Government mandates require U.S. gasoline producers to use 12 billion gallons of ethanol this year, with the requirement increasing to 15 billion gallons by 2015.
Where is all this ethanol going to come from?
No one knows how many cars there are in America. Many are not registered and are stored, in salvage yards, and some just sitting idle. But, according to WikiAnswers, there are approximately 250 million registered vehicles on the road today. That figure includes all types of vehicles. Approximately 16 million new vehicles are sold annually.
According to Wikipedia, the estimated population of the U.S. is roughly 306,000,000. Of course, not everyone owns a vehicle (or is even of driving age), but 0.81 vehicles per person is a pretty high percentage.
Compare that with this:
The total number of middle class people in China ranges from around 10–15 million to over 200–300 million, depending on the wealth and income level used to define it. We are seeing more middle class people especially in the cities along the coastal areas, where the total population is around 300–400 million people. The average person living in a coastal city can afford to own their own house through a mortgage if they save for five or six years. Average income in coastal areas is around $250 per month. While it’s difficult to give exact numbers of how many own their own home or cars, most families are either in the process of owning their own home—either through the old system of government free housing or are buying one on the market. Most of the urban population especially the older generation, have owned their own homes. Car ownership in China is still quite low; the total output for cars last year was around 6 million.
[size=2] If one judges the size of China’s middle class with the use of a single criterion (occupation, income, consumption, or self-identification), then China can be said to have a substantial middle class. Close to one-sixth of Chinese, some 136.4 million people, are middle class according to their profession; about a quarter of the population, or about 211 million people, are middle class in terms of income; about one-third of the population, or over 300 million people, are middle class according to their consumption; and some 401.6 million consider themselves middle class.[/size]
In other words, by some accounts China has a middle class bigger than our entire population… and only 6 million cars for a middle class of 400 million is less than 0.02 vehicles per person. Just wait until there are 240+ million more cars/trucks/SUVs on the road in China (i.e. when the Chinese middle class achieves “consumption parity” with today’s U.S. middle class)!
Our nation’s farmers, on average, are aging, and the amount of U.S. farmland is shrinking – and fewer children are interested in farming. The amount of farmland in the U.S. is only going to continue to shrink – and probably at an ever-increasing rate at that.
According to the USDA, only about 46% of farmland in the U.S. is cropland, the rest is woodland and pastureland. So, 434 million acres of cropland in the U.S. in 2002. With 80 million acres of land in the U.S. already planted to corn, that’s a shade or two under 20% of all available cropland just for corn (and 20% of that corn is exported).
One also has to look at the costs and thermal efficiencies of actually producing alternative fuels, plus the costs and energy losses associated with transporting, storing, and transferring these alternative fuels, plus the performance results of using these alternative fuels, to do a true apples-to-apples comparison of the economic viability of these alternative fuels. Personally I would think that, if there were something more economically viable than fossil fuels, the oil companies would already be using it (at least internally), to reduce their own costs and maximize their shareholder value. After all, “why burn fossil fuels to produce/transport/store/transfer fuel, if we could burn something else instead and sell all that fossil fuel we’d otherwise burn?” That the oil companies are not already doing this speaks volumes.