Friday, February 13, 2009

Ethanol's Backers Get Gassed

From an IBD editorial:

A funny thing happened on the way to all the green profits that were supposed to be in the offing thanks to high prices at the gas pump. Corn ethanol plants "are shutting down virtually every week." An alternative energy trade group says at least 10 of the nation's 150 ethanol firms have closed some 24 plants in three months, with a dozen other companies in distress. Little more than a year after the Democratic Congress passed legislation launching a massive national effort to convert farm crops and agricultural wastes into auto fuel, it's become clear that the production deadlines aimed at greenifying your local gas station can't and won't be met. The many investors who were tripping all over themselves to finance biofuel plants last year are finding that going green can mean losing lots of green. Congress had a grand plan: It would double corn ethanol use by 2015. And by 2022, 21 billion gallons of ethanol and biofuels would be made from formerly useless stuff, ranging from corn stubble to switchgrass to municipal waste. But reality has hit like a ton of corn stalks. The inescapable facts are that corn prices remain at a market-set high, and converting the corn alternative cellulose into liquid fuel is prohibitively expensive. And there are other problems. For one, corn ethanol gets worse mileage than gasoline. For another, ethanol's corrosiveness means it can't be shipped through regular pipelines like gasoline...

No comments: