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Ethanol: solution or delusion?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In his State of the Union Address last January, President Bush vowed to decrease gasoline consumption in the US transportation sector. “Let us build upon the work we’ve done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years . . . To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017.”

Bush proposes increasing US ethanol output to help meet this goal.

While agribusinesses jack up production in preparation for an upsurge in corn prices, others worry that ethanol might not be the best solution to our energy problems. A January USA Today article expressed concern over both ethanol’s economic feasibility and its production limits.

With stagnant mileage standards that provide lenient provisions for gas-guzzling personal vehicles , the average MPG rating for US automobiles has been slowly decreasing for over a decade. Currently, the United States consumes more oil per capita than any other nation, with the transportation sector accounting for about two-thirds of US oil consumption. Unless the United States takes major steps towards improving fuel efficiency and encouraging alternative forms of transportation such as walking, biking, and public transit, our domestic agricultural resources will run far short of meeting our nation’s energy demands.

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