In the search for alternative fuels, ethanol creates a lot of discussion about its potential to generate cleaner, renewable fuel for cars. This is great. The discussion gets us moving in the right direction. However, using alternative fuel should not mean higher food prices, crop soil destruction, and forest clear cutting (to make more land to grow corn). A good alternative to using fresh corn for ethanol is to use cooking grease, and turn it into some form of biodiesel. Alternative fuel entrepreneurs, a.k.a. hippies, have been using grease in their cars for decades.
Another solution to the renewable fuel puzzle may be sugar cane. To succeed corn, it should be cleaner, cheaper, and not destroy land in its wake. Here are a few sugar positives:
- “it’s also easy on the atmosphere, releasing a fraction of the carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that add to the world’s steamy greenhouse”
- “making sugar ethanol requires only a fifth of the gasoline and diesel it typically takes to make fuel from crops like corn”
- Brazilian sugar cane is “efficient, brewed without the official price props or government handouts that are common in Europe and the United States”
Opponents fear sugar cane may present many of the same problems as corn – namely the clear cutting forests and destroying native crops to make room to grow sugar cane. It may also eventually force farmers to grow more sugar to meet demands, driving up the price of food crops. However, sugar cane doesn’t grow well in rain forest conditions. “To show they’re going the extra mile, many [sugar cane companies] have signed a pact to gradually put an end to the slash-and-burn method of harvesting that has been a sooty hallmark of sugar cane farming.” With this approach in mind, sugar cane may be better than corn ethanol. Either way, let’s keep this discussion going.
We’re a tough crowd – those of us who want alternative energy that doesn’t do more harm than good to the environment. (My favorite solution is still an electric car that you plug in to your solar-powered home. I’m a dreamer.)