Monday, January 28, 2008


Petroleum Blues

Boy with Gas Can Outide Moab, Utah

I love this! One tiny town in the middle of San Pete County tries to make customers feel better by advertising the price for half a gallon.

I want to gripe about the gas prices. I filled up with $10 worth of gas the other day befause I was in a hurry. I thought it would at least get me to work and back and to see me through some errand running. NOT SO. I wound up running out of gas in North Salt Lake about a block away from the Tesoro gas station. A lady cop came and said she had a "push bumper" and "would I like a push to the Tesoro?". That's lucky! So she pushed me to the gas station where I refilled. Have cops always had push bumpers, or is this a recent development due to rising gas prices? I'm sure they've always had them, but I thought it was a funny story I wanted to tell it. $10 can't get you too far these days.

The only cool thing about high gas prices is that there's less roadtripping traffic on the highways on the weekends. That's the only good thing I can think of right now.

Biodiesel or Bust?

So is biodiesel the answer to all our ills?

The use of biofuel to run automobiles started as a novel idea that grease-monkey, mechanical engineering geeks, enviro nuts and anti-Big Oil company activists experimented on in their garages. They'd collect gunky fryer grease from back alley pick-ups at restaurants and fast food joints and they'd process the stuff to make fuel. But now the tables have turned so that once what was thought to be an oddity, (a car that runs on fat) looks like it may turn into the wave of the future.

On the face, we like the idea of biodiesel, it sounds good, we consider it a "clean fuel," right? It feels uncorrupted the way petroleum has become. We like the idea of our cars running on something like this, but it's not all it's cracked up to be.

FIRST OF ALL: What's Ethanol?
Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol, is a flammable, colorless chemical compound, one of the alcohols that is most often found in alcoholic drinks. When people talk about it, they often name it simply as alcohol. . .

Ethanol fuel is an alternative to gasoline. It can be combined with gasoline in any concentration up to pure ethanol. . . Most cars on the road today in the U.S. can run on blends of up to 10% ethanol, and motor vehicle manufacturers already produce vehicles designed to run on much higher ethanol blends. Ford, DaimlerChrysler, and GM are among the automobile companies that sell “flexible-fuel” cars, trucks, and minivans that can use gasoline and ethanol blends ranging from pure gasoline up to 85% ethanol (E85). By mid-2006, there were approximately six million E85-compatible vehicles on U.S. roads

Turning Nature into Cheap Ethanol

No, I haven't become a beer drinker just yet, (if I did I certainly wouldn't start with Budweiser!) I took this photo while camping with friends last summer. I like it because it illustrated what we may be trading in when we turn over fields and clear-cut forests so we can raise crops to feel this demand for cheap ethanol. What could be lost if this goes unchecked?

Why doesn't the government mandate a sort of cap on how much existing land can be turning into crops and how much forest can be cleared to create biofuel. Instead they should encourage new fuelers to use WASTE to make the fuel.

One of the things environmentalists are worried about is clear-cutting forest land to plant corn for ethanol which will in turn release even more carbon into the atmosphere. And corn farms will multiply. Companies lke Cargill and ADM will get even fatter and richer than they already are. And as the use of ethanol for biofuel increases, it will just increase the prices of all of our commodities.

It doesn't seem to make much sense to use production of biofuels as a way of eleviating climate change because recent studies (scientists from the University of Leeds) say that the production of biofuel will actually produce nine times more carbon gases over the next 30 years than fossil fuels. The gov is giving incentives to grow more corn for it. And who's to say that companies that manage production and distribution of corn won't become as corrupt as the oil companies. And will all the government's talk of subsidizing use of ethanol... do those who produce corn really need more subsidies? Consider Cargill and ADM:

"These two companies now guide corn's path at every step of the way: they provide the pesticide and fertilizer to the farmers, operate most of America's grain and ship most of the exports, perform the wet and dry milling; feed the livestock and then slaughter the corn-fattened animals; distill the ethanol; and manufacture the high-fructose corn syrup and numberless other fractions derived from number 2 field corn. Oh, yes-- and help write many of the rules that govern this whole farm, for Cargill and ADM exert considerable influence over US agricultural policies. More even than the farmers who recieve the checks.... these companies are the true beneficiaries of the "farm" subsidies that keep the river of cheap corn flowing. Cargill is the biggest privately held corporation in the world." (Pg 63) Michael Pollan "Omnivore's Dilemna"

I think unless we create ethanol out of something that's already a waste product, I think we're asking for trouble.

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