In the wake of ever-escalating gasoline prices, the ethanol craze has officially taken hold. Congress has approved $5.7 billion in federal tax credits to support the ethanol market, in addition to the $10 billion U.S. corn farmers annually receive in subsidies. While the corn-industry-lobbying-machine has President Bush predicting ethanol will replace gasoline, the science behind corn-based ethanol seems to suggest this alternative fuel may be more about politics than an actual solution. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it takes the equivalent of three barrels of oil to create four barrels of corn-based ethanol. Couple that with the fact that ethanol gets lower miles per gallon than gasoline, and the corn-based solution begins to show its true colors. But other nations are demonstrating that plant-based ethanol fuels can help meet our energy needs. Brazil makes ethanol from sugar-cane, which is almost eight times more energy efficient to produce than the US corn-based fuel. Crops with high cellulose or sugar content that can be easily grown in the U.S., such as sugar beets, hemp or switch grass, make much more efficient fuels. But, in the U.S., where special interests, not the public seem to govern federal policy, it appears the immediate future of U.S. automotive fuel is going to the highest bidder: genetically engineered corn. Learn more:
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