Biofuels Sense and Nonsense
By Arnold Kling
The nonsense comes from Robert Zubrin
The only way to break the monopoly on the vehicle fuel supply currently held by OPEC is through legislation. Congress should require that all future vehicles sold in the United States be flexible-fueled, capable of using mixtures of methanol, ethanol, and gasoline. Within three years of such a mandate, there would be 50 million such FFVs on American roads. This will, in turn, force all automobile manufacturers abroad to switch to FFVs as well, thereby creating a huge global market and infrastructure for alcohol fuels.
The sense comes from MIT Technology Review (thanks to a reader for the pointer).
According to calculations done by Minnesota researchers, 54 percent of the total energy represented by a gallon of ethanol is offset by the energy required to process the fuel; another 24 percent is offset by the energy required to grow the corn. While about 25 percent more energy is squeezed out of the biofuel than is used to produce it, other fuels yield much bigger gains, says Stephen Polasky, a professor of ecological and environmental economics at Minnesota. Making ethanol is “not a cheap process,” he says. “From my perspective, the biggest problem [with corn ethanol] is just the straight-out economics and the costs. The energy input/output is not very good.”
If the conversion to biofuels really were nothing but a “chicken and egg” problem, then the private sector would figure out a solution. Tell Robert Zubrin to invest his own money in biofuels–not mine.