Alternative Energy

During this last time out I took what, for me, is a rare load of freight through the North Central and North Western states. I try to avoid these loads because due to contractual specifics I get paid less money per mile to haul these loads while at the same time the fuel costs run higher in these areas.

While traveling through North Dakota I heard some interesting news. On NDPR (North Dakota Public Radio) I heard of the ground breaking for a new ethanol facility that will produce 100 million gallons of ethanol per year. At first my heart leapt at the good news, but then the story continued. Seems the development of this facility was being pushed by an alliance of North Dakota farmers and coal miners. Why the coal miners? Because part of the development was a new steam plant that will provide steam to this facility (as well as to a conventional barley and malt processing facility). This steam plant is going to use good old fashioned coal as an energy source.

Here's some news for North Dakota farmers, you are going to lose some public support, or at least my support, for ethanol if you use coal as an energy source. Clean coal technology has not progressed anywhere near to the point where it in any way minimizes the effects of CO2 emissions. From my understanding, North Dakota is not even going to try and use the "clean coal" technology that has thus far been developed. Part of the reason I support ethanol is because it is supposed to approach CO2 emission neutrality. If you are going to emit vast amounts of CO2 anyway by burning coal, I am going to start writing my Congressman to modify tax inducements so that only greenhouse gas friendly ethanol qualifies. I am also going to personally be less motivated to pay extra money to buy an E85 capable vehicle. I might still buy E85 if it is cheaper, but gone will be the rosy "and I'm even helping the environment" feelings I would have had as I was putting your product into my tank.

Further along in the trip, as I neared my destination in Washington state, I started hearing of a new bio diesel facility that would be developed near Seattle. There were no reports of what energy source the facility would use. What I found interesting is where the vegetable oil to be processed into bio diesel would come from. Reports were that the facility would mainly rely on foreign vegetable oil. Due to transportation costs, it would be cheaper to import vegetable oil from foreign sources via water then to bring it from the Midwestern USA via rail. Sigh.


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