Saturday, March 11, 2006

Couple Things - Another Novel; And, Well, Um, Maybe Ethanol Ain't So Bad

I finished writing my second novel last week. When I retired, I pledged to myself to write a novel a year until either my mind goes south (some think it already has) or some other eventuality occurs. This novel is 120,489 words from my seriously brilliant :-] fantastically skewed brain, where, among other things, two elderly lesbians who are camped on the western shore of Grand Lake (the deepest natural lake in Colorado) find a baby floating on the water, encased in a life jacket, with a bottle of apple juice in its mouth. The more athletic of the two, shucks her clothes and swims out to the baby. Suffice it to say, they don't give the baby up. As a matter of fact... No, I can't give that away. I've named the novel, "Finding Deaglan." Yes, the child is decidedly Irish. And, legend has it, there is no bottom to Grand Lake! There are wolves and wealth; a bevy of gay and lesbian folk whose friendships span thirty years and there are Indians and the old medicine passed down from the progenitors of those Indians and an old haunted house on, what else, Gaylord Street and, well, lots of other--as I said--fantastical things going on in the little tome.

It appears the source on my recent post dealing with Ethanol may have been debunked. (Suz, you can start-up those Sunday morning corn-worship meditative dance ceremonies again.) I'm not totally convinced (neither is Jack, one of the commenters on that post), but this morning's Rocky Mountain News provided several editorials with regard to my source. In the interest of "fair and balanced," here's what the green folks had to say:
Ethanol race has begun

In his March 4 column, Kevin Hassett states "Exxon Mobil Corp. had $36 billion in net income last year. If an alternative fuel source could be developed that would compete for that business, the rewards would be enormous. There would be a race to get there first."

Well, the race is on. At today's gasoline prices, ethanol can be produced for less than gasoline, and the rush to build new ethanol plants is on. There are 41 ethanol projects under way with a combined capacity of 2 billion gallons per year.

Does Hassett know how much domestically produced fuel that is? How about the equivalent of the largest oil refinery in California? Just two years ago, new ethanol projects numbered about a dozen per year. Now, ethanol plants are being built at an unprecedented rate, just as Hassett suggested would happen. Only he hasn't seemed to notice. The equivalent of a large refinery is being built about every two years by the U.S. ethanol industry. The fuel from these refineries is grown and produced right in the U.S.

Every study regarding the energy efficiency of ethanol has found that ethanol production is energy-efficient except the one cited by Hassett. Most recently, the distinguished chair of energy at UC-Berkeley, Dr. Dan Kammen, stated "It is better to use various inputs to grow corn and make ethanol and use that in your cars than it is to use the gasoline and fossil fuels directly."
Let's summarize the situation this way. Corn is the largest crop in the US. The majority of that corn is used for animal feed in the U.S. and abroad. Corn contains about 70 percent starch. The world is starch-rich and protein-poor (think rice in Asia). Ethanol production removes the starch from corn and concentrates the protein threefold. The protein and other nutrients in the corn are still available to feed animals in the U.S. and abroad.

Why should we import gasoline and export starch when we can cost-effectively convert the starch into fuel and still export protein to a protein-starved world? Do you think U.S. gasoline refiners want to see that last 10 percent of imported gasoline replaced with ethanol and with it more than $5 billion in profits? With this level of money involved, the disinformation will continue.

Mark Yancey, vice president BBI Ethanol Consulting Denver
Ethanol shows promise

The "A-maize-ing" opinion piece that ran last Saturday was permeated with misinformation. Apparently, the Rocky Mountain News has adopted the role of propagandist mouthpiece for extreme right-wing think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute.

The "recent study" that was cited in this article has been debunked by half a dozen other sources. Although Hassett would like to have you believe that the only reason a federal initiative exists to promote ethanol is because of large soft money donations to political parties from agricultural companies, the fact is that ethanol has shown promise in solving our country's energy dependence problem.

It is hard to believe that any rationally thinking person could believe the statement that "cars emit more pollution when running on gasoline/ethanol blends than when running on gasoline alone." Why has our air quality improved since the mandate to use 10 percent ethanol during the winter months was enacted? Ethanol is renewable; when burned it generates zero greenhouse gas; it can utilize the existing fuel distribution infrastructure and can be used in 5 million autos that are currently on the road.

Brian P. Boyarko Littleton
Fuel claims appalling

In response to the editorial by Kevin Hassett in the March 4 business section of the Saturday Rocky Mountain News titled "A-maize-ing: Bush has fallen for the costly ethanol scam," I was appalled by the claims made for the continuing use of petroleum-based fuels. An example that contradicts his claims is a study reported by the EPA, gov/otaq/consumer/06?clean.pdf, proving that it makes more sense to continue the development of alternative fuels and press for the distribution of these products.

The only item that is factual about Hassett's editorial is that petroleum products are cheaper to distill and distribute. From an economic standpoint this makes sense for the petroleum companies since the EPA regulates the pollutants that they produce. Alcohol distillation is a new industry and must be monitored in the same way that any other industry is monitored. I believe Mr. Hassett is a fine economist, but his facts are clearly wrong based on misinformation.

Matthew Spiegel Denver

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