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Monday, December 10, 2007

Ethanol is NOT the Answer

Virtually every day I watch television I see a Chevrolet commercial that advertises their flex fuel technology. Recently, my car was in for repairs and I was given an Impala as a loaner car. I have heard rumors that ethanol does not yield as much miles per gallon as regular gasoline. When it was time to fill up I used regular gas for the first tank, and ethanol the second time. Not to my surprise, I got about 20 percent less miles out of ten gallons of ethanol than I did with regular gas.

Currently, the House is considering passing an energy bill that requires a major increase in the amount of ethanol and other biofuels. “The move is supported by environmentalists, who say biofuels generate about 20 percent less greenhouse gasses than fossil-based fuels like gasoline. Corn farmers and the ethanol industry are obviously on board” (Hargreaves). I found this particularly interesting being that my fuel economy suffered by about 20 percent when using ethanol (I drove fairly conservatively on both tanks, and did little highway driving). If we have to use 20 percent more ethanol to drive the same amount of miles we would with regular gas, doesn’t that negate the alleged 20 percent decrease in harmful emissions?

In addition to the fuel economy and pollution issue, the increased use of ethanol and other biofuels will most certainly affect the prices of relevant food products (chicken, pork, beef, etc.). A department of energy engineer quoted as saying "Up to 15 billion gallons [of ethanol] probably would not impact food prices significantly” (Hargreaves). The problem here is that of a value judgment. How does this guy define significantly?

The problem with ethanol and other biofuels is that they still do not provide a solution to the long term issue of depletion of fossil fuels. Even these biofuels must be mixed with regular gasoline in order to work. Rather than making such a huge deal about short term solutions to the gasoline issue, the government should focus on sources of energy that will lead us away from our dependence on fossil fuels. If Houses passes this bill, there will be no gains. The only thing that will happen is a nice juicy steak at the Texas Roadhouse will cost more.

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