Drunk on ethanol
Basing energy policy on corn could fuel a potential disaster.
August 20, 2007
'Gasoline is going -- alcohol is coming. And it's coming to stay, too, for it's in unlimited supply. And we might as well get ready for it now."
Those words might have come from President George W. Bush, or just about any member of the U.S. Congress, or every major presidential candidate from both parties. All are euphorically drunk on ethanol (a fancy name for grain alcohol), seen as the miracle fuel that will simultaneously solve our global warming problem and end our reliance on foreign oil. Actually, though, they were uttered by automotive pioneer Henry Ford nearly a century ago.
Ford might have been a visionary, but he was badly mistaken about ethanol. Unfortunately, so are Bush et al.
Alcohol is best taken in moderation, and that applies to cars as much as people. Ethanol isn't all hype -- it's a promising alternative fuel that could stretch gasoline supplies and cut emissions. But as politicians try to outdo one another by approving ever-bigger ethanol subsidies, production mandates and research grants, few are considering the environmental and economic effects of a massive, rapid rise in ethanol production. These are so severe that unless the mania ends soon, they could far outweigh any gains.
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