Wednesday, March 29, 2006

so green, you can taste it

Carbon cloud over a green fuel via FTW
Late last year in Goldfield, Iowa, a refinery began pumping out a stream of ethanol, which supporters call the clean, renewable fuel of the future.

There's just one twist: The plant is burning 300 tons of coal a day to turn corn into ethanol - the first US plant of its kind to use coal instead of cleaner natural gas.

An hour south of Goldfield, another coal-fired ethanol plant is under construction in Nevada, Iowa. At least three other such refineries are being built in Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota.

Everyone "knows" ethanol is green. GM is running desperation ads about their new whiskey slurping beaters, with fresh faced generation what? models talking earnestly about sunny days.

So practice your sneer.

"Bah -- they burn coal to make this stuff. It's disgusting."


At 7:23 PM, March 29, 2006, Blogger Bill said...

Hi Jon,
I have seen this in several places. No one ever says how much ethanol is being produced with that 300 tons of coal. Are we really gaining here? One writer I saw claimed that the greenhouse gas equation was probably a wash. What was saved by burning ethanol was added back by burning the coal to produce it. But what about the energy equation itself? Are we getting less net energy from the ethanol than we would get from the coal in the first place?

At 9:43 PM, March 29, 2006, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Thanks for the comment Bill. I am solidly in the camp of ethanol being an energy laundering scheme, a boondoggle, a way to degrade soil, a red flag waved in the face of reality.

I highlight the coal burning plants because it has sufficient eyeball pop to penetrate the skulls of people who aren't conversant with energy issues.

Most people would be shocked to learn that you need to burn coal (or something) to produce ethanol. It is a talking point, a wedge.

At 11:26 AM, April 16, 2006, Blogger microbrew79 said...

I think is is progress, though. The first post here said that the coal-burning refineriesw were the exeption; natural gas is usually used. Even where coal is used, at least is't being burned in Montana, where the population is not dense, and the air is less poluted. If that ethanol is sent to Phoenix and L.A., and burned by cars there, we have at least cleared the air some in those cities. Also, ethanol, regarless of the fuel burned to refine it, still reduces dependency of foriegn oil.


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