Hey, you know about Ethanol? That gasoline fuel substitute that is made from corn and other processed veggies and plants? According to the auto industry it's the answer to all our problems. They're even making cars to run on both ethanol and standard gasoline.
Since they found building electric cars cost prohibitive or something (what was the reason for stopping their production?), the car companies have been pushing this ethanol as a cleaner burning, gasoline substitute that will ease our dependency on foreign oil. I won't bore you with the details (for once) so if you're interested you can go here to view the supposed benefits of ethanol.
We already use a ton of ethanol in our current gasoline mixture. About 10% ethanol, 90% gasoline. It's called E10. However, the industry wants to ramp up to E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) which would work with the 6 million Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) already on the road. Rock on, hippies!!!
But wait, says a study out of Stanford University!! Maybe they said 'Not so fast', 'Hold your horses', or 'Whoa, Nellie!!' (like Keith Jackson). However they said it, they have some results to back up their caution. Mark Jacobson ran a computerized study that simulated the air quality in the year 2020 on the assumption more and more vehicles will be running on E85. Results? Um, yeah, not so rosy.
I will allow Mr. Jacobson to explain: "In our study, E85 increased ozone-related mortalities in the United States by about 200 deaths per year compared to gasoline, with about 120 of those deaths occurring in Los Angeles," Jacobson said. "These mortality rates represent an increase of about 4 percent in the U.S. and 9 percent in Los Angeles above the projected ozone-related death rates for gasoline-fueled vehicles in 2020."
Turns out while gasoline produces increases in benzene and butadiene, two carcinogens we've been breathing since....well...since birth, I guess....ethanol raises formaldehyde and acetaldehyde which increase ozone, which in turn increases smog. I hate smog. Didn't we just clean up L.A.?
Smog and it's chemical byproducts cause about 800,000 deaths a year (according to the World Health Org). I'm no expert, but that seems like a lot of dead people for what is supposed to be a clean burning fuel. So what gives?
Jacobson again: 'we found that using E85 will cause at least as much health damage as gasoline, which already causes about 10,000 U.S. premature deaths annually from ozone and particulate matter. The question is, if we're not getting any health benefits, then why continue to promote ethanol and other biofuels?'
Why indeed, Mr, Jacobson? Again, I know little of this, but I bet there are billions of dollars involved. Some half assed research revealed the following:
April 18, 2006: $84 million invested into Pacific Ethanol by group headed by Bill Gates.
March 9, 2007: CMGI invests a cool $7 mil into Earthanol, a stupidly named company that's trying to create ethanol out of animal waste. Can't wait to smell fuel stations if that ever works.
Or how about a pact between Japan and Brazil to produce ethanol from alternative means that could be worth $8 Billion? With a capital 'B'!!
It seems, like most everything in industry, money is the root of all evil. Well, you can include good and indifferent to that as well. Money is the root of everything in business. So you can be sure this study will be pushed aside, debunked, even mocked. Keep in mind there is something equally valuable on the line: Reputations.
Jacobson once more: 'There are alternatives, such as battery-electric, plug-in-hybrid and hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles, whose energy can be derived from wind or solar power. These vehicles produce virtually no toxic emissions or greenhouse gases and cause very little disruption to the land—unlike ethanol made from corn or switchgrass, which will require millions of acres of farmland to mass-produce. It would seem prudent, therefore, to address climate, health and energy with technologies that have known benefits.'
Today's distraction: Solve a global warming word find puzzle. Love these things! And you can rescramble it if you want to try it again.