by Lance Freespeed
March 1, 2006
I am not a scientist, nor a statistician. But it is not difficult to
clearly see that the "Ethanol spin" is shaky at best. Yet, it seems
that the American public is swallowing it up without question or
Without government subsidies for the farm crops that are used to
produce ethanol, it would not be economically viable, and will end up
costing a great deal more than gasoline in the long run. In fact there
is not a bio-fuel that is viable as a replacement for gasoline at our
current consumption. There is not enough land on the planet to produce
enough bio-diesel to replace even a small percentage of global
gasoline usage. Bio-fuels might be a good supplement, but they
certainly are not a viable substitute or solution.
Incidentally, Methanol has been used in IndyCars and Champ Cars for
over 20 years. It is currently primarily made from natural gas, but
can be made from coal, of which we have massive supplies in the US.
Coal does not make very tasty muffins either. Methanol can also be
made from sea water. However, though it can be done, it is not made
If made from coal alone, with current known coal reserves in the US,
we could produce enough Methanol to fuel every vehicle in the US for
the next 500 years.
The way I see it, the ethanol campaign and push is kind of like the
drug dealer that gives his customers a little "taste". Then, once they
come to depend on his product, he is free to start charging whatever
he wants, because he knows they will do whatever they must to get
their fix. Simply blending gasoline with Ethanol will not even make a
significant dent in our consumption of gasoline. The whole point is to
eliminate dependence on oil as a vehicle fuel. It will be gone within
our lifetime, but that's a completely different article. So we really
have to look at something that will replace gasoline altogether.
Also, if ethanol becomes prominent in a non-gasoline blended form, we
will end up using farmland to produce fuel, and then where do we grow
the food? We will still end up importing either food or gas. Not a
good choice to have to make.
Here is the math: We use more than 60 Million gallons of gasoline per
day in the U.S. That is nearly 22 Billion gallons per year. To put
that in perspective, pause just a second and without doing the actual
math, take a quick guess at how long you think one million seconds is
, and write it on a piece of paper (in days, weeks, months...etc), and
Are you ready?
One million seconds is a little more than 11.5 days. One billion
seconds is over 31.5 YEARS. Now think about how much 22 Billion
Gallons per year is. Staggering isn't it?
OK, now let's think about how much corn (or whatever) we would have to
grow to replace that gasoline. Let's forget for a moment that Ethanol
does not have as much energy as gasoline, so according to a chemical
engineer I know, accounting for increased engine efficiency combined
with the lower energy of ethanol, we would likely use as much as
10-20% more ethanol than gasoline.
So we have to grow enough "stuff" (well, corn seems to be the highest
yield) to make at least 22 Billion gallons per year at our current
usage (which incidentally is still growing). Keep in mind that you
only get one crop per year per acre. Each acre can produce
approximately 464 gallons per year. That means we would have to
dedicate no less than 47 million acres to producing corn (or whatever)
for vehicle fuel alone.
Currently, according to the USDA, there are about 75 million acres
dedicated to growing corn in the US, and our production is more than
twice the world's second biggest producer (China, also the second most
We would have to reserve about 63% of our entire national corn
production to produce enough fuel to meet the current demand. Imagine
a drought or some other catastrophe decimating over 60% of our annual
corn crop. It would be devastating to food supplies. Also realize that
corn is used for far more than a tasty side dish. We cannot afford to
lose more than half of our corn crop.
This does not even consider the fact that it would take years to
simply build the production and distribution infrastructure to deliver
that fuel to the consumer.
So we have to ask ourselves why the President is hailing the praises
of Ethanol, and why the IndyCar series is aligning themselves with
them, when it clearly doesn't make any sense? I wonder if it has
anything to do with the huge lobbying budgets of the farming industry?
I wonder if it has to do with the Bush family association with the oil
trade, and his all time low approval rating? It is not entirely
unheard of for a politician to tell people what they want to hear.
So please forgive me when I get a little bit charged up over the
Ethanol media and PR campaign, especially in the context of our sport.
In the context of all of the merger buzz, I highly doubt that Champ
Car would ever head down the Ethanol road. After all, Mr. Forsythe's
business is in natural gas, which is currently a primary source of
methanol. So I imagine the ethanol people would need to find another
place to go with their bogus campaign.
We are a gullible society. We will eat whatever we are told is good to
eat. We are told that NASCAR drivers are the top of the racing
profession, and we accept it as the truth. The very same marketing
blitz that built and drives NASCAR today is one that will drive the
Ethanol myth as well.
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