The Biofuels Journal recently landed on my desk — all 216 pages of it. You can tell what business is booming by the size of its magazines. Clearly, the biofuels industry is doing well.
Yet the critics of ethanol continue to level harsh statements against the industry, even in ethanol-friendly locales. A recent evening newscast in Minnesota featured experts who stated that corn-based ethanol is not a solution for replacing fossil fuels because it can't possibly supply more than 10 to 12% of the nation's fuel needs.
Why is a solution acceptable only if it solves 100% of the problem? Chinking away at our fossil-fuel dependence even by small percentages certainly must be good. Our nation's fuel needs are enormous, and there is no single solution to this problem.
The newscast also related how the production of corn ethanol is inefficient. Articles in the Biofuels Journal disagree. Ethanol companies are on a fast track to make production more efficient, and they will in turn pass along this knowledge to others in the biofuels business. For example, some plants now use a closed-loop system, using their by-products to cover their energy needs. Other plants are reducing water usage. One ethanol plant uses only 1.5 gal. of water to produce 1 gal. of ethanol. The current industry average is 4 to 6 gal. of water/gal. of ethanol. Ethanol plants will continue to innovate to improve efficiency.
These early adopters of new ethanol technology will end up being the pioneers of a vast energy industry that is truly sustainable.