Thursday, March 27, 2008

Doyle Energy Independence Plan A Good Start

Gov. Doyle's Energy Independence initiative is a good start, focusing state R & D money into alternative energy activities.

The state has solid educational, agricultural, bio-mass and forest products sectors, plus ample wind, wave and water resources, that together can help develop and bring energy alternatives to market.

At the same time, the state has to get away from its emphasis on corn-based ethanol production and move towards the non-corn, cellulosic alternatives.

Like grasses and wood chips.

Corn-based ethanol may be money in the bank for corn growers, but its bad in the long run for energy and water consumption, and bad right now for consumers as the price of corn products skyrocket.

Corn is too valuable to grow and put into gas tanks. And in a hungry world, not defensible.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

But the technology isn't there for large scale cellulosic ethanol yet. Good WI companies are doing important research on this, but they haven't quite gotten there yet. Isn't homegrown ethanol better than middle east oil or even Canadian oil sands? Corn ethanol is not perfect, but isn't it the least evil of the options considering nothing at all isn't practical?

Emily said...

This sort of thing?

James Rowen said...

Plant sugars? Yes.

Dan Sebald said...

Unfortunately, the flaw may be in the premise that the plant life on Earth can capture energy from the Sun at a rate that can sustain our current demands for energy.

In a Capital Times letter I argued for limited use of ethanol:

http://www.madison.com/archives/read.php?ref=/tct/2007/12/31/0712310247.php

in response to a Bill Berry column that dreaded the idea of converting our farmlands to massive corn production.

The point is that if we go the route of infiltrating the gasoline production network with ethanol, then ethanol simply plays the similar role of feeding the beast. The big problem is our energy consumption, brought about by stashes of what-seems-like boundless energy deposits. One can argue that energy deposits won't deplete in 100, 200, 300 years... very short time in history, relatively speaking. But we'll soon be at the point where we can't pull oil out of the ground fast enough to meet demand. Corn, cellulose--basically quibbling if the problem of demand isn't addressed.

The concept of ethanol is good, but control in the hands of huge corporate energy companies isn't.