Which is Worse: Exporting $1 Billion Per Week or Growing Fuel?

corn, ethanol, biofuel, oil

There’s no doubt that growing corn-based ethanol has some serious problems: the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, controversy over increasing food prices, and questionable energy return.

But how does the impact of ethanol production compare to not doing anything?

Last week, the Delta Farm Press picked up on a statement made by Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens. Pickens admitted that he has opposed ethanol in the past, but on the other hand couldn’t support exporting half a trillion dollars—something the US will do this year in order to satisfy its oil addiction. Pickens said (via Delta Farm Press):

“You take 10 years, and you have $5 trillion,” said Pickens. “That’s more than $1 billion a day. We can’t stand that.” (That $500 billion per year is not far from the record federal deficit of $552 billion in 2004.)

Acknowledging he didn’t think much of ethanol’s claims in the early years, he said he now supports increased production. “I’d rather have ethanol and recirculate the money in the country, than to have it go out the back door on us.” (Pickens is investing $10 billion in wind energy.)

While corn-based ethanol is far from perfect, injecting some of that export money back into the US economy might not be such a bad idea. And even if it’s only slightly better than using gasoline in terms of energy return and pollution, it’s still slightly better. A lot of puzzle pieces are going to have to come together to solve the US’s petroleum problem, and sitting around waiting for the perfect biofuel or new technology to come along isn’t going to do it.

Whether or not ethanol is a good thing, it’s going to increase in a big way: by 2015, 30% of the US corn harvest will be made into gasoline.

Think this is a bad idea?

Source: Delta Farm Press (Mar. 28, 08): And now for the rest of the ethanol story

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In a past life, Clayton was a professional blogger and editor of Gas 2.0, Important Media’s blog covering the future of sustainable transportation. He was also the Managing Editor for GO Media, the predecessor to Important Media.