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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

How stupid is this, we ask you?

One of the obvious alternatives to petroleum for powering internal combustion engines is ethanol, which can be produced from all sorts of crops. In Brazil, for example, most of the vehicles in the country run on ethanol. Even in the US, General Motors has been running an extensive TV ad campaign hyping vehicles that use ethanol fuels made from corn.

To run all those vehicles, a lot of corn is going to have to be turned into ethanol in a lot of plants. And, in fact, up to 190 of those plants are under construction or planned for the US alone. There's a problem, though, easily seen at the ethanol plant that opened last year in Iowa: To make wonderful, clean-burning ethanol, the plant burns 300 tons of coal each day. Coal burning produces carbon dioxide [CO2], which is a potent greenhouse gas. Coal-fired plants also produce sulfur dioxide [SO2], which causes acid rain, and mercury, which causes neurological damage [especially in infants and children].

If natural gas were used instead of coal, ethanol plants would emit less carbon dioxide, almost no sulfur dioxide, and no mercury at all. But coal was chosen to fuel the Iowa plant anyway and, even worse, most of the ethanol plants in the pipeline will be coal-fired as well.

So, to produce fuel that will help cut greenhouse gases, big industry wants to burn coal, which will produce at least the volume of greenhouse gases that ethanol is supposed to eliminate — and emit sulfur dioxide and mercury as a bonus.

Smart, huh?

Via Christian Science Monitor.

| | Posted by Magpie at 12:05 AM | Get permalink




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