It's All Related!

The more I read about continuing research into alternative fuel sources, the more I'm tempted to make an entire series of blog posts entitled "Damned if we do, damned if we don't" because it seems to me that every time we make inroads into potential green fuel, we're flummoxed by yet another road block.

Take, for example, this article. It's been long thought that bioethanol (usually derived from corn) would be a great substitute to run our internal-combustion engines. It's cheap, clean and renewable, right? Apparently not.

First of all, according to studies done by scientists in the biofuel field, growing all the corn to produce the ethanol is actually jacking up food prices. Just like any other form of agriculture, the demand for corn will lead to extensive clear-cutting of forests to provide room for the fields (which is a whole other kettle of fish), and as far as cost goes...this is my favourite part.

Using computer-generated tests developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, scientists in the United Kingdom have generated a cost-to-benefit scale which places the total environmental cost of gasoline at 71 cents per gallon. The total cost of corn-based ethanol biofuel? 72 cents per gallon. On some level this is almost laughable (I mean, it's a cent!) but on the same token, multiply this number by a few billion per year, and suddenly that 1 cent difference becomes a difference of hundreds of thousands -- maybe millions -- of dollars. And that's an unflattering proposal for a biofuel that isn't all that efficient.

Happily, research in this field continues, and it's hoped the next generation of biofuels will be able to eliminate some of the negatives found in corn-ethanol, but once again we're getting pushed back down another rung in our climb towards a nature-friendly, efficient fuel source. It's disheartening -- but we can't give up just yet!

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