Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Carbon Cloud Hangs Over Green Fuel




By Mark Clayton, Christian Science Monitor.Posted on Alternet.



An Iowa corn refinery, open since December, uses 300 tons of coal a day to make ethanol. So just how green can it be?



Late last year in Goldfield, Iowa, a refinery began pumping out a stream of ethanol, which supporters call the clean, renewable fuel of the future.

There's just one twist: The plant is burning 300 tons of coal a day to turn corn into ethanol -- the first US plant of its kind to use coal instead of cleaner natural gas.

An hour south of Goldfield, another coal-fired ethanol plant is under construction in Nevada, Iowa. At least three other such refineries are being built in Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota.

The trend, which is expected to continue, has left even some ethanol boosters scratching their heads. Should coal become a standard for 30 to 40 ethanol plants under construction -- and 150 others on the drawing boards -- it would undermine the environmental reasoning for switching to ethanol in the first place, environmentalists say.



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