President Bush sniffs a bottle of ethanol at the National Renewable Energy Lab last year.
Yesterday he visited a lab that produces the enzymes used to produce corn-based ethanol. Hoisting a beaker of ethanol, he joked, “I quit drinking in ’86.”
The ethanol photo-ops are part of his new goal of reducing projected gas consumption by 20% by 2017 — a modest target according to critics on both sides of the spectrum, including the Natural Resources Defense Council as well as the American Enterprise Institute, the latter of which called it “essentially trivial.”
Most ethanol in the US is currently made from corn, which is problematic for a couple reasons. First, it has a lower net energy benefit than other feedstocks like switchgrass and other sources that produce what is broadly termed “cellulosic” ethanol. And second, it raises prices on corn-based food products.
Luckily, alternatives feedstocks are on the way, including one that’s related to my favorite beverage.
Ethanol is the substance in alcoholic drinks that makes them alcoholic, including beer. Hence Bush’s quip about drinking. It’s also why the Coors Brewing Company makes ethanol fuel from beer waste. They’re producing a few million gallons a year from spent grain and spilled beer. A drop in the proverbial bucket perhaps. Then again, given a choice of running my car on Coors Light or drinking it . . .