Bio-Town USA Still Waiting for Boom

This article in the Star updates the Bio-Town USA project in Reynolds, Indiana. It is unfortunate that the state has chosen to go down the path of corn ethanol. It has the double whammy of raising food prices, as well as being a net energy loser. Out of all of the sources with the potential for bio-fuel, corn is less efficient than switchgrass, algae, sugar, and even soybeans. Switchgrass shows some promising potential, however, here is the key:

Even if one of the refining technologies is proven commercially viable, Cornell’s Pimentel doubts the biofuels industry will ever dent U.S. dependence on oil.

For example, in 2007 the U.S. produced 3 billion gallons (23 billion liters) of ethanol from corn, which amounted to one percent of U.S. oil consumption, Pimentel said.

“That’s obviously not making us oil independent,” he said.

Nor, he said, is a biofuel industry boosted by cellulosic plants likely to improve the situation, as the new study suggests.

The study cites earlier research that found cellulosic ethanol could potentially displace 30 percent of current U.S. petroleum consumption.

Doing so, Pimentel said, would require using 65 percent of all the crops, grasses, and trees harvested each year in the U.S. just for ethanol.

This means that the even the most efficient crop that we have found would not solve our energy problems, and even if it helps wean ourselves from foreign oil, it would come at a cost of losing much of our current food production.

I am not sure if we can keep up our car-based lifestyles under any circumstances. Perhaps a combination of many different fuels or new technology could keep it going. However, I am certain that at this moment the best solution for us is greatly improving our efficiency.

Comments 5

  • We are all a bunch of idiots for “going ethanol”!

  • I completely agree with your post, efficiency in both lifestyle and technology is the key to reducing our energy dependence on oil. Maybe we can convince people to drive motorcycles instead of cars, they have a cool image and are fuel efficient.

    I would love to use bio-diesel, but diesel cars are commanding a hefty premium at the moment so that dream must wait.

  • I guess motorized scooters are gaining in popularity.

    We’re going to need to look into the bicycle option pretty soon, at the rate we’re going. If nothing else, it would be good for the state’s collective health.

  • Kevin and Graeme,

    Bicycles, motorbikes, and motorcycles as principal means of transportation are simply not practical in Indianapolis for large parts of the year. They are impossible for families with children in school.

  • I agree with that, but what is our solution for families? Somehow we made this work before we fell in love with the car.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *