July 24, 2014

Biofuels

Ethanol: Miracle or Mistake?

Florida is sinking millions into ethanol research and grants. But nobody is even close to making it profitable.

Mike Vogel | 7/1/2008

Draper notes the number of lobbyists in the last legislative session representing interests that stand to gain from the energy bill; he wonders about a green bubble and the state spending. “It’s a question of how much money government is going to throw at this stuff before they realize it doesn’t work,” he says. “We’re chasing the energy solution and postponing the hard discussion on the real solution, which is conservation and efficiency.”

Chipper
Reality Check
» Ethanol Source: Pulp and Paper Mill Waste —
A non-starter. Nearly all of it already is used to power the industry’s plants.

Ethanol’s difficulties also prompt other questions: If ethanol, which has been around as vehicle fuel for more than 100 years, is so difficult to pull off, how tough will it be to achieve Crist’s other energy goals? Specifically, Crist wants Florida’s utilities by 2025, when its population is projected to be north of 23 million, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels, when the state’s population was 13 million.

But with the state and federal government dictating ethanol use, an ethanol process doesn’t have to prove cheaper, more efficient or more environmentally friendly than gas; it just has to prove superior to the other alternatives to meet the government-required demand. “Congress in its wisdom has said we’re going to have 36 billion gallons of this stuff no matter what the cost,” says Princeton’s Searchinger.

And so it’s inevitable that Florida entrepreneurs and researchers will continue to chase ethanol development. Ingram says that once ground is broken on his Florida plant it will take two years to build. He’s convinced that a few months of operation will prove cellulosic ethanol’s economic and technologic viability. Others then will see the investment risk of building more as worthwhile, he says. “The technology is there. The hang-up is in building the first one.”

Tags: Around Florida, Agriculture, Energy & Utilities, Environment

Digital Access

DIRECT DIGITAL ACCESS
Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single ditgital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.

ACCESS THIS ISSUE »

Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Lazydays to star in new Travel Channel show about buying an RV
Lazydays to star in new Travel Channel show about buying an RV

Shopping for an RV at Lazydays RV SuperCenter in Seffner is the focus a new reality show premiering Sunday on the Travel Channel.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

When Obamacare finally gets to the U.S. Supreme Court, do you believe it will stand, or be gutted?

  • The Affordable Care Act will stand
  • I believe it will be dealt serious, if not fatal, blows by highest court

See Results

Ballot Box
Subscribe