The Problem With Yellow

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Problem with Yellow

Have you noticed the commercials for "going yellow?" It's a slick new marketing campaign that is trying to equate environmentalism with a new ethanol based diesel fuel. The ads give the impression that this is somehow a fix to our dependency on oil.

Morally, the idea is repugnant. Approximately 30,000 people die each day due to hunger, malnutrition, and related diseases each day. How can we, as a society, possibly decide that it would be a better idea to burn this corn up in our cars rather than try and help feed those who are hungry? When we have eradicated hunger on this planet, then I might be a little more intrigued by burning corn oil in our vehicles.

But even if the moral dilmna was solved, even if we eradicated hunger on this planet, problems remain. First of all, is it economically viable? How much hydro-carbon energy is used in order to harness the potential energy in corn? Petroleum based chemicals are used for fertilizers and pesticides. Gas guzzling tractors are used to tend the fields. Those tractors are made in fossil fuel dependent factories, which primarily depend on coal for energy. And it takes oil guzzling diesel trucks to get the corn from the field to the nearby market. How many gallons of fuel are consumed just to get that corn to our nearby store?

It's hard for me to believe that we have a net energy gain here. That is, it appears to me that we would be expending more energy than we'ere getting back with such a fuel. If it takes 2 gallons of fossil fuels to get one gallon of ethanol, what's the point? It looks more like this "Yellow" trend is a product of agrobusiness rather than a real attempt at solving our addiction to petroleum. As journalist Lee Dye points out:

. . . relying on corn for our future energy needs would
devastate the nation's food production. It takes 11 acres to
grow enough corn to fuel one automobile with ethanol for
10,000 miles, or about a year's driving, Pimentel says. That's
the amount of land needed to feed seven persons for the
same period of time.

And if we decided to power all of our automobiles with
ethanol, we would need to cover 97 percent of our land with
corn, he adds.

Bear in mind that I'm not trying to gloom and doom you to death, but at some point we have to begin addressing this situation from a realistic point of view. Scientists are not miracle workers. Science may come up with something, but until they do we better come up with a plan.

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Published in: on April 19, 2006 at 10:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

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