August 31, 2009

Thanks to Government Policy, Ethanol Grows from 1% to 7% of Fuel Supply in 8 Years

Many experts agree ethanol is not the answer. From the overuse of antibiotics to the heavy water footprint, ethanol has come under scrutiny from everyone except policymakers. Thanks to Congress and state governments, ethanol has risen from 1% to now 7% of the fuel supply in the United States.

The Cattle Network reports on the future of ethanol:

In 8 short years, ethanol grew from 1% of the fuel supply to 7% with the help of numerous policy decisions by Congress and state governments. While that was happening, the amount of corn used for ethanol production climbed from 6% to 24% and will level off in the next decade at 30-35%. While most row crop farmers say they are willing to meet that demand, the technical goal is to reach 36 billion gallons of ethanol available for the motor fuel supply by 2022. That includes both corn-based ethanol and biomass-based or cellulosic ethanol. Westcott says the mandate "would require significant expansion of biofuel production and use from current U.S. levels. However, major challenges in both supply and demand may limit future growth in the industry."

Challenges facing the ethanol industry includes the limitations of flex fuel cars on the market and gas stations featuring gasoline with high ethanol content. Furthermore, acceptance of ethanol by consumers provides additional challenges, especially considering the common belief that ethanol production is impacting food production and prices.

Ethanol is also criticized for its detrimental effects on South America. The Cattle Network continues:

Lurking on the horizon is the federal policy that allows states to be flexible in their requirements for motor fuel, and California's Air Resources Board has taken a dim view of ethanol, by alleging it causes the loss of soil carbon in South America. In brief, ethanol critics say is pushes corn production up, soybean production down, and the result is more tillage for Brazilian soybean fields.

Despite the negatives, ethanol is still touted as the "as the prime alternative to hydrocarbon fuels".

Image: Kables on Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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Posted by Jennifer Lance at August 31, 2009 1:50 AM

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