Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The President's Plan

In his state of the union address yesterday President Bush presented a new energy security plan that calls for a 20 percent reduction in gasoline consumption, achieved mostly by alternative fuel use. His plan includes a mandate to incorporate 35 billion gallons of alternative fuel a year to the nation's fuel supply by 2017. However, the President didn't specify the source of that alternative fuel. On the Jim Lehrer news hour tonight, Clay Sell, deputy secretary of the US Dept. of Energy, said he expects 15 billion gallons of that mandate to come from corn-based ethanol. With the remainder from cellulosic ethanol and coal-to-liquid fuel conversion. All of these options achieve the President's goal of lowering our nation's dependence on foreign oil. The question is, are they environmentally sustainable as well? Corn doesn't grow well in Oregon, for example, and corn-based ethanol quickly becomes an import from the Midwest, with the transport of the fuel, alone, becoming a significant environmental cost.

See my June 12 article in the DJC, "When Biodiesel Won't Cut it"

Here's an excerpt:

Biofuels could provide 37 percent of U.S. transport fuel within the next 25 years, according to a new report by the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental advocacy group.
But growth of crops such as corn and soybeans - traditional feedstocks for biofuels production - is energy- and water-intensive. And with limited farmlands available, feedstock production for fuel would have to supplant food production.
"There's never going to be enough cropland to replace all the petroleum we use" with biofuels, said Jan Auyong, an Oregon State University professor.

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