Brazil had a great idea to make sustainable fuel – burn down the rain forests and plant corn for ethanol. Hurray! Brazil is the world’s leader in green gasoline and diesel. There’s just one problem: the soil is so bad that only one crop of corn can be produced before the soil is exhausted. The rainforest is gone after that one crop. The soil is so bad that it will be a thousand years before the forest will grow back in that cornfield. Brazil still has those strict requirements for ethanol production, hence strict requirements to burn down more rain forest.
Ref: here’s a map of all the fires in the Amazon Basin. It’s all bright red – burning!
So, what might work for Brazil is catastrophic for the world. Why? Because the rainforests are the lungs of the planet. The rainforests purify the air, sequester carbon dioxide, filter the water, and sustain the most diverse ecosystem on the planet (from which tens of thousands of medical cures have arisen.)
Likewise with the new green incentive for “Sustainable Aviation Fuel”. We can lower the carbon footprint of jet travel by mixing in agricultural ethanol-type fuels. Wow! We can keep traveling ~ guilt-free. The only problem is that there’s not enough arable land as it is to feed the world – much less the 5 billion increase in population by the end of the millennium.
We’re going to use millions of acres of land to grow “sustainable aviation fuel?” Millions of acres?
One acre of high-yield corn can produce 500 gallons of ethanol. (Net energy gain is more like 300 gallons when you deduct all the energy to harvest the crops, process the corn into ethanol, and transport the product to the marketplace.) Aviation fuel is far more concentrated than regular gasoline. One acre of corn might net 100 gallons of jet-fuel ethanol. A commercial jet burns 1 gallon of fuel per second, so that 100 gallons of fuel will be spent in a minute and a half on your getaway trip to the Caribbean.
Commercial jets burn 20 billion gallons of aviation fuel each year. That’s roughly 50 million acres of cropland – that we don’t have. We don’t have the water to grow the crops, either. It takes 600,000 gallons of water to grow just one acre of corn. 50 million acres of corn would need 30 trillion gallons of water – and there’s a drastic shortage of water right now. (Growing corn in the amazon works because there’s steady, regular rainfall.)
Another way to think of this: it takes 2000 gallons of water for one gallon of ethanol. Given the water shortage worldwide, ethanol should be banned as a fuel additive.
A turboprop gets 70 miles per gallon. A commercial jet burns 5 gallons per mile: 0.25 miles per gallon.
Bottom line? Ask the airlines for flights on turboprop planes – and support the airlines that offer them, especially for local travel. Note: no U.S. airlines offer turboprop flights. Ask for Porter Airlines. Or Alaska Air. Wouldn’t that make a cool photo on your Facebook page about your vacation. Wow – you flew in a real airplane?!
P.S. Brazil has notified the international community that they will roll back the destruction of the rainforests – for a multi-billion dollar payoff. Nothing like a corrupt third-world despot using his leverage to manipulate America down to the same level of abject corruption.