While I don’t have NYT Select access and haven’t read Friedman’s recent column, I did see the Discover Channel special earlier this summer (“Addicted To Oil”) in which he similarly pumped Brazilian ethanol.

We could argue until we’re blue, green, or yellow in the face about the long-term viability of biofuels in the U.S. But the best and most thoroughly researched rundown I’ve seen is here. This article — which is essentially a synopsis of the 2005 NRDC report “Growing Energy” embellished with other expert opinions — says that even cellulosic ethanol stands a chance to meet our transportation energy needs only if the U.S. cuts fuel consumption by 50%.

Or as David Lynd of Dartmouth puts it, “We are kidding ourselves if we think we can supply our way out of this. We can make the biggest impacts fastest by impacting the efficiency equation.”

Even so, I remain excited and optimistic about the future of cellulosic ethanol production. The Poplar tree — which has just been genetically sequenced — is the latest example of a promising source for low-energy-intensive cellulosic fuel. You can read about the poplar and its energy prospects here in an article by the girl who sits next to me at Seed.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

And while you’re at the Seed site, take a look at my contribution for the week.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.