Burning the Furniture to Stay Warm: Corn Ethanol AgriFuels

You’ve heard me expressing my contempt for ethanol in gasoline because of what it does to small engines–the bane of my rural existance. More than that, I am ethically opposed to any agri-fuel that uses food crops or requires other intensive exploitation of ground water and top soil.

Well I guess I should just hush: soon, the 10% ethanol I detest may be largely replaced with 15% ethanol. And then we might really have engine issues. So best to be informed ahead of time. By all means, if your vehicle is pre-2001, beware.

My understanding is that much of this higher-ethanol fuel will be cellulosic. If it’s wood waste, that’s one thing. If it’s the trees your neighbor is selling from your shared property line to a biodigester to make a few quick bucks off of our addiction to liquid carbon-based energy, that’s another.

Whatever you or I think, Big Ag is behind it, so get out of the way. And if the Amurican rank and file here the words “cheaper” and “jobs” there could be no greater good, so again, game over.

Meanwhile, the corn belt continues to trend much, much drier. We’re putting a lot of eggs into a fragile basket.

And it’s not just the US Corn Belt that’s being squeezed by biofuel demands. Sugar cane, palm oil and other tropical plantings replace native rain forest for the sake of our morning commute.

In Fields and Markets, Guatemalans Feel Squeeze of Biofuel Demand – NYTimes.com 

snopes.com: E15 Gasoline

Brazil Wins Gold Medal in Alternative Fuel Race | Cheap Car Insurance 

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Corn ethanol is the stupidest idea for fuel, and wood isn’t much better, unless it is from exclusively wood waste. I just don’t get it.