Monday, June 16, 2008

Ethanol, or, Why I'm Not Payin $5.00 in Gas

Last night, as usual, I was flipping through the news shows to catch up on the pundit’s opinions of the world. Brother Glenn was on vacation, Bill O’Riley was looking for a fight, Keith Obermann is an idiot, and Wolf Blitzer has one of the most beautiful beards I’ve ever seen…though his opinions are ridiculous.

Apparently it was a slower news day, because the news outlets went back to their tried and true hot-topic issues: The Election, the Iraq, and gas prices.

Gas reached a national average of $4.15 yesterday, with the Rexburg prices leveling out around $4.00/gallon. Now I’m not going to reminisce and talk about how when I was a senior back in Michigan, we could get gas around $0.99/gallon. Or how, within the last 2 years, the average price-per-gallon has gone up around $2. Or how GM is getting rid of their Hummer division of their company because nobody is buying the cars, and they are losing more money than a fat kid on McDonald’s Dollar Menu.

What are we talking about? No Mr. Iverson, I’m not talking about practice. I’m talking about Ethanol.

Along with “green,” “organic,” and “John McCain is Old,” “Ethanol” has become the big buzz word the last few years. I’ve noticed a decline, but when gas prices come up, people talk about how Ethanol is the answer.

I’m no scientist, but from what I’ve read, heard, and seen, it is anything but. Using Ethanol for a fix to the gas prices is like using a band aid for a slice across your neck (and I know a little something about that).

Here’s my problem with Ethanol…it reminds me of a Matrix-type scenario, where the entire world becomes overrun with corn because we need the fuel. Farmers aren’t farming like they usually do because they’re so concerned about planting corn to get the added money from selling that to gas companies. They’re not planting or harvesting other plants and animals, which drives the demand up (because the supply is down), which then drives the price up.

Ethanol is not the answer. It’s political. It sounds good. It’s a twinkie…full of sweet goodness, yet does NOTHING for our health. We hear “Ethanol is the solution to our gas crisis” and think that because we eat corn, it seems healthy, it’s cleaner, it must be right!

But answering the gas crisis question with Ethanol is a lot like this answer…it’s funny, but wrong.

What is the answer?

Hydrogen. Fuel Cells. ANWR. Drilling off our coasts. Glenn Beck, one of Keith Olbermann’s most hated people, mentioned that if we get the point where it’s a choice between getting our oil and “saving the bucktooth bunny,” that he would drill through the head of that bucktooth bunny to get the oil in ANWR.

I’m all for saving the environment, and agree that we have a stewardship as humans to take care of God’s creation, and that we need to appreciate the beauty of earth. But to what point do we put up those barriers? India has put out a car called the TATA, running for $1,200 American dollars. They are driving more. China’s gas prices have been driven up because of the earthquake, and they’re driving more. The more these 2nd World countries industrialize and enter the strata of 1st World countries, they demand will go up.

Why is hydrogen and fuel cells the answer? Because, in my opinion, the bubble on gas is about to burst. That’s the vision I keep having in my mind. The bubble on oil is getting bigger and bigger, and it will either explode because it’s too big, or something, some external force, will cause it.

My dad works in the automotive industry, and GM is working feverishly on this technology. GM, one of the most prestigious automotive companies at one point, has lost so much money they can’t see straight. Because of all the government regulations, the technology, and the logistics, they are on the cusp of the breakthrough.

Don’t give me this junk about a conspiracy with the auto companies and the oil companies. I will entertain thoughts about government deals with oil companies, but what car company wouldn’t want to be the one to put out the next big thing as far as automotives go. GM would again set the standard, if they were to get the technology out to the public.

Finally – I’m old enough to remember a day when we had $0.99/gallon gasoline…and old enough to go back on my promise about not reminiscing. While I don’t think that’s going to happen, we need to drill more. How can automotive companies afford to place more money in R&D while they are struggling to sell cars because it’s too expensive? How can we clamor and say “Gas prices are too much” when the amount of drivers isn’t going down? How can one do research on new products if it is more expensive to ship those new parts than the cost of the parts itself?


I like corn. I like corn-on-the-cob for July 4th and corn for Thanksgiving. I don’t like corn in my car. I like gasoline. I like new technology. But if we start thinking ethanol is the answer, our country will turn into a harvesting field for our insatiable desire to drive. Corn is not the answer. Fuel cells (like the batteries in your cell phone) and hydrogen are.

Comment and call me a heartless turd, but at what point does another great depression stand in the way of the buck tooth bunny?


Seth and Emily said...

Although I appreciate your rhetoric, and ridiculous Alan Iverson clip (they really need to teach public speaking classes to pro-ball players),I think you are still missing the ethanol boat. I can tell that you don't like it, but it seems like you spent your whole novel/post on gasoline and the automobile industry, both of which are important, but they aren't ethanol. How do you feel that the US has cut half of its foreign food aid to Africa because of ethanol, or that the cost of filling one SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year? What do you think about how they can produce ethanol with recycled waste, instead of corn, and they chose not to use the waste because corn was faster?

Mike West said...

The rush to develop ethanol as a new energy source is misguided, because it uses more energy to create and costs more to produce than gasoline. It takes over 1000 gallons of water to create one gallon of ethanol. It costs $1.29 to create one gallon of it.