Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Gasohol vs. gasoline


Here in Minnesota, all gasoline is required to contain ethanol. If you're like me, you've probably wondered just what we accomplish by doing so. Is the total energy cost of ethanol lower than gasoline? What about greenhouse gasses?

Which is why I was glad to see a very straightforward commentary by biology professor Peter Wyckoff in Monday's Star Tribune.

The main point of the article is Wyckoff advocating that we start using switchgrass as a source of ethanol instead of corn. But for me the most interesting facts were these:

Weighing all the factors -- the fossil fuel needed to grow and ferment corn vs. the cost of drilling oil, the lower energy content of ethanol vs. gasoline (and the resulting lower mileage) -- ethanol helps, but not a whole lot. Gasoline containing 20 percent ethanol will cut a vehicle's total greenhouse emissions by about 2 percent.

That may not be much, but it's something. Unless ethanol costs significantly more -- and Wyckoff doesn't get into that -- increased ethanol use is worth pursuing.

But it does suggest that the strongest argument for ethanol is energy independence, not global warming. The more ethanol we use the less oil we need, which is an absolute good in my book. Because what we pay at the pump for a gallon of gasoline doesn't reflect the political, military and moral cost of that gallon. The sooner we can stop subsidizing repressively medieval regimes, the better.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you care about the ethical costs of petroleum; what are the costs of turning food into energy.

Not that I agree or disagree with you. I just thought it should also be a consideration.

11/11/2010 10:11 PM  
Anonymous Immanuel Llorens said...

Gasohol can be useful for some because it's much cheaper, and it produces less C02 emission. But it can be dangerous to the health as well. That's why most people prefer to gasoline instead of gasohol.

11/28/2011 3:44 PM  

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