Monday, May 28, 2007

green choices - biodiesel and ethanol

Some news stories and advertisements would have you believe that biodiesel and ethanol are the next big miracles. However, when you scratch the surface, it becomes apparent that it's not quite that simple.

The demand for oilseed crops is growing with interest in biodiesel. California farmers are experimenting with growing oilseed crops in areas where more profitable crops cannot be grown.

Here are 2 sites about DIY biodiesel and Biodiesel FAQs.

Meanwhile, increased demand for ethanol is having a significant impact on the corn market, U.S.-Mexico trade and the Mexican economy. Click below for articles.

Ethanol, corn and Mexico
Corn prices in Mexico
U.S. corn in Mexico
Significance of corn in Mexico

I'm concerned that the effects of these changes on the Mexican economy will continue to force desperate attempts by Mexican citizens to enter the U.S. illegally, increasing tensions between the Mexican and U.S. governments. I hope that our governments will address the problems caused by this change in trade so that the poorest Mexicans do not continue to pay the price.

Burning either an ethanol-gas blend or a biodiesel creates less air pollution per gallon than straight petroleum, however, ethanol combustion generates less energy than gas, so fuel economy is lower.

These emerging fuel technologies have a lot of potential, but the reading I've done so far has not convinced me that either fuel is an ideal answer at this stage in the game. I hope that improved engine technologies can be developed that will more fully take advantage of the positive aspects of biodiesel and ethanol, and that related international trade issues can be resolved.

1 comment:

deafguy said...

There was a great article in Scientific American last month on ethanol. It pointed out that even if the entire U.S. corn crop was converted to ethanol, it would not even supply 10 percent of the U.S. gasoline needs. They said we would have to make the fuel out of the stalks and waste, which we don't have a good process to do yet.

Also, even the best estimates say it takes .9 gallons of fuel to make 1 gallon of ethanol.