Is Ethanol Still A Viable Fuel Source?

By Maureen Mespell

Is Ethanol Still A Viable Fuel Source?

July 8, 2011 Updated Jul 8, 2011 at 9:04 PM EDT

NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) -- Managers of a Wabash County ethanol plant remain optimistic about their industry, despite critics who say there must be a better way to power the country's cars and trucks.

Plants like this Poet operation are focused on reducing our nation's dependence on foreign oil.

But the pursuit of the goal has been a bumpy ride.

Bryan Christjansen of Poet Biorefining says, "Some of our competitors are struggling a little bit, but the long story short, the industry is still very solid."

Poet claims to have replaced hundreds of millions of barrels of imported oil.

But critics focus on the industry's warts.

They say because 40% of corn production now goes to fuel, ethanol is causing inflated food prices.

It's also catching blame from some sources for cutting fuel efficiency, harming vehicle fuel pumps, and for robbing government subsidy monies from other renewable energy alternatives.

Christjansen, who says ethanol is actually lowering gas prices by about 45 cents a gallon, claims the attacks are partly due to ignorance.

"I think there's a bit of uneasiness, and a lot of it is just education," says Christjansen.

The Obama Administration is allowing the cap on how much ethanol may be mixed into gasoline to go from ten percent to 15.

Ethanol producers are hoping for additional government funding to allow consumers to put higher blends of ethanol in their gas tanks while filling up.

While the industry works to increase the amount of corn based ethanol sold at service stations around the country, they're also looking at the long-term future, and that could very well be in corn cobs and corn stalks.

Critics worry that will rob farmland of valuable nutrients.

Christjansen says the process is not harmful to the environment.

Production needs to increase, because the government wants 36 billion gallons of ethanol to be pumped into the gasoline pool by 2022.

Christjansen also says, "The electric cars, the hydrogen cars, the ethanol cars the biodiesel vehicles, we have to have that type of mix of different fuels to be able to get ourselves off of foreign oil."

The mission moves forward, even as the arrows keep flying at the ethanol target.




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