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Ethanol Won't Help Alone

By · July 26th, 2006 · Letters
I read with interest the article "Ethanol's Truth and Consequences" (issue of July 19) and have several comments.

In 2005, the average daily consumption of crude oil in the U.S. was over 20 million barrels of oil -- about a quarter of daily global production -- of which 70 percent was imported. That calculates to around 14 million barrels of imported oil per day.

Americans consumed 140 billion gallons of gasoline in 2005. If, as the article states, we will be producing 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2012, conceivably we'll be replacing 7.5/140 (or 5.4 percent) of our liquid fuel consumption with ethanol, assuming there were the same energy density in ethanol as there is in gasoline -- actually it's less).

Without governments mandating drastic reductions in the use of automobiles along with corresponding fuel efficiency increases and shifting the means of the transport of goods back to railroads while fighting car manufacturers, the oil industry, advertisers, ex-urban builders and every other vested interest, there is little that 7.5 billion gallons will do for us to make the bend. If we're thinking that nothing else will have to change, we'd best think again.

Another interesting comment is made in the article related to energy inputs vs. outputs. When growing crops, are the fossil fuel inputs to grow the stuff calculated? Fossil fuels form the foundation of mechanized agriculture not only in running combines and shipping product but also in fertilizers and pesticides production. What about the trucks, generators, steel production, etc.

to build the plant? What about the commuting of the people to and from the plant? What's the point in burning a BTU of gasoline (or the equivalent) to get a gallon or a gallon and a half or even two gallons of ethanol? Your yield for sale to a non-producer of any product has to make a profit or no one will do it. What about all the other stuff I haven't listed?

There seems to be a great deal of conflicting information. We either have another five years or 50 years of crude oil that can be economically taken from the ground.

Is it not a finite endowment? But how long? You know what you know or you don't, or you know you don't know, you know?

Perhaps with $10/gallon pricing or a very substantial BTU tax we could drastically conserve and face the future with a plan based on something other than delusional thinking. We should start soon. We should have started in the '70s. We didn't.

Maybe we'll unlock the secrets to hydrogen fusion tomorrow. Then again, maybe we won't. Maybe Bird Flu will wipe out a third of us and reduce demand. Maybe not. Maybe there's a way to turn downtown Cincinnati back into a walkable community. Maybe there's a way to reopen the surrounding farmlands back into productive land. It's hard to grow switchgrass on asphalt.

Wishing and waiting is a recipe for disaster. Why gamble? Nobody likes change except a wet baby. Then again, we're adults, right? We rise to challenges, right?

Either we change our living arrangements or reality will change them for us.

-- Roger Miller, Clifton

Animal Abuse Is Scary
I'm sure you're experiencing tons of e-mail from "All Dogs Go to Heaven" (issue of July 12), because when I got up this Sunday morning and read it I cried like a baby. I've never been able to accept the concept of animal cruelty. I guess that's why I'm a PETA member, even though I realize that they're a little over the top.

But I find myself asking the same questions Larry Gross posed: Why? Why? Why? If you can't keep an animal for some reason, there are all kinds of compassionate options available.

I'm sure you're aware that this type of behavior is where most of your serial killers began. They began with animals and then moved up the ladder to people -- it's not only sad and very disturbing, it's downright scary.

-- Debi Caruthers, Mount Washington



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