Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sugar and Energy Independence

Reason Magazine has an interesting article in which an economist argues that energy independence is not a feasible goal. The fact is, every modern nation-state has to import certain raw materials and finished goods. Our goal should not be to become energy independent, but to have more options as to where we can get our fuel from.

Right now, many act as if we have to choose between Mideastern oil and Midwestern corn when it comes to fueling our cars. However, the most efficient source for ethanol is sugar. The catch is that we would still have to import sugar, but we can import it from more countries than we can with oil.

Another argument against the use of corn for fuel is that it reduces the amount of corn that can be used for food and livestock feed. Food prices are starting to show the same upward trend that gas prices are showing. But sugar is a commodity with no nutritional value. A lot of us, including me, could stand to have a little less sugar in our diets.

One barrier to sugar ethanol production is sugar tariffs. Because of these tariffs, sugar costs four times as much in the US as it does on the world market. Two possible solutions to this are A)telling the sugar lobby to piss off and end the tariffs or B)compromise with the sugar lobby by applying the tariff only to sugar meant for human consumption and exempt sugar meant for industrial purposes.


Fr. Fozy Bear said...

Now of course the use of Sugar Ethanol, I have no issue with, except for the probability that if the Ethanol Industry is forced to switch it will probably complain and whine to Congress about the cost of rehabbing their factories and ask the American Taxpayer to cover the expenses. If they were smart in the first place they would have built the factories with the ability to convert multiple source products at one time until the science figures its self out, but again they were all built under strict mandates from Congress to receive the tax credits so of course they probably only built the refinery plants for one or two major sources of raw materials, corn and soybeans.

BTW I made a post regarding this post on my blog as well.

gadfly said...

According to Slate, ethanol production from any source requires more btus than it makes ...and worse, it can never produce enough fuel. Petroleum on the other hand requires only 22% of its ouput energy to make. Shall we say that ethanol is "like 'peeing' in the wind." Not to worry, our farmers are getting $37.5 billion to grow the corn that wastes our energy.

The answer, my friends, lies in the oil and gas deposits under the North Pole. Lets spend our hard earned dollars where they will help us the most.

Skyrocketing food prices is not the answer.

Robert Enders said...

Slate is wrong. Sugar is the only energy positive way of producing ethanol. Brazil is actually able to produce ethanol cheaper than gasoline.

Then again, they have cheaper labor costs. We should consider eliminating ethanol tarrifs so we can buy ethanol from Brazil if Chavez cuts off our supply

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