Growing our fuel sounds like a brilliant answer to our issues with the thirst this country has for oil. What a perfect plan to help the American Farmer and Agricultural Sector. Indeed on first glance it looks like a perfect solution, given to us from the Gods. Yet on further examination; there’s a catch. What catch you say; secretly in the back of your mind accusing me as being part of a general conspiracy to defraud the American People of healthy air, low priced fuel and freedom from Middle Eastern Oil. Well I am neither an oil producer or gainfully employed of any multi-national conglomerate in the oil industry.
I am somewhat troubled that the gentlemen behind bio-diesel, ethanol or bio-fuels seldom discuss the water usage needed to grow our fuel or the water usage needed to process it. For instance it takes 10 gallons of water in Processing at the refinery and it takes quite a bit of water to grow the crop to make the fuel. So in areas like NE, ND, SD, MT, WY, KS, CO, ID, NV, CA and this year even OR and WA, we just don’t have the water supply to get to the goal of 5% to 8% biofuels in a decade.
In not mentioning the water issue it is somewhat misleading, but as politics go it is not completely unexpected. Further more we must understand that biofuels cost more to produce and to make up the difference some states are waiving taxes on biofuels. Some states when compounded with the federal tax on fuel are as much as $ .45 per gallon. This lost revenue in the state is expected to be made up through payroll taxes of those in the states offering the fuel tax discounts, since many state residents will have jobs in the growing and production of the biofuels.
Is there an answer to the extreme water usage needed to grow our fuel? Well yes and no. In states like NM, MT there is barely enough drinking and fire season could run them completely out of water. The Midwest does not have the water needed to grow all our fuel or even get to the ultimate goal of 12% Biofuels and biofuel blends, yet proponents of growing our fuel say we can supply all the fuel we need and even export some. The scientists believe that with continued work in GM crops, that the refining process can be lowered to only 2 gallons of water for every one gallon produced and we already have drought resistant GM seeds which can get us there. Others say at best we can only half the water usage since the organic oil in the crops is only one-third of the yield, the other two-thirds would be used for food and feed.
We all know that the GM crop debate is a huge one and even with the terminator seeds from Monsanto, which would prevent the problems of the seeds escaping into the wild, the organic farmers and entire contingency of anti-GM crops will continue the protests and launch a tirade of lawsuits. There is another group, which says “life is not for sale” and taken to extreme this would in fact in their minds include plant life.
Water is a valuable resource as well. We have some water crisis issues in this country and in a dry year we cannot afford the lost supply of 2-3% fluctuation. We know from current prices that even a 1 to 2% fluctuation in supply of our imported oil for gasoline and diesel mean huge price spikes at the pumps. Can you imagine moving into a drought period even a few years long after committing ourselves to 12% biofuels by way of legislative mandate? Let’s look at the biofuels debate from a reality based solution basis, not from a Utopian Dream concept. Growing our own fuel would be a wonderful idea, but let’s be smart about it.
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