Friday, January 6, 2017
Energy Policy, and Why Going All in With Ethanol is Not a Realistic Long-Term Solution
Some random thoughts occurred to me as I was driving home from my regular Thursday night dinner at Bojangles(I always do the Egg & Cheese biscuit and small Diet Dew, myself), particularly as I passed the new Exxon petrol station. I first considered the new jobs that had just been brought into this very rural area and what a boon to whatever constitutes an economy this must be for them. Somehow, my mind hopscotched over to the matter of the different grades of gasoline used by these petrol stations and, eventually, the sustainability of America's current course regarding energy and reliance upon foreign oil exports. Gave a thought to one of the leading renewable energy solutions, and then came to what seems like should be fairly obvious conclusions regarding its feasibility.
One of the more prominent 'green energy' solutions that's at the forefront of the renewable energy debate is that of Ethanol, the corn-based fuel which people are looking at as a substitute for foreign-exported Carbon gasoline. Based in plants as it is, it certainly makes for an interesting, quite well renewable source for fuel. By most accounts, it is past time for us to find a new solution to our fuel needs, as the current status quo does not provide a reliable, sustainable path into the future. Just as it is said in the Bible that man cannot live on bread alone, it is also true that the environment cannot survive on carbon gasoline alone, especially as it regards those oils purchased from shady(to put it quite mildly) Arab governments. As we are now living in an age where "bomb the oil" and "take the oil" constitutes key tenants of American foreign policy, continued reliance on foreign exports could result in massive price spikes and stock cratering. It is high time we consider a new course.
That said, what the green energy people fail to account for regarding mass consumption of Ethanol hides in plain view--The weather. This is an easy one for me, as we here in the Southeastern United States have undergone a severely crop-damaging drought(to say nothing of the wildfires) within the past year. Given that Ethanol is created from corn crops, the supply is easily limitable given any manner of weather confections, including that of a protracted lack of rain. To combat this, the mass market producers of the corn would have to infuse their crops with GMO's and various turbo fertilizers, to say nothing of pesticide usage, things that are already done to a certain extent to ensure that the crops make it to market at their due times. Now, this runs into serious headwinds when you consider how the green energy, clean living people have striven to rid crop and food yield of the dreaded GMO's, pesticides, and turbolizers in favour of more natural-based ways. It would seem that somewhere along the line, serious compromises will need to be made in order to bridge the divides and create a sustainable framework for Ethanol production if this is, in fact, a way for the future.
Also damaging to the corn crops necessary to produce Ethanol is another unusual-seeming suspect--Heavy rains. "When it rains, it pours," the old adage says, and this is never truer than after a long dry stretch. While the rain does a good service in the middle and longer runs, the short term can oversee some rather dramatic consequences. Sudden infusions of rainwater can flood and drown crops and plants, and flash flooding can uproot and sweep away all the crop yields. Flooding can also render soils otherwise non-conducive to crop/plant growth by sopping up water upwards of a half-foot (perhaps even greater, depending upon precipitation amounts) below the surface. This also ties into one of Ethanol's most pressing drawbacks--That it absorbs water at rapid rates, which makes contamination of fuel product easy and transportation through pipe-lining a difficult matter. And just imagine if one of the pipelines burst, as has been known to happen from time to time. That would make for an environmental disaster certainly without any precedent, at least in the modern era.
Probably the most controversial consideration that has to be given in these discussions is the matter of our, much bemoaned of late, free trade agreements. Were we to engage in the mining of natural resources(such as those in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) or in the drilling of oil(offshore and onshore) and shale fields, North American trading partners in the US, Mexico, Canada, and also in the Caribbean Isles would need to meet up and consult with each other on these matters as per NAAEC(North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation), a major component of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Given the proximity of the offshore oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico to the Southern continent of America, perhaps a sort of 'SAFTA'(Southern American version of NAFTA, of course, which is not to be confused with the South Asian free trade organisation--Perhaps call it SAFTO?) will need to be assembled to broker fair deals and come to needed consensus on the matters of usage and appropriation of resources.
The consideration of renewable energy solutions, given the increasingly unsustainable path, is a must for any serious consideration of America's and the world's future. Wind, solar, water, natural gas, offshore drilling of oil, and even Ethanol solutions, among the myriad other proposals, should be given fullest consideration as we collectively approach a moment of reckoning regarding our reliance upon foreign oils. Not even giving thought to the problem risks our standing as an example to other countries in the world, and that's just the least of the problems we could face.