price of ethanol.
It really just goes to show the effectiveness of our government officials who artificially raise the price of corn which goes into a product which they have to artificially lower the price of.
As for the future of ethanol, my belief is that is lies in development of the ethanol coming from switchgrass or possibly corn stalks.This technology is just really starting to gain some ground on the research side.But imagine being able to use the corn stalk and the corn in order to produce ethanol.Further, understand how much more input product there would be available if the stalks can be used.
I think this technology is just a few years away and the logistics of it could be even further.But I think we are foolish to not continue to pursue these opportunities.
I totally agree with the premise - it is time to start getting rid of the corn/ethonol subsidy. It was a bad idea to start with with - the only valid reason for this otherwise bad idea was to promote research, with a limited time window, into ways to economically produce gasoline suppliments from althernative sources (e.g. switch grass). The ethanol industry failed in that regard - time to start to phase out external financial (e.g. government grants and mandates) support and let the market determine success or failure. I would suggest that the phase out period should be 2 to 3 years. I will also predict that, for now, this idea just won't make it.
It's an encouraging sign that we can finally get back to some common sense to how we use our land - food like corn should be grown to feed people and animals - not to feed cars. Also, the poorer countries and their people should be better off without our politicians artificially raising the price of corn which is such an important food to so many people. The decades of wasteful government interfence may finally come to an end - now that's enthusiastic!
It's one thing if the government promotes the development of new technologies (for example, developments out of the JPL that were then licensed / shared with industry). It's quite another for government dollars going to artificially create a market by basically paying people to use those technologies. Cutting the ethanol subsidies is a good place to start and there is a long way to go.
Ethanol's value is questionable. There's debate among experts as to how much fossil fuel is needed to create a gallon of ethanol. One expert -- David Pimentel of Cornell University -- argues that at least one gallon of fossil fuel is burned in order to make each gallon of ethanol. Some say it's less than that. Either way, the value is debatable. See excerpt from 2008 Design News article below:
"Most experts estimate it takes 1 gallon of fossil fuel to create 1.3 gallons of corn-based ethanol, but a few have claimed the process burns more energy than it creates. 'Most estimates leave out the energy from farm labor, the energy to make and manufacture the tractor and the energy required for irrigation,' says David Pimentel, a Cornell University entomology professor and a former consulting ecologist to the White House staff (http://rbi.ims.ca/5719-562)."
Killing the biofuel subsidies may be a good start in taking on the debt problem, but I hope the notion doesn't kill the enthusiasm around trying to engineer and innovate new sources of energy. Innovation, around alternative fuel or otherwise, is always a series of iterations and tradeoffs that in hindsight, don't always turn out to cost competitive or effective. We need to walk that line between recognizing when an idea is a bust and be fiscally responsible, yet still keep the engineering spirit moving forward to find the right solution to the problem. It's a tricky balancing act, no doubt.
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