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Page added on January 30, 2008

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Ethanol Not Green or Clean, Some Charge

Clean-burning ethanol may have a smoggy secret.

If power companies are to be believed, the only one way to keep up with the fast-growing ethanol industry is to invest in good old fashioned coal-fired electricity. It’s a line of logic that some say turns ethanol’s clean burning appeal on its head.
“It’s just damning of the notion of ethanol as a clean fuel,” said Mark Kresowik, a Sierra Club organizer based in Iowa. “If we need to burn coal to create a clean burning fuel, we’re not creating a clean burning fuel. It rips the shiny green veneer right off of ethanol.”

Coal is the old guard of energy production, generating about half of U.S. electricity. It is comparably cheap but much derided by environmentalists who note it’s the nation’s biggest source of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Ethanol is promoted as a fuel with the potential to wean Americans from foreign oil with the added benefit of reducing greenhouse emissions. It burns cleaner than gasoline and is made with renewable resources such as corn or cellulose.

All sides agree that it takes lots of electricity to produce ethanol. Utilities note a typical plant eats up as much energy as 1,600 farms.

The divide comes over where that electricity should come from. Environmental activists believe greener means, such as natural gas, should be used. Power companies argue that coal is the only cost-efficient solution.

Houston Chronicle

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