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Letters to the Editor

Corn to run

Jay Hanas April 6th, 2011

A March 10 article in the city’s daily newspaper detailing Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe slamming the tax credits given for ethanol production to be used in gasoline (“Coburn wants to cut tax breaks on ethanol”) was predictable.

Why don’t they slam the tax credits for oil companies? Both these individuals have consistently supported the crippling use of oil and gasoline to power our nation’s automobiles. Ethanol is a superior fuel for automobiles, having a natural octane rating of 113. The very first internal combustion engine was designed to run on a biofuel: turpentine. Ethanol does absorb more water than gasoline, which necessitates the use of stainless steel on fuel-handling surfaces, a common practice in modern automobiles.

For a low-compression engine, there is only a net loss of 1 percent miles per gallon for gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol. For high-compression engines, there is an energy gain. Ethanol does not contain the carcinogens found in gasoline, and our farmers could easily produce enough corn and ethanol to make 50 percent in gasoline commonplace. Think how that would stabilize the price of gasoline and hinder oilrelated terrorist activities. Automobile ethanol is produced from animal feed corn, not corn for humans. Plus, the corn mash is redistributed to cattle for feed and as fertilizer.

There is plenty of land in this country to grow both feed corn and human corn, and 50 percent ethanol in gasoline would do wonders for our nation’s economy in an environment of shipping all our jobs and money overseas. Plus, cellulosic ethanol technology, the ability to obtain ethanol from any plant material, is commercially just around the corner and will allow at least a fivefold increase in efficiency of ethanol production. This new technology will allow all automobiles in the U.S. to operate on 85 percent ethanol/gasoline (utility maximum) with no increased land/production problems.

—Jay Hanas

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04.06.2011 at 07:21 Reply

I'm a huge fan of biofuels.  But any fuel derived from a food source is a bad one.  Not because it's inefficient, but because it will effect the food chain.  You say the corn affected is feed corn for cattle, but that still impacts our food chain.  So, I try to avoid ethanol, for now.  When we switch our ethanol production from corn to switchgrass which can grown in many places, and Kudzu which grows incredibly fast, then I will give it my full endorsement.  But as long as we use a product that's a major part of the food chain, we'll pay a lot more for it's production.

On a related note, I see you fail to address the commonly held belief that the cost of fuel and pesticides (which are petrolium based) offset any environmental benefits.  Don't get me wrong, I hate oil, but to have a good debate, you must have voices from all sides of the table.