Silly Idea of the Week: Using Coal to Make Ethanol from Corn


The TreeHugger manual says every post needs a picture, but this is the best we can google from Goldfield, Iowa. This will change, as Goldfield is the site of an ethanol plant with a twist- it takes energy to make ethanol from corn- not just to harvest it and bring it to the plant, but to run the process. Some use methane from cow patties; others use natural gas; Goldfield burns coal, which creates more CO2 than burning fossil fuels directly. "If the biofuels industry is going to depend on coal, and these conversion plants release their CO2 to the air, it could undo the global warming benefits of using ethanol," says David Hawkins, climate director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington. "We favor getting ethanol production up," Hawkins says. "But we obviously favor a cleaner process. We need large cuts in global warming emissions from transportation. It's not good enough for ethanol to simply be no worse than gasoline." Goldfield will soon have lots of pictures as the poster boy for subsidy-driven biofuel silliness. ::Christian Science Monitor