The ethanol game
Here is an article I found in the Renewable Energy Access bulletin asking for further government subsidization of cellulosic ethanol so it can compete with other subsidized biofuels.
It gave me an idea. I looked up some statistics to see how much oil the Prius fleet has saved and compared it to how much ethanol is consumed. Turns out that the 500,000 Priuses sold save about five to seven times more oil annually than all of the corn ethanol consumed in the United States.
As I have said numerous times, the Prius was not spawned by government subsidies. Using less oil is the best answer. Replacing existing consumption levels with biofuels using today’s technology is a gold rush fueled by pork politics, profit seekers, and a largely ignorant public. The future cannot be predicted. Millions of entrepreneurs experimenting and testing in the market flush out winners like the Prius. Bungling government bureaucracies have a strong tendency to screw everything up, as the article in Renewable Access laments.
Distortion of markets by endless government subsidization has created a huge corn ethanol industry that has no intention of giving up past gains, with over a hundred giant distilleries, none of which can be converted to cellulosic, all on the backs of taxpayers. The government cannot pick economic winners for us. To date the government has picked for us corn ethanol (unsustainable, ecologically destructive), soybean biodiesel (ditto, taking five times as much land as corn ethanol), and nuclear power (finally halted by consumer concerns). If cellulosic technology finally gets to the point that it is economically viable, it will win with or without government help.
Presently, cellulosic is expensive to produce. In its present technological state, which may or may not advance, it can’t compete against other government subsidized fuels (which after a quarter century of subsidization still can’t compete). If and when further research finally finds ways to break cellulose down economically, this technology will then have to go head to head with a corn ethanol industry (built by government subsidies) that has as much political clout as the Pentagon. As the Prius attests, technologies that use less liquid fuel are far more cost effective and efficient than trying to grow your own.
Notes: Assuming 37,066,000 gallons of corn ethanol consumed in U.S., 500,000 Priuses sold, 12,000 miles driven annually, saving 24 miles per gallon (national average of 21 MPG).