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Aggregating Energy Since 2006

Ethanol and Coal

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Using coal to produce ethanol and a really dumb idea and state policies should guard strongly against it. Though using coal makes ethanol production significantly cheaper, the environmental impact is worse than actually continuing reliance on gasoline. It increases emissions of all kinds and generally is poor for the environment.

Nonetheless, some ethanol producers in MN are moving toward coal rather than natural gas. I'm thrilled to see California using intelligent policies to blunt that trend.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his state's Legislature have embraced a plan to rate all motor fuels by greenhouse gas emissions over their entire life cycles, from production to transportation to ignition.

Measured that way, ethanol made from plant residue would earn an excellent rating. Ethanol from corn would do moderately well. And corn ethanol made in a coal-fired plant? That would rate poorly — even lower than ordinary gasoline, according to Schwarzenegger's office.

Using coal to produce biofuels negates the environmental reasons to embrace biofuels and, in my opinion, causes more harm than good.