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Urging Congress to Cancel the Ethanol Tariff 569

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the falling-on-deaf-ears dept.
reporter writes "The Wall Street Journal is urging Washington to discard the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol. This tariff is effectively a subsidy for corn-based ethanol produced in the USA. Yet, producing ethanol from corn is highly inefficient and consumes 1 unit of energy for each 1.3 units of energy that burning ethanol provides. By contrast, ethanol derived from sugarcane (which is the sole source of ethanol in Brazil) yields 8.3 units of energy. Sugercane is about 7 times more efficient than corn. Some studies even show that corn yields only 0.8 unit of energy, resulting in a net loss of energy."
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Urging Congress to Cancel the Ethanol Tariff

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  • Energy efficiency (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aglassis (10161) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @05:14AM (#15291710)
    I'm not too impressed by arguments that say that energy efficiency is the only reason that ethanol or biodiesel can't work. Even if they consume more energy to produce than they make, they are still very useful for one major reason: they are easily transportable. If I can make electricity at $0.07 per KWh at a coal or nuclear plant and make it into a much more valuable transportable energy source via the ethanol or biodiesel route, then I may come out ahead even after the energy losses. Coal and nuclear power are cheap. Gasoline isn't.

    Of course, I should mention, you probably shouldn't be running your tractors and other equipment that you use to harvest the corn or other agricultural product with oil or ethanol. That doesn't work. It only works if you have a mostly electrical system. I wonder if there are any major piece of agricultural equipment that can be set up to "run from the grid" in a sense. Like big batteries on tractors that recharge every day?
    • I have heard the statistic many times here, that it is not effective to grow bio fuels. Here on Slashdot biofuels = knee-jerk reaction = nice green thought but the math doesn't work. It is often posted that these fuels do not produce more energy than they require to grow. I assume this calculation come from the energy required to produce the fertilizer along with the petrol consumed by the Tractors. Where does this statistic come from? If the farmers didn't fertilize (fertilizers are very energy intensiv
        • Thank you. I will read this thoroughly later but on reading the abstract it seems that the camparisons were made using a basis of whole plant ethanol production. If only the corn of the plant is used there would be a higher concentration of sugar and it could be more effiecient than stated in this study.
          • by pfdietz (33112) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @06:17AM (#15291889)
            The 1.3x number comes from Pimentel and coworkers. They make unnecessarily pessimistic assumptions. Properly done, most studies have shown the fossil energy input is less than the energy in the ethanol. (The energy input including the sunlight is of course greater than the energy in the ethanol, but that is irrelevant.)

            Even Pimental et al.'s numbers are only for corn-derived ethanol. Ethanol from cellulose, sugar cane, or gasified biomass (via a modified Fischer-Tropsch process) produce many times the energy content of the fossil fuels used to grow, harvest, and process the biomass. For sugarcane, the energy returned is eight times the energy spent.
            • Re:Energy efficiency (Score:5, Interesting)

              by shotfeel (235240) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:53AM (#15292687)
              Many of these studies also leave off the fact that the "byproduct" of producing ethanol from corn is also valuable. If I can find the link to the study, I'll post it (I think it was done by the US Department of Agriculture).

              In short, ethanol is produced by converting the sugars/starches in corn to ethanol. That leaves behind a protein rich by-product that is then added to corn and other feed used for raising cattle, replacing more expensive (in every sense of the word) protein supplements.

              So based on the merits of EtOH production alone, corn may not be the best source. But you need to consider all the factors involved.

              OTOH, if you live in the midwest, you may be hearing a lot about switch grass. Supposedly yields more protein than soy beans and more EtOH than corn. Look for some farmers to turn to that if EtOH becomes a more viable fuel alternative.
            • Re:Energy efficiency (Score:4, Informative)

              by Once&FutureRocketman (148585) <otvk4o702@nospAM.sneakemail.com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @10:54AM (#15293651) Homepage
              Pimental may be overly pessimistic, but it really doesn't matter in the final analysis. Whether the EROEI is 0.8:1 or 1.3:1, neither one is a winner relative to our current consumption of energy. The EROEI of oil production ranged from 5:1 to 25:1, so corn-based ethanol falls short by an order of magnitude.

              To put it another way, even if the return on corn ethanol was a very optimistic 1.5:1, we would have to increase the total system energy throughput by ~10x our present consumption to effectively displace petroleum as a liquid fuel source. And we simply don't have the means to do that, especially not if we're going to try to avoid a global climate disaster while we're at it.
              • Re:Energy efficiency (Score:3, Interesting)

                by drinkypoo (153816)

                As we have already covered, though, corn ethanol is not efficient anyway. Also, there are other biofuels which can be made from other parts of plants, like biodiesel from oils. I suppose the holy grail would be a plant with lots of sugar AND oil, from which we can easily extract both... You need methanol or ethanol to make biodiesel anyway. Also, diesels can be run on E95, a 95% ethanol and 5% gasoline mixture, so you have flexibility there. The only conversion needed to run E95 is to raise base compressio

                • by dclydew (14163) <dclydew@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @01:36PM (#15295277)
                  *cough* hemp *cough*

                  That will get you oil (seed), biodeisel (at much greater ratios than corn) and it can be grown at lower cost with greater yield...

                  but, someone might try to smoke it... so we can't have that.
                  • by JofCoRe (315438)
                    *cough* hemp *cough*

                    That will get you oil (seed), biodeisel (at much greater ratios than corn) and it can be grown at lower cost with greater yield...

                    but, someone might try to smoke it... so we can't have that.


                    Exactly. Not to mention that it would threaten a few other "big money" industries... like the oil industry, the paper industry, the textile industry, etc... And the people that get their money from these industries don't want to let go of their cash cows. It's not about doing what's smart, environm
                • Private aviation? (Score:3, Informative)

                  by mcrbids (148650)
                  You need methanol or ethanol to make biodiesel anyway. Also, diesels can be run on E95, a 95% ethanol and 5% gasoline mixture, so you have flexibility there. The only conversion needed to run E95 is to raise base compression and to be able to vary fuel delivery, which is a feature of any TDI diesel anyway. Diesels with mechanical injection might be more difficult, but should still be convertible.

                  Biodiesel is a great fuel. It's extremely dense, (high energy content) and can be used interchangably with diesel
          • Re:Energy efficiency (Score:3, Interesting)

            by pizzaman100 (588500)
            I'm wondering why must our farmers grow corn? Why can't they produce sugar ethanol as well? In the warmer climates they can grow cane, in the colder climates they can grow sugar beets.
            • Re:Energy efficiency (Score:4, Informative)

              by budgenator (254554) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @12:46PM (#15294768) Journal
              For the most part we are big beef eaters, and the farmers already grow a lot of corn for cattle feed, switching the already purchased agricultural infrastructure from corn for cattle feed to corn for ethanol production cost is effective for the farmer; additionaly the ethanol has as a waste product a high protein waste called distiller's dried grain which is a good cattle feed, so the corn that was going to be grown anyways makes ethanol too.
              There are basicaly two catagories of corn grown, field corn is a tough starchy veriety which farmers like for cattle field because the lower sugar content makes it less likely to spoil in storage, and the toughness gives the cattle the roughage they need to stay healthy, it tastes like "old" corn and is a bit chewier.
              Sweet corn is grown for human consumption, and is sweeter, and doesn't store as well; sweet corn turns starchy if it gets old. I'm not a farmer but grew up a round them, so yes I've really eaten field corn.
              When ethanol becomes main-stream you'll see some changes like the big-boys developing verieties specialy adapted for ethanol yield, and remember both corn and sugar cane are grasses so gentic manipulation is highly possible to boast sugar yields.
              My area is a big sugar-beet producer I'm sure there will be ethanol plants made that utilize beets effiently.
              I also think that emzymes to breakdown cellulose into fermentable sugar will be developed to increase ethanol effiencies pretty soon so even wood chips, saw dust and especial tree bark will turn up as ethanol in our tanks.

        • Re:Energy efficiency (Score:5, Informative)

          by Total_Wimp (564548) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:00AM (#15293697)
          http://petroleum.berkeley.edu/papers/patzek/CRPS41 6-Patzek-Web.pdf

          It's nice to have some numbers, but this doesn't appear to be very scientific. This is from the abstract:
          Finally, I estimate that (per year and unit area) the inefficient solar cells produce ~100 times more electricity than corn ethanol. We need to rely more on sunlight, the only source of renewable energy on the Earth.
          Scientists gather data. This guy appears to be pushing an agenda. It's kind of like Intelligent Design. Just because you say it's science doesn't make it so.

          TW
      • by pclminion (145572)
        I have heard the statistic many times here, that it is not effective to grow bio fuels. Here on Slashdot biofuels = knee-jerk reaction = nice green thought but the math doesn't work. It is often posted that these fuels do not produce more energy than they require to grow.

        The per-acre yield of oil producing crops for the purpose of biodiesel production is, in truth, low. At the biodiesel facility I unofficially work for, we produce thousands of gallons of high-quality fuel from recycled cooking oils. This

    • Very good point on the transportability. Beyond that, the "energy deficit" argument is flawed in that we could generate more energy for free that could offset or completely account for the energy cost of producing ethanol. Corn and wind are two things the midwest has in abundance. But beyond that, here's what the Iowa Farm Bureau says: http://www.iowafarmbureau.com/programs/commodity/i nformation/pdf/Trade%20Matters%20column%20050714%2 0Brazilian%20ethanol.pdf [iowafarmbureau.com] (for those not familiar with the geography of
    • by HighOrbit (631451) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:01AM (#15292324)
      Why does it have to be corn versus cane? Has anybody done a study of the engery density of sugar beets? They grow an a northern clime (like Wisconsin or Idaho or Germany), the tubar yields high surgar content, and the waste (both foilage and mash) can be used for compost or animal fodder. What kind of engery density can you get from that? They would be socially responsible because they are grown in developed countries, produce only reusable waste, and would not be produced by peasants toiling in slave labor. They also would most likely be grown on existing agricultural land instead of slashed-and-burned rain forrest. As part of the US's screwed up agricultural price support system, we pay farmers *not to grow* extra corn and soy. Perhaps we can take all that fallow agricultural land and have them grow sugar beets instead.
      • by Paradise Pete (33184) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:32AM (#15292974) Journal
        and would not be produced by peasants toiling in slave labor.

        So you're saying it would be bad for them to have the extra opportunity of work? You make it sound like if it weren't for the Evil Theoretical Sugar Beet Barons then life would be just fine.

        People don't take "slave labor" jobs by force. They take them because it's better than anything else they might do. So the problem is not the work, but the situation. And taking away the work certainly does not make things better. You make it sound like *not* using third world products somehow improves the third world condition.

        • So you're saying it would be bad for them to have the extra opportunity of work? You make it sound like if it weren't for the Evil Theoretical Sugar Beet Barons then life would be just fine.

          No, I am saying its just like buying from a sweat-shop. You would be supporting an exploitive system. And its not the Theoretical Sugar Beet Barons, but the Real Life Sugar Cane Plantation Barons in Latin America who exploit peasant labor for pennies a day. By using sugar beets instead of cane, we would have relative

      • Has anybody done a study of the engery density of sugar beets?

        From here: [organicconsumers.org]

        Growing, transporting, and distilling corn to make a gallon of ethanol uses almost as much energy as is contained in the ethanol itself. Sugar beets are a better source, producing nearly two units of energy for every unit used in production.

        • And according to TFA (or one linked from it, I forget), sugar cane produces 7 units of energy for every unit used in production. That's a helluva lot more efficient even than sugar beets.

          The advantage of sugar beets is that they do well in areas with short growing seasons and long winters -- North Dakota and Minnesota both produce a lot of sugar beets, and are close to markets for the principle waste product (beet pulp, useful as mulch and livestock fodder).

          The only downside I can think of is that you don't
  • Wow - the tiny American alcohol producing industry has a choke hold on keeping pump prices inflated. I'm sure this protectionism tax is left over from trying to protect American DRINKING alcohol interests. Maybe if the alcohol was denatured (i.e. poisoned with a bit of methanol, making it unsafe to drink), could the foreign produced alcohol be imported without the tariff. Hell, I don't see why American sugarcane producers can't produce the alcohol for a cheaper price.

    Damn wiould I like to see pump prices

    • by TobascoKid (82629) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @05:38AM (#15291781) Homepage
      I'm paying $3.70 out here in Los Angeles

      So that's approximatly $1 a litre - which is still almost half of what I (in London) have to pay.
    • by nagora (177841) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @05:54AM (#15291835)
      I'm paying $3.70 out here in Los Angeles for premium 91 octane (we don't get the good 93 oct out here due to smog

      Yes, quite. You don't think that ridiculously low prices like that might be part of the reason you have a smog problem?

      TWW

      • ridiculously low prices

        I don't think that the >100% tax that European countries place on fuel is the answer. But adding 25 or 50 cents to the existing 18.4 cent gas tax, or better, setting it at a fixed percentage of the pump price, would be a good revenue booster. Dropping the tariff on ethanol is a good idea. In fact dropping all taxes on ethanol would be a good idea. If the US govt taxed gasoline at a high rate and ethanol at zero, they could keep subsidizing the corn growers and eventually com

    • While this is cheap compared to the rest of the world, I'm sure that we pay for the low gas prices by other means...

      of course, if your city was designed by the same entity/deity that is selling you new pollution-machines every year, i can't imagine this will be easy or feasible advice for you, but another solution might be to cure your own dependence on oil first.

      i gave up owning a pollution-machine years ago .. its money i don't have to make and spend, and i feel a lot healthier for not having to live in a
    • I'm paying $3.70 out here in Los Angeles for premium 91 octane (we don't get the good 93 oct out here due to smog :-(

      Then buy regular unleaded. 93 isn't better than 91, and 91 isn't better than 87 -- they're just different. It's fixed at ~15 cents above the price of regular because the additives used to get an octane rating of 91 or 93 cost the same regardless of the price of oil. And if your engine isn't specifically tuned to use higher compression ratios when running on 93, you'll get absolutely no

    • This has less to do with potential drinking and more to do with Presidential politics and the original organization of the country (specifically the senate). The midwestern farm lobby wields hugely disproportionate power relative to almost all measures (and they grow most of the country's corn. They don't want competition from Brazilian sugarcane, so they don't have it.

      The reasons they hold so much power are first each state has 2 senators and representatives based on population. There is a large bloc
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:43AM (#15292612)
      Try 6-7 bucks a gallon, that's what most of Europe is paying.

      How we afford driving? By using cares that don't swallow a gallon per mile. Now, I don't "envy" you for your low gas prices. I don't even have a car. But I'd have to say that I think the low price for gas is one of the reasons for the problems in some towns. Cities are sprawling out, you can't buy anything nearby, if you need to buy groceries, you have to drive to some shopping area. Over here, more often than not there's a supermarket somewhere in the basement of an apartment building. Walk over, buy your stuff and carry it home.

      This won't change over night, and it will cost a fortune to change it.
  • Ending the tariff is a good start, but it's pretty hard for corn farmer's to compete with sugar as an ethanol base material.

    The obvious solution is to allow farmers to grow hemp - it's one of the easiest crops on the planet to grow (no spraying for pests, low irrigation, etc). Oil from the seeds can be used to run (unmodified) diesel vehicles, and the leftover material can be made into ethanol has four times the energy density of corn (about 2/3 that of sugar).

    Oh - but this is in the land of the free - and we can't let the corn farmers compete, lest they plant a few thc bearing hemp plants in the middle of their crop. After all, a few stoners will mean the end of society as we know it.
    • Four times the ethanol density of corn?(2/3 of sugar?) I find that hard to believe. The property of vegitable matter that determines how much ethanol will be produced is the sugar content of said vegitable matter. Hemp doesn't have that much sugar in it. This is why sugar caen is so much better for producing ethanol than corn. No matter how sweet the corn sugar cane will have more.
      • Four times the ethanol density of corn?(2/3 of sugar?) I find that hard to believe. The property of vegitable matter that determines how much ethanol will be produced is the sugar content of said vegitable matter. Hemp doesn't have that much sugar in it. This is why sugar caen is so much better for producing ethanol than corn. No matter how sweet the corn sugar cane will have more.

        Hmmmmn, I can't find the story I was reading that had those figures - and they do seem a little too good to be true.

        However IIRC
    • The obvious solution is to allow farmers to grow hemp

      Obviously. But maybe start off more slowly so as not to upset the voters in the red states?

      My idea would be first to start with buying cheap sugar from Cuba. That'll ease the ethanol transition, lower the price of soft drinks and snack foods, and resurrecting the popularity of smoking by making good cigars more fashionable. From there we can move to growing hemp.

      Just think, one day we'll all be able to stay home and drink rum, smoke cigars or get stone
      • You think giving the voters in the Red States a newly legal cash crop to grow (guess who the big farm states voted for in the last election) is going to piss them off more than sending money to the Evil Communists Who Want To Kill Us All in Cuba? Your political savvy is astounding.
    • With a quick Googling, it looks like switchgrass has about 4-4.5 the energy density of corn, without the politics surrounding hemp.
      • With a quick Googling, it looks like switchgrass has about 4-4.5 the energy density of corn, without the politics surrounding hemp.

        True - and I guess from a pure energy-production standpoint switchgrass is most certainly the crop of choice for Northern America.

        However - hemp is a far more versatile crop. Itcan be used for paper, rope, & oil-based products, hence is a more attractive cash crop to farmers.
  • Who cares? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @05:29AM (#15291749) Homepage
    Seriously; is anybody thinking that the US will consider any other aspect but "protectionism"?
  • same in the uk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by celardore (844933) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @05:46AM (#15291810)
    In the UK there are heavy taxes on ethanol too. It's a shame, because those duties are pretty much restricting alternative fuel uses.

    For example: It's pretty much cheaper to use a diesel engine than to use biodiesel that you make yourself. (if you're a 'good' citizen and pay all taxes due)

    Reeks of inhibiting progress to me.
  • by node 3 (115640) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @05:53AM (#15291828)
    While this is an important issue, I'd like to see corn lose its protection as a sweetener as well. High fructose corn syrup has replaced sugar as the primary sweetener in our (American) diet, and the studies suggest that HFCS is really quite bad for us. Not only is it a sugar (with all the inherent health issues), but your body doesn't seem to count it when it comes to curbing hunger, so HFCS calories don't replace, but add to, the rest of our diet.

    Not to mention cane sugar tastes better. If you'd like to compare, next time you see an old-fashioned bottle of soda, check and see if it's from Mexico. They still use sugar (check the label to be sure), and compare it with the flavor of a domestic bottle of the same brand. You might be surprised at how different sugar and corn syrup taste as a sweetener.

    Just imagine, there's an action our lawmakers could take that would help curb obesity, diabetes, fuel prices, and pollution!
    • Interesting side note though - an American friend of mine came to Australia and couldn't stand the locally-produced versions of Coke, Pepsi, etc. He would bring back cases of corn syruped soda when he visited the states, because he greatly preferred that flavour to the Australian can sugar version.

      Funny thing is, it seemed to work the exact opposite way for me. In the US, I'd try soda and go "Ewwwww so much sweetness!" and pine for good old cane sugar soda from back home.

      Australia pizza, on the other hand,
      • Interesting side note to *that*. Last month, Coke put out Kosher Coke for Passover in the US. Since grains are not Kosher during Passover, corn syrup is not either, so Coke ships out some bottles with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

        I picked some up, because I had heard of it before and was curious. I had my first glass and.... WOW. That was amazingly sweet. It was sweeter than the HFCS coke. It really didn't make sense to me, since HFCS is a sweeter syrup than cane-sugar-based sucrose. I ass
  • by BoredWolf (965951)
    but I'm not sure that ethanol is the solution. It is a short-term fix for a long-term problem. Removing the tariff on ethanol made with sugar is sensible, because it produces more energy per unit during combustion. Gasoline is corrosive, as is ethanol. Therefore, by putting it in a car engine, we are shortening the life-span of the car's engine. It would make a great deal of sense to have a more energy-efficient fuel in that car so that you get more 'bang for your buck'. I think what really needs to b
  • by geoffrobinson (109879) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @07:34AM (#15292194) Homepage
    First, anyone who wants to be president (pretty much every senator) doesn't want to mess around with Iowa farmers since they have an early caucus. Reducing tarriffs almost always makes sense, economically. Not politically. For example, steel tarriffs make the steel workers happy. But they increase the price of domestic toasters, cars, etc.

    Someone mentioned tarriffs on sugar. The National Review (a conservative magazine) did a front cover article on this a few months ago. Similar political situation but with La. farmers. It costs America a lot of jobs in food industries which require sugar. That's why they use corn syrup. It's cheaper relative to sugar, but only because of the tarriffs.
  • by RingDev (879105) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:26AM (#15292469) Homepage Journal
    I have not been able to find a single peer reviewed source to back up that 7 times as efficient number. I see many references to the widely excepted 1.34 return, but I have found nothing that says 8.1 units returned. I did find one study that claimed SugarCane could hit 3.7 in production in Brazil, but that can't be directly compared to the US.

    1) In Brazil manual labor can be had for $3-5/day. At that cost it can be cheaper to use a fleet of farm labor instead of a tractor. the fuel consumption requred by the work force is not included.
    2) Brazil has a much larger land mass that is appropriate for growing sugar cane.
    3) Ethanol has to be shipped in sealed tanks. Due to its propencity to attract water, piping it with fuel through the exist infrastructure would result in water contaminated fuel at the pump. The extra expences and fuel needed for the new delivery systems really kill the return. This is also the reason why E10 has been a pretty standard fuel in the Mid-West for years, but not on the costs. Brazil uses a much more localized distribution system (many 20k gallon plants as opposed to a centralized 10m gallon plants).
    4) Ethanol has less power per volume then gas. That means those flex fuel vehicles are going to lose mileage AND power on E85. A proper E85+ designed engine could improve the power issue (Ethanol's higher octane rating allows for higher compression, which leads to more power and better efficiency).

    I'm not saying Ethanol is bad, just that it isn't as great as GM wants you to believe.

    Biodiesel is better (IMO) in that it can be added to the US's fuel infrastructure with no modication to the system or vehicles, it's performance is on par with petrol-diesel (ie: better than gas and ethanol).

    -Rick

    -Rick
  • by spectrokid (660550) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:37AM (#15292563) Homepage
    Corn-fuel is what we call a first-genearation technology. Biotech companies like Novozymes are working on enzymes which can break down corn-waste (leaves etc.) until the starch is short-chained enough to be fermented in the classical way. None of the first generation plants comes anywhere near making a profit, but once they can start fermenting the leftover crap, this picture could change. Raising fuel prices are obviously helping.
  • by gone.fishing (213219) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @02:14PM (#15295635) Journal
    We need to break our addiction to foreign oil. Reducing or eliminating a tax on imported ethanol is a temporary stop-gap "fix" that will help to reduce the cost of fuel at the pump a little bit which may help us to buy some time while we work on other things that can help address the real problem. For that reason alone, at this time, it is a good idea for the United States.

    Making ethanol fuels more available and less expensive will help to speed the adoption of ethanol blended fuels on the coasts and also help to speed the adoption of E-85 for those newer flex-fuel vehicles. Making this fuel more affordable will help to speed it's adoption and will create the demand that will allow gas stations to justify the expense of installing new pumps and tanks. All of this is good.

    Sugar cane is a crop that can be grown in much of the United States. Over time we can start to produce ethanol from it (and other sources) allowing us to produce more of our energy domestically which is good for our economy and will allow us to be less dependant on foreign energy which will be a great economic stabilizer meaning that over-seas economic pressures can not hurt us as badly. This is a very good thing.

    It is just as vital that we develop other sources of energy as well. Dependance on any single commodity puts us at risk - if we hinged our energy economy on ethanol from sugar cane and there was a crop failure, our economy could suffer badly. Therefore we have to develop other near-term solutions as well. For transportation fuels these solutions should include coal gasification, ethanol from cellulose, thermal depolymerization and bio-diesel. We do not need to completely ignore conventional oil, there are still a number of domestic sources of this energy available. If we look at energy as a North American issue rather than a national issue, the Alberta Oil Sands could provide us with a great deal of conventional oil. With the CO2 produced from coal gasification conventional oil wells can be returned to production. There are also untapped sources of oil on Alaska's environmentally sensitive North Shore. Tapping these resources is economically feasible but is a politically sensitive and highly charged issue. With high fuel prices and our economy suffering from it, the politicians may find North Shore exploitation more acceptable with their constituents.

    We should not count out gaseous fuels such as hydrogen, propane, and natural gas as transportation fuels but I see them as being either niche players or, further out in development. For the foreseeable future, I think most transportation fuels will be liquid because they are easier and safer to handle, transport, and use.

    Energy is not just about transportation, we also use energy to heat and cool our homes, to manufacture things, and to save labor in many different ways. Stationary powerplants can use different kinds of fuels - everything from biomass (Including garbage) to nuclear power!

    Because of issues with safety and waste disposal, nuclear power plants have not been built in the United States in several decades. These dynamics may be changing. Nuclear reactors are very efficient, it is estimated that one pound of enriched uranium produces the same amount of electrical energy as 800,000 tons of coal. Pebble bed nuclear reactors have been proven safe and effective. In the United States, the Yucca Mountain Repository is expected to start accepting radioactive waste for long term storage (disposal) in 2010. For all of these reasons, in the recent past some notable environmentalists have come out in favor of building a new generation of nuclear reactors.

    Energy is an important part of modern life. The way we make it and the way we use it has to evolve and adapt. If it doesn't we will make it too valuable a commodity and we will be unable to afford it. Failure to change and adapt will without a doubt cause of a great deal of pain and suffering. We are reaching a point where we can no longer just talk about it. We need to take action that will help us now and we have to find ways to go forward using different fuels, methods, and processes. If we don't, we will wither away.

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