Is Corn-Based Ethanol the Right Move?

A View
June 1, 2007
Anyone who questions the value of corn-based ethanol, even when it
is based on sound quantitative argument, is shamed by others - a
politically correct thing to do.

A recent study at MIT shows why studies come up with contradictory
conclusions about ethanol as an alternative energy source.

Is ethanol a fuel source or a fuel sponge?

To calculate whether ethanol is a suitable alternative energy source,
scientists use inputs such as fertilizer amount, farm machinery
expense, cost of processing corn to ethanol, efficiency of ethanol to
convert to usable energy, energy costs to transport corn to ethanol
plants, etc.

These inputs however are not fixed numbers. For example, how much
fertilizer is needed to produce a bushel of corn is dependent on the
fertility of the land on which it is grown. Therefore, when uncertainties
are accounted for, and depending on which boundary of the
uncertainty you use, you can come up with an argument for or against
corn-based ethanol.

Now before any reader shames me for making the argument using
probabilistic models, scientists to argue that humans are responsible
for global warming use the same modeling technique.

We need to have an open mind and continue to encourage good
science, and leave the politics and mass hysteria aside.

Michael Crichton, author of State of Fear, reminds us quietly of Alston
Chase cautioning us, "When the search for truth is confused with
political advocacy, the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to the quest
for power."

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