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posted by janrinok on Tuesday August 24 2021, @04:24PM   Printer-friendly
from the its-corn-its-good dept.

The author of this piece has an obvious bias (Geoff Cooper is the president and CEO of Renewable Fuels Association), but does he also have a valid point?

Let's prioritize American renewable fuels over foreign oil and minerals:

After suffering through more than a year of quarantines, stay-at-home orders, and travel lockdowns, millions of Americans have eagerly returned to the nation's highways this summer for long-awaited vacations and road trips. As a result, gasoline demand has surged to record highs and pump prices are at levels not seen since 2014.

In recent weeks, regular-grade gas prices averaged $3.17 per gallon, up almost 50 percent from the same time last year. With higher fuel prices threatening to undermine the nation's ongoing economic recovery, it's easy to see why the Biden administration is looking for ways to ease America's pain at the pump.

[...] Before the Biden administration looks to OPEC+ countries or mineral-rich nations like Afghanistan, China and Bolivia for help, it has an opportunity to turn to America's heartland for a homegrown solution. Renewable fuels like ethanol have a 40-year proven track record of success in helping to lower prices at the pump while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions, supporting good-paying clean energy jobs and curtailing crude oil imports.

Four decades' worth of investment and innovation by ethanol producers has resulted in real breakthroughs in lower-carbon transportation fuels. Today's corn-based ethanol reduces carbon emissions by 52 percent when compared directly to gasoline, according to a recent study from the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. Another study by scientists from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tufts University similarly shows corn ethanol achieves an average carbon reduction of 46 percent compared to gasoline, with some ethanol in the market today achieving a 61 percent carbon reduction.

[...] Before we turn to the Persian Gulf for answers to our nation's energy and climate challenges, let's give the American heartland a shot. The solution to high pump prices and decarbonization lies in the farm fields of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and other Midwest states — not in the oil fields of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle East nations.

Journal Reference:
Uisung Lee, Hoyoung Kwon, May Wu, et al. Retrospective analysis of the U.S. corn ethanol industry for 2005–2019: implications for greenhouse gas emission reductions [open], Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining (DOI: 10.1002/bbb.2225)

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  • (Score: 1) by sydbarrett74 on Wednesday August 25 2021, @02:53AM (6 children)

    by sydbarrett74 (7637) on Wednesday August 25 2021, @02:53AM (#1170634)

    Why isn't thermal conversion ( getting more attention? We have vast quantities of fuel locked up in our landfills and plastics recovered from the oceans. PLenty enough to lessen our reliance on unfriendly foreign powers by great amounts.

  • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Wednesday August 25 2021, @04:36AM

    by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Wednesday August 25 2021, @04:36AM (#1170670)

    probably because there aren't any subsidies to line the pockets of the people who would end up running those programs.

    I would love to see our "garbage" get turned into something useful beyond turning valleys into mountains. But until thermal conversion gets profitable in a big way it's not going to happen.

    "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
  • (Score: 2) by ElizabethGreene on Wednesday August 25 2021, @02:45PM (4 children)

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday August 25 2021, @02:45PM (#1170825) Journal

    It's not a sexy 'green' energy project. e.g. It obviously puts carbon into the air, and burning feels dirty. The science says it does make sense to do and is greener than making trash mountains. Unfortunately people get elected with sound bites. "Burn your trash' won't get anyone elected.

    Another example of soundbites over policy is wastewater reclamation. West of the Rockies is in a more-or-less perpetual drought. Today wastewater is scrubbed more or less clean and then dumped into rivers for downstream neighbors to drink. Sane and rational policy would be to re-use that water instead of throwing it away. That is extremely uncommon. Why? The politician that wants you to "Drink sewage" loses in the voting booth.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25 2021, @07:24PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25 2021, @07:24PM (#1170940)

      In some cases there are also international treaties requiring certain amounts of water to be flowing in those rivers. [] []

    • (Score: 2) by quietus on Friday August 27 2021, @08:27PM (2 children)

      by quietus (6328) on Friday August 27 2021, @08:27PM (#1171524) Journal

      What? The science says it makes sense to combine tons of unknown chemicals with high energy and all will be peachy downwind?

      • (Score: 2) by ElizabethGreene on Saturday August 28 2021, @01:46AM (1 child)

        by ElizabethGreene (6748) Subscriber Badge on Saturday August 28 2021, @01:46AM (#1171605) Journal

        The major emissions are CO2, SO2, and NOx. On a kg/MWh basis...
        CO2 emissions are about 10% higher than Natural Gas energy, and roughly half of a coal plant
        SO2 emissions are about 4x a Natural Gas plant and about 3% of a coal plant.
        NOx emissions are about 2x a natural gas plant and roughly half a coal plant.

        ... Why all the comparisons to coal plants, Greene?

        Because we're shuttering a bunch of coal plants. We could flip those to plastic energy recovery, get a little more life out of that infrastructure, and stop burning diesel (in trains) and bunker fuel (in bulk carriers) to ship our plastic trash to third world countries. To be particularly clever this technology should be combined with pyrolysis recycling too. The company doing this already has a well-sorted plastic input stream and massive heat source. Using those resources to cook up monomers and usable hydrocarbons is a no-brainer.

        • (Score: 2) by quietus on Saturday August 28 2021, @08:33AM

          by quietus (6328) on Saturday August 28 2021, @08:33AM (#1171688) Journal

          Burning a mixture of synthetic paints, glues and heavy metals: and the main problem, according to you, is CO2, NOx and SO2 ?