Daily Archives: June 20, 2005

Wasting Energy

Ethanol is clean. Ethanol is enviromentally friendly. North Dakota is going to subsidize ethanol use.
Only the last sentence may be true. North Dakota apparently is going to supplement the over $.50/gallon federal subsidy with an additional subsidy:

Gas stations are expecting ethanol fuel sales to zoom when a state tax break takes effect next month, although backers of the alternative fuel are less sure if consumers will stick with it.

Why use ethanal? Well,

Ken Kornkven, manager of a Cenex station in Portland, N.D., said some customers who can’t use E-85 also support it simply because it’s a renewable fuel.
“It’s a feel-good thing,” he said. “Even if they aren’t using it they liked to see it being used.”
As part of the initiative, a group of college students are traveling the state this summer in a vehicle festooned with a “GoE” logo, promoting ethanol and giving away free tanks of the blended fuel.
“I think a lot of people have heard of ethanol, but I don’t know how many of them know the benefits,” said Brent Klava, 21, a North Dakota State University student. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

But is it really a win-win for everybody? Recent studies suggest that ethanol fuel is not a great way to solve our energy problems:

Recently, Patzek published a fifty-page study on the subject in the journal Critical Reviews in Plant Science. This time, he factored in the myriad energy inputs required by industrial agriculture, from the amount of fuel used to produce fertilizers and corn seeds to the transportation and wastewater disposal costs. All told, he believes that the cumulative energy consumed in corn farming and ethanol production is six times greater than what the end product provides your car engine in terms of power.

Another article argues that ethanol’s touted cleanliness, reduced carbon dioxide production, can be achieved with a simpler approach:

Essentially you may as well burn gasoline and use the land base for reforestation (to store carbon in soil organic matter and standing biomass) than to grow corn and produce ethanol.

Patzek has a complimentary suggestion: repurpose all the funds devoted to ethanol to making automobiles more efficient.
Seems reasonable to me! Better that we all benefit from the wealth transfer than to give these dollars to corn growers and fertilizer makers.

Medical Marijuana Accessories

I’m not sure why this is being reported as something new as these vaporizors (R) have been available for quite a few years:

The biggest hit on the medical marijuana scene could soon be a high-tech gizmo that lets people inhale the drug but skip the smoke.
The device is a marijuana vaporizer. One version looks like a metallic volcano and sells for more than $500. Its creator calls it “the Mercedes-Benz of vaporizers.”
By heating marijuana to a point where vapors are formed but before combustion, a vaporizer is free of many of the toxins found in marijuana smoke, advocates say.
“You don’t have the harshness you get from smoking, no next-morning cough, no shortness of breath,” said Kathy Gagne, a 56-year-old Oakland resident who began vaporizing marijuana five years ago to treat her depression.

These are probably pretty popular with the non-cigarette smoking ganja users and as you can see at this California Norml information page there are a wide variety of vaporizers available.