UNI Professor Calls for Diversity in Alternative Energy

John Davis

We should not put all of our energy eggs in one basket… that’s the view of a professor from the University of Northern Iowa, who also dismisses some of the food-versus-fuel myths in this fascinating guest column in the Des Moines (IA) Register.

honaryLou Honary, a professor and director of the National Ag-Based Lubricants Center at UNI, says while biodiesel and ethanol produced from traditional crops of soybeans and corn are the obvious choice for the Midwest… despite the criticisms from some city cousins… a diversity of feedstocks and energy sources needs to be the country’s goal:

The economic downturn has exposed many fallacies regarding biofuels. Most important, the recent drop in farm commodity prices has shown that the increase in the cost of food was not all because of the increased production of biofuels, but rather it was due to the absurd increases in the price of petroleum, $146 per barrel just a few months ago.

It also exposed the fact that the best intentions could be attacked for the wrong reasons. Just a few months ago, U.S. farm producers and the biofuels industry were being blamed as the root cause of food riots, starvation and deforestation of the Amazons, not the $5-per-gallon diesel fuel required to transport the foodstuffs…

During the past three years, when petroleum prices began to increase, most politicians forgot about biobased products and biopower sources and collectively jumped on the biofuels-only band wagon. Of course, with an annual U.S. consumption of nearly 165 billion gallons of gasoline and 45 billion gallons of diesel fuel, or more than one-half of all of our total petroleum use, it would be difficult not to get caught up in the excitement. However, conventional wisdom requires diversifying and suggests not putting all the eggs in one basket. By making biofuels the primary focus of U.S. efforts to reduce imported oil, an easy target was provided to detractors, with devastating results.

The country will be better served by promoting an array of alternative energy sources and biomass-based fuels, chemicals and bioproducts. Biofuels may get more support due to their sales volumes, but the message should be balanced and emphasize reduction of imported petroleum through promotion of all three priorities: bioproducts, biopower and biofuels.

Biodiesel, Ethanol, Miscellaneous, News, Opinion