Grow the damn corn for fuel
With gas prices heading skyward again and troops dying to protect access to a steady supply of oil for our SUV-driving nation, where is the real plan to reduce our consumption of it?
The other day I was watching CNN, and saw a clip from a segment of Powering the planet by Frank Sesno, a look at the dependency of the U.S. on a resource that guides our economic and foreign policy in ways the average consumer who tanks up never thinks about.
This was, to be honest, simply a different kind of journalism. I’ve never done anything quite like it. It was time travel, globe-trekking and fact-checking all rolled into one. It was about oil and our addiction to it, how we keep it flowing and what happens if the supply is interrupted. At every turn, I discovered something new and saw the complexity and the global nature of it all.
…Are there alternatives? Yes, and I saw one of them in the most surprising place I visited: Brazil, where sugar cane covers millions of acres. “A green ocean” was how my Brazilian host described it. About half of it becomes sugar. The other half becomes ethanol for cars and trucks. “Alcool” was sold at every gas station I saw. It is cheaper than gasoline and when you fill the tank, it smells like molasses.
The real eye-opener: The car I drove, a made-in-Brazil Chevrolet, was a ‘flex fuel’ vehicle that can run on either gasoline or ethanol. Three quarters of the cars sold in Brazil are now flex fuel vehicles.
And an astounding 40 percent of the transportation fuel used in Brazil is ethanol. Brazilians say within the next year, they won’t need to import a drop of oil. Independence. One official who was in on the ethanol program in its earliest days 30 years ago smiled impishly and told me, “We won.”
In the U.S., ethanol represents only 3 percent of the fuel we burn.
Someone who knows more about this please explain to me — why can’t we do this? We have millions of acres of land that could be used to grow corn, which can also be used to produce ethanol. What is the problem, aside from the obvious one — Big Oil has the most to lose, and thus any change in the current source of fuel will happen at a glacier’s pace — if at all — because of the political power that lobby has.
Talk about an easy way to support farming, reduce time, money and the lives of troops worrying about power plays, terrorism and creating political chaos in the oil states of the Middle East.
It’s another example of our elected leadership continuing to fail us over and over as they whore themselves out to the lobbyists instead of acting in the best interests of the country. Crap, it’s the sheeple’s fault as well, putting oil men in the damn White House.
Some facts about ethanol:
* Ethanol is a renewable, environment-friendly oxygenate prepared from corn that biodegrades quickly in water.
* The Southwest Research Institute determined that a new blend of ethanol and diesel fuel can reduce particulate matter emissions by as much as 41%, nitrogen oxides by as much as 5% and carbon monoxide by 27%.
* Ethanol reduces carbon monoxide emissions by 22% more than any other transportation fuel.
* Ethanol fuels reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming by approximately 40%.
* Ethanol enhances engine performance by increasing octane and raising oxygen levels, cleaning and preventing engine deposits, and acting as a gas-line antifreeze.
Hat tip, Susan.