LETTER- Biofuels tops in efficiency

I was interested to read Ronald Bailey's piece in the February 23 Hook ["Energy rhubarb: Biofuels lead to biofeud"]. As the events director for Public Policy Virginia, a local non-profit that has been studying the issue of biofuels for some time, I firmly believe that ethanol and biodiesel can and should be part of our nation's comprehensive energy policy.

Public Policy Virginia held an event in Danville last December that focused on the economic benefits to Southside Virginia of a local ethanol production plant. We are holding another event on Thursday, March 30, at 6:30pm at the Unitarian Church in Charlottesville that will address the environmental benefits of ethanol use– in particular, of cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass. I hope that anyone interested in learning more about biofuels will attend.

I would like to address the issue raised every time biofuels are mentioned (and which Bailey discusses)– whether ethanol production is energy efficient. Study after study has shown the net energy value of ethanol to be positive, and as technology becomes more sophisticated, the NEV continues to improve.

In addition, most of these studies are of corn ethanol which is a considerably less efficient biomass than cellulosic crops such as switchgrass. Though Pimentel and Patzek may disagree, they appear to be the only two dissenters on this issue in the scientific community.

As a nation, we must begin to take seriously the environmental harm caused by our dependence on fossil fuels. It is imperative that we look to alternative, renewable, and homegrown sources of energy for our continued economic, environmental, and national security.

David Barish
Public Policy Virginia
dbarish@ppvir.org #