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[E]xciting developments in the conversion of agricultural, forestry, and urban wastes to methanol and other liquid and gaseous fuels now offer practical, economically interesting technologies sufficient to run an efficient U.S. transport sector. The required scale of organic conversion can be estimated. Each year the U.S. beer and wine industry, for example, microbiologically produces 5 percent as many gallons (not all alcohol, of course) as the U.S. oil industry produces gasoline. Gasoline has 1.5 to 2 times the fuel value of alcohol per gallon. Thus a conversion industry roughly ten to fourteen times the physical scale (in gallons of fluid output per year) of U.S. cellars and breweries, albeit using different processes, would produce roughly one-third of the present gasohol requirements of the United States….The scale of effort required does not seem unreasonable.br> In other words, since beer and wine were already one-twentieth the volume of our gasoline, a reasonable expansion of distilleries could supply us with one-third of our transportation needs. Unfortunately, this analysis contained a single oversight that has bedeviled biofuels ever since.
Notice that while Lovins estimated the size of the distilling industry, he never mentions the amount of land required to produce the crops. Hops and vineyards currently occupy 40 million acres of farmland. Using Lovins’ figure of “roughly ten to fourteen times the scale,” that gives us 480 million acres — more than all of U.S. cropland put together.
Lovins also made a mistake. Although he mentioned that beer and wine are “not all alcohol,” he forgot to factor this into the final equation. Wine is 12 percent alcohol and beer is about 5 percent, so let’s take 7 percent as an average. This means we must again multiply those 480 million acres by a factor of fourteen. That leaves us with 6.5 billion acres - three times the area of the United States, including Alaska — in order to produce one-third of our transportation fuel needs in 1977. On this fatal error was the entire U.S. ethanol industry built.p>Writing in the Washington Post in 2006, James Jordan and James Powell, two former enthusiasts of biofuels at Brooklyn’s Polytechnic University, showed that the numbers have hardly changed: br> /p>
It’s difficult to understand how advocates of biofuels can believe they are a real solution to kicking our oil addition….[T]he entire U.S. corn crop would supply only 3.7 percent of our auto and truck transport demands. Using the entire 300 million acres of U.S. cropland for corn-based ethanol production would meet about 15 percent of demand….And the effects on land and agriculture would be devastating.br> Oblivious to these concerns in 1979, Carter and Congress rushed ahead and exempted all biofuels from federal gasoline taxes. Farmers and agricultural conglomerates leaped to the bait. Archer Daniels Midland (56th on the Fortune 500) now produces 1.6 billion gallons a year, 20 percent of U.S. ethanol production.
More than 25 percent of American corn is now being refined into ethanol. This has diverted corn from other uses, mainly animal feed. As a result, milk prices jumped 33 percent in 2007. Yet all this effort is replacing less than 2 percent of our oil consumption.
EVEN AS THIS STAMPEDE into ethanol took shape, no one ever bothered to determine whether biofuels were saving any energy. Contemporary corn requires huge inputs from fertilizer and irrigation. Distillation is also energy intensive. Ordinarily, prices would inform us whether anything was being accomplished. But price signals have been overridden since 1979.
Instead, there is the “battle of the studies,” in which various scientific groups — some overtly political — try to prove on paper whether energy is gained or lost. Although some investigators have claimed that corn ethanol loses energy, the consensus seems to be that there is a modest gain of about 10 percent.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online