Biggest Loser: Corn-Based Ethanol
By Thomas Ervin
Ethanol manufacturing from corn has been blamed on everything from food shortages in the third world to higher food prices in the west. You had to know that the arrival of corn-based ethanol was approaching. We now have some of the biggest names in the bankrupt biofuel industry. Additionally, there is a slowdown across the industry in new facility construction.
Not all corn ethanol problems are of your own invention. There has been a general economic slowdown. Credit, the life blood of economic growth and expansion, has become difficult for everyone. But corn-based ethanol has its own problems. For example, as the price of gasoline drops, the economic incentive to mix gas with ethanol decreases.
Not everyone believes that corn-based bulk ethanolis about to disappear. Some people are even investing in the development of technology to convert waste products from the conversion of ethanol into useful products such as corn oil. Additionally, corn-based ethanol has long been a favorite of liberal politicians and activists in the Midwest. Now that liberals control the government, they can increase government subsidies and mandates for corn-based ethanol.
However, corn-based ethanol has never been a particularly good idea. If you look at the examples of how other countries operate ethanol, you can see why the current US model is unlikely. USA Be a long-term winner. For example, Brazil produces ethanol from sugar cane. Chemically speaking, it's a quick, low-energy step from sugar to alcohol. Given the natural fermentation process, it ends up being a good fit.
When you make ethanol starting with corn, you are forced to convert starches into sugars. Then you can convert the sugars into ethanol. In other words, it takes more energy and more processing to convert corn to ethanol than converting sugar cane to ethanol. Also, we and our animals eat corn. If we continue to produce ethanol from corn, we will also keep food prices high in the United States and around the world. Imagine if we were inadvertently the cause of worldwide food riots.
Solar energy is a much better long-term alternative solution to our energy needs. Advances in efficiency and manufacturing will continue to be necessary, but solar energy has the long-term benefit of being truly renewable and sustainable. You don't have to worry about the year-to-year effects of crop yields, for example. The efficiency of converting sunlight into electricity is not yet where we need it to make solar energy a cornerstone of our energy infrastructure. And some of the manufacturing processes use harmful chemicals. However, I am convinced that our current level of technological research will eventually solve these problems.
There are those who promote wind energy as the wave of the future, but a detailed examination shows that to carry the electricity generated from wind energy from where it is created to where it will be used, the construction of an immense transmission line infrastructure is required. with It is a right-of-way problem. It appears that a great deal of investment and government spending is required to make wind power more of a reality and it is still unclear that much more than 5% of the energy we need as a nation can be generated through wind power. .
I have serious doubts about the idea that we could take our country out of salad dressings and hamburger fats. Yes, it is good that some cars can be modified so that they come out with the used kitchen grease. But I am pretty convinced that we are not about to get out of our energy problems.
In fact, I'm a bit more optimistic that we can get out of at least part of our energy problems. For example, some scientists are conducting detailed studies of the mechanisms behind photosynthesis with a view to using biological processes directly to do things like make hydrogen to power hydrogen cars. Others are looking at the use of biological waste such as changing the lawn to create ethanol. If microbes can be grown to eat the plants and produce alcohol, concerns about the amount of energy required to generate ethanol from starches would be greatly reduced. Also, making ethanol with things we don't eat is a great idea.