Business: Kernel Truths

The increase in the price of oil to nearly $100 per barrel has inspired a boom in ethanol production, leading to both a rise in the price of corn and an oversupply of this biofuel. (The price of ethanol dropped from a high of about $3.50 a gallon in 2006 to just under $2 by the end of 2007.) Even with more ethanol than we need at the moment, the Senate is looking to increase production of alternative fuels to 36 billion gallons by 2022 (at press time), some of which would come from corn-based ethanol, a biofuel that is heavily dependent on pesticides and energy for production. Ethanol advocates are hoping to increase the amount of the biofuel that can be blended into our gasoline from the current standard of 10 percent to 20 or 30 percent. In theory it sounds nice, but most engines are not certified operable at blends above 10 percent. That could lead to a feeling of running on empty more often than drivers would like.

Issue 25

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