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May 11, 2008

Ethanol Alternatives Stuck in the Slow Lane

From the Arizona Republic
"Despite a public-relations backlash of epic proportions and frenzied research on other technology such as algae biodiesel, it likely will be years before other alternative fuels are as widely used as corn ethanol.

Ethanol is now a staple in gasoline, used as an additive that reduces the amount of crude oil and cuts back on vehicle emissions.

The 134 ethanol refineries in the country are expected to produce about 9 billion gallons of the fuel this year. Even with some cancellations, dozens of plants are expanding or being built, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. Many have direct ties to corn, with farmers owning 49 plants."

Most of the fuel we use in California is E10. 10% Ethanol. E85 is an "alternative" fuel but not liked by too many people. Its interesting if you use it as a performance application, but as a fuel, the gas mileage is reduced, and the steps in refining it supposedly uses more resources than it releases.

"Beyond the dilemma of using food for fuel, ethanol has efficiency issues. High-concentration blends get about one-third fewer miles to the gallon than gasoline, although the ethanol industry promotes "optimal" blends of 20 or 30 percent that can raise mileage in some engines despite the lower energy content of ethanol.

Ethanol proponents tout corn as a steppingstone to "cellulosic" ethanol. In the cellulosic process, enzymes are used to break down the woody part of plants, rather than just the sugary parts, like corn kernels."

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