While global demand for fossil fuels grows, gasoline prices remain volatile. Add in concerns about climate change and alternatives to oil-based fuels look increasingly attractive. However, corn-based ethanol, the most prominent biofuel in the United States, will not answer any of these issues.
Over the past several years, spurred by both rising gasoline prices and long-standing subsidies for producing ethanol, the use of ethanol as a motor fuel in the United States has grown at an annual average rate of nearly 25 percent.U.S. consumption of ethanol last year exceeded 9 billion gallons--a record high. CBO released a paper today that discusses the relationship between ethanol, greenhouse-gas emissions, food prices, and federal spending on nutrition programs.
"Prior studies have estimated that a liter of bioethanol requires 263−784 L of water from corn farm to fuel pump, but these estimates have failed to account for the widely varied regional irrigation practices. By using regional time-series agricultural and ethanol production data in the U.S., this paper estimates the state-level field-to-pump water requirement of bioethanol across the nation. The results indicate that bioethanol’s water requirements can range from 5 to 2138 L per liter of ethanol depending on regional irrigation practices. The results also show that as the ethanol industry expands to areas that apply more irrigated water than others, consumptive water appropriation by bioethanol in the U.S. has increased 246% from 1.9 to 6.1 trillion liters between 2005 and 2008, whereas U.S. bioethanol production has increased only 133% from 15 to 34 billion liters during the same period. The results highlight the need to take regional specifics into account when implementing biofuel mandates."
Oil industry giants have been pushing a wave of biofuel advertising, but the nature of such fuel is complex; just look at its many different "generations." Too often, this complexity mixed with the promise of clean, renewable biofuels descends into greenwashing.
Leslie Moyer is the director of Post Carbon Institute's Energy Reality Campaign. Read Leslie's interview to learn about her work with artists and energy, the undeserved un-sexiness of energy conservation and a particularly mind-blowing uphill car ride.
2014 wrapped up with generally bad news - for the oil and gas industry! The Keystone XL pipeline remains a pipedream, oil prices have dropped and New York officially banned fracking. Let's take a look at each of these issues and see how things may play out in 2015.
During the 1980s there were two kinds of rain that were hard to miss: purple and acid. Back then, Prince ruled the radio just as acid rain dominated the headlines. But is it still a problem? Find out in this post.