Thursday, October 11, 2007

Shuck the ethanol and let solar shine
Jon Markman
Solar power and compressed natural gas offer more-efficient energy technologies than planting, fertilizing, harvesting and refining fields of corn into fuel. Investors, take note. Congress, listen up.

New research by a University of California petroleum engineering professor suggests that worldwide crude oil supplies will start to run so low over the next nine years that resource-blessed countries like Saudi Arabia will begin to hoard them for domestic use instead of exporting -- and states with large reservoirs of natural gas, like Montana, will seek ways to avoid sharing with less-advantaged neighbors like Oregon.

Attempts to forestall the political and economic damage by turning aggressively to agriculture for "renewable" transportation fuel in the form of ethanol will prove futile, according to professor Tad W. Patzek, as new calculations show that the entire surface of the Earth cannot create enough additional biomass to replace more than 10% of current fossil fuel use.

The process of sowing, fertilizing, reaping, distributing and refining corn and grasses for ethanol feedstock uses up nearly as much carbon energy as fuel farmers claim to save, and it generates so much soil degradation and toxic byproducts that widespread use will leave the Earth denuded and hostile to human life within decades, according to the professor's data.

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