Praise for All but Ethanol

The opinions of the authors expressed herein are their own and do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Longmont Area Democrats organization.

Phil Skergan wrote:

Dear Governor Ritter;

I’m happy to say I voted for you, and best wishes for as many terms as you can stay!

It seems odd to write that I liked you entire speech of today but feel the need to address a particular important tidbit. However, I am an energy engineer and an energy author, so I consider our mounting energy worries to be worth this note.

I know that many forces in Colorado line up behind corn ethanol. It’s common in farm states for the corn growers and agricultural interests to push ethanol as far as it can go. They make unreasonable claims about its potential to achieve energy independence for our country, but the reality is very nearly the opposite.

Ethanol is all about farmers, not about energy. I want you to know that, because the renewable energy and energy independence organizations in Colorado are dominated by corn growers, farm bureaus and ethanol producers.

I’m all for effective ideas that help farmers, but not for the tactics behind ethanol. If it can stand on its own, then fine, but the State does not need to rush in to mandate ethanol consumption based on the suggestions of those groups. If we want energy independence and reductions of oil imports, then a much better idea would be to incubate consumer-friendly electric cars within Colorado and to encourage large-scale wind and solar power options.

I’d be happy to provide you with any analysis you need to help your decision-making process. Here is a quick analysis of corn ethanol’s true potential:

Soon, this country will produce 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol a year. This will require about 25% of our annual corn crop, which has competing uses such as food. Since ethanol has about 65% of the energy of gasoline, it will provide the equivalent of 5 billion gallons of gasoline. That sounds pretty good. But we will use 150 billion gallons of gasoline a year, so only 3% of our automotive fuel will be ethanol. Gasoline accounts for about 50% of our oil use. 3% of 50% amounts to 1.5% of our total oil demand. We increase our oil consumption by more than that most years. Consider as well the energy needed to make ethanol. The DOE says that 20% of the energy in ethanol is “new” energy, while the rest pays back the energy needed to make it. 20% of 1.5% is only 0.3% of the oil we currently use. Even if 100% of the nation’s corn went to ethanol production, the new energy represented by it would only be 1.2% of the oil that we use now.

So you see, corn ethanol is no big contributor to energy independence. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently, and please don’t tell the Colorado people any differently.

Nothing else to report, sir.

Thanks for stepping up to be Governor!


Phil Skergan

1 Comment

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One Response to Praise for All but Ethanol

  1. Well-said Phil! In my humble opinion, ethanol’s a stop-gap at best, a way to stretch our current fuelstocks. The energy out has to be greater than the energy in!

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