A couple of interesting points on some Ethanol
Oh, yes. Ethanol can't travel in pipelines along with gasoline, because it picks up excess water and impurities. As a result, ethanol needs to be transported by trucks, trains, or barges, which is more expensive and complicated than sending it down a pipeline. As refiners switched to ethanol this spring, the change in transport needs has likely contributed to the rise in gas prices. Some experts argue that the U. S. doesn't have adequate infrastructure for wide ethanol use.
Also, ethanol contains less energy than gas. That means drivers have to make more frequent trips to the pump.
Doesn't producing ethanol on a large scale use a great deal of energy?
Yes. Some ethanol skeptics have even argued that the process involved in growing grain and then transforming it into ethanol requires more energy from fossil fuels than ethanol generates. In other words, they say the whole movement is a farce.
There's no absolute consensus in the scientific community, but that argument is losing strength. Michael Wang, a scientist at the Energy Dept.-funded Argonne National Laboratory for Transportation Research, says "The energy used for each unit of ethanol produced has been reduced by about half [since 1980]." Now, Wang says, the delivery of 1 million British thermal units (BTUs) of ethanol uses 0.74 million BTUs of fossil fuels. (That does not include the solar energy -- the sun shining -- used in growing corn.) By contrast, he finds that the delivery of 1 million BTUs of gasoline requires 1.23 million BTU of fossil fuels.
Producing ethanol could get more efficient soon as new technologies help farmers get more corn per acre of land and allow ethanol producers to get more of the fuel from the same amount of corn. The companies developing new corn technologies include chemical giant Dupont (DD ) and Monsanto (MON ), which sells genetically modified seeds as well as chemicals for protecting crops. . . .
Is ethanol cheaper than gas?
Surprise, surprise, it isn't. The move this spring by more regions to use ethanol means that demand has spiked, driving up prices. On Monday, the New York harbor price was around $3 per gallon compared with about $2.28 for gasoline (before being mixed with ethanol). In other words, for now ethanol is helping to increase prices at the pump, not to push them down.
This piece has its problems, but it still raises a couple of useful points.