Ethanol Not All it's Cracked Up to Be

I rarely get into political type discussion here, but I found this subject too loaded to ignore.

As with many political bandwagons, it seems that ethanol as the savior of our fossil fuel consumption is much more a nice idea than it is a practical one. Here are a couple talking points from a recent article on the subject.

“And a study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development found that ethanol subsidies amount to as much as $1.38 per gallon — about half of ethanol’s wholesale market price.”

That’s taxpayer money. A sustainable fuel source, but half of it is paid from my taxes? Hmmm.

“But as a gasoline substitute, ethanol has big problems: Its energy density is one-third less than gasoline, which means you have to burn more of it to get the same amount of power. It also has a nasty tendency to absorb water, so it can’t be transported in existing pipelines and must be distributed by truck or rail, which is tremendously inefficient.”

Which in effect puts huge limits on how much can be distributed even if it is produced.

“...gasoline, which has an energy balance of 5-to-1. In contrast, the energy balance of corn ethanol is only 1.3-to-1 – making it practically worthless as an energy source. “Corn ethanol is essentially a way of recycling natural gas,” says Robert Rapier, an oil-industry engineer who runs the R-Squared Energy Blog.”

And almost all of the “1” side of the “1.3:1” ratio is produced by fossil fuels. So much for ending reliance upon foreign oil.

“The most seductive myth about ethanol is that it will free us from our dependence on foreign oil. But even if ethanol producers manage to hit the mandate of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022, that will replace a paltry 1.5 million barrels of oil per day — only seven percent of current oil needs. Even if the entire U.S. corn crop were used to make ethanol, the fuel would replace only twelve percent of current gasoline use.”

So we can’t produce enough to even dent our fossil fuel use (and as mentioned above, even if we do, we can’t transport it). Interesting.

“since America provides two-thirds of all global corn exports, the impact is being felt around the world. In Mexico, tortilla prices have jumped sixty percent, leading to food riots. In Europe, butter prices have spiked forty percent, and pork prices in China are up twenty percent. By 2025, according to Runge and Senauer, rising food prices caused by the demand for ethanol and other biofuels could cause as many as 600 million more people to go hungry worldwide.”

But what’s a few more starving so that I can feel good about “buy USA”.

In short, read the article and remember a few of these things the next time your favorite politician points to the promised land of ethanol.

Worthy of its Own Post

These are some of the coolest/most hilarious pictures I’ve seen on the internets. Enjoy (and trust me, you will).

New Word: Salutating

image of word: salutate

In an e-mail I just sent to my friend Matt, I needed to refer to the process of writing my salutation to him. Believe it or not, there is no such word (and if you disagree with me, feel free to run off right now and prepare a paper to discuss at your next linguistics meeting).

So, in a moment of pure, unadulterated, light-shining-from-the-clouds genius, I came up with the beauty of a word that you are free to use from here on: salutate (salutated, salutating). It is, of course, defined as the process of writing, or otherwise creatively producing, a salutation.

And just in case you need a couple examples of usage:

“Although the President speeched powerfully, it was his salutating that captivated them.”

“So here I am salutating quietly, and I overhear a guy in the next cubicle punchlining, ‘Rectum? Darn near killed ‘em’!”

Enjoy not only the use of the word, but any salutating experiences you may have in the future, courtesy of all the staff here at

And yes, this is what my blog has come to in order to get something posted.

Open Browser, Insert Foot

The problem with “sticking your foot in your mouth” online is that it seems harder to take it back, since it’s saved in a backed-up, triple-redundant database and permanently archived and indexed by multiple seach engines and archiving services. Shouldn’t comment forms have Edit > Undo functionality?

Tact is something I must still need a lot of work on.

Enchancing Gmail Chat

Perhaps you’re a Gmail user. Perhaps you’ve considered taking advantage of its new integrated chat feature. Perhaps you’ve been perplexed about how to make it usable as a real chat application.

Well if that’s the case, you and I have a lot in common.

You see, while I wanted to have the chat feature available to me, I didn’t want to install Google Talk on my work computer. Our IT department doesn’t like it when you install software without approval.

So Gmail’s built-in chat was the answer for me. As I started messing with it, however, I discovered a “flaw” that made it impractical to use in my normal work setting. That “flaw” was the lack of “Always on top” functionality. That is, I want to be able to keep an eye on my chat conversations while I am doing other things. Going back to the chat window every 20 seconds to see if a friend client has responded is just not a good way to be productive. I need my chat windows to stay on top of any window I’m using so I can keep an eye on them while still getting work done.

So off to Google I went. And that’s where I found the aptly-named, Always On Top Maker by FAD Software. This handy piece of software lets you use some quick keyboard shortcuts (CTRL + ALT + T, to be exact) to turn the “Always on top” feature on or off for any particular window. And it’s just a small executable file. Perfect.

To get it to work upon reboot of the ol’ PC, just throw it into your Startup folder (probably located at C:/Documents and Settings/All Users/Start Menu/Programs/Startup/ on your Windows machine).

So now, all I have to do is use the Gmail chat window’s “Pop-out” feature, size it down a bit, and hold down CTRL + ALT + T. Voila – it’s now safely chillin’ on my lower right – comforting me with its soft, Googly glow. Enjoy.

The Postal Service and Miscellany

Although I’ve only heard 2 of their songs (3 if you count the remix of one of those), I think I have fallen madly in love with The Postal Service. Not I’m a groupie and will now chastise anyone who doesn’t know the lyrics to every song love, mind you, just a healthy appreciation for their stuff. Check ‘em out – you can even download one of their songs, and subsequently thank me for pointing you in their direction. Then again, I think they’re pretty popular, so I’m probably not showing you anything you don’t already know.

In other news, I’m not sure how I feel about this whole blogging thing. On one hand, it’s nice to be able to post whatever I want, whenever I want. But that’s just the thing – it’s not whenever I want. It’s (trying for) at least once a week (lest I lose the small amount of readship I have). Well, what if I don’t have anything neat to show or clever to say once a week? And therein lies the conundrum.