Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Oct 09

Sugar Cane Ethanol Hits Hollywood

Posted in Biofuels | Ethanol Fuel

Jimmy Smits The most recent episode of CBS’ new Tuesday-night drama, CANE, was themed by the plans for a Florida-based sugarcane ethanol refinery. Lead character Alex (Jimmy Smits) had recently taken the reign as CEO to Duque Rum. Initially Alex was presented with the idea of selling off the company’s sugarcane fields, a move that would allow the Duque Company to focus entirely on the production of its popular-selling rum. Instead Alex decides to meet with a US Senator over the future of sugarcane ethanol. The proposal by the federal government is to contract for the first US-based sugarcane ethanol refinery: a move that would cost $100 million but would be subsidized by half from the government. Although the cost is heavy, Alex explains to his family, sugarcane ethanol is the future and it would behoove the Duque family to retain their sugarcane fields and invest in the production of ethanol.

As the highest rated new show on Tuesday nights, this episode of CANE brings the idea of biofuels and renewable energy right into our living rooms. As a biofuel growing in popularity, ethanol is an ideal alternative to fossil fuels. It is higher in octane levels, which produce power. Ethanol also reduces tailpipe emissions of carbon monoxide, and reduces harmful particulates as well. Perhaps most importantly, ethanol is a renewable form of energy that would reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil. But just how real is the government’s interest in sugarcane ethanol?

The truth is that the federal government is interested and it heavily subsidizes its own ethanol industry: a 51-cent subsidy per gallon of ethanol produced. Most of this production, however, is in corn-based ethanol: an idea we as a public are being acquainted with slowly through the various shows on the Discovery Channel or the Auto Industry’s advertisements for Flex-Fuel vehicle designs. Yet the ideas brought forth by CANE are not only increasing our awareness of such alternative fuels, they are in fact more real than we imagined. In addition to corn-based ethanol, the US Government’s farm and energy bills are currently proposing to allocate billions of dollars towards the development of non-corn ethanol sources. There are energy bills calling for the doubled use of ethanol and other fuels derived from agricultural products. This includes sugar-based ethanol. These bills are supported by numerous groups as well: farm-state congressmen and women, consumer and environmental groups, even some labor unions. Coupled with the soaring prices of oil, the idea of sugarcane ethanol may in fact become more of a reality as a money-saving substitute for petroleum-based fuels produced in foreign countries.

  • http://energyboomer.com Birney Summers

    It is great that a move toward energy independence is being supported by popular television. I hope that a minimum of misinformation is included in the show.

    Yes both ethanol and butanol have high octane ratings and help gasoline produce power in high compression engines. Octane does not produce power. A high octane level prevents premature explosion of the hydrocarbon air mix in the engine. The ethanol, butanol or gasoline provide the hydrocarbons to fuel the explosions that provide the power.

    Ethanol is not an ideal alternative to fossil fuels. It has much less energy per gallon than gasoline and attracts water far too easily to be ideal. Butanol is a better choice. The advantage that ethanol has is that it is available now with proven production technology. It is likely to be replaced with better fuels in the future. But for now we should ride the horse that has the saddle on it now.

    Having home grown transportation fuel is needed and TV should promote it more than they do now.

  • blah

    It’s a shame our government is destroying the ecosystem and charging us taxpayers for it. However there are big lobbyists behind it and the politicians do exactly what they are told. They may bad mouth each other but they never badmouth the lobbyists and risk losing the handouts. It’s just a shame the truly clean alternative energies, like solar and wind, do not have existing deep pockets yet. With subsidies equivalent to what we are now paying the farmers or the fossil fuel, or the nuclear industry, we could go 100% clean energy in a matter of 10 years. Having enough excess energy to cleanly produce hydrogen for our vehicles…

    However solar and wind do not have the deep pockets that the existing oil, farm, and nuclear industries have to bribe our politicians.

  • willie Lett

    I have only a few words, Brazil 85% sugarcane ethanol. Research, sugar produce more ethanol than corn. Brazil is 95% to 99.9% fossil free. They must know something that we are not telling.

  • gordon

    A few major concerns with ethanol. Corn based ethanol requires almost as much energy to produce as it provides about a 12% gain ratio. Cane sugar is produce in climates with very little cold south eastern South Carolina, coastal GA, AL, MS, LA most of FL and south eastern TX and HI. Take the developed areas and the swamp areas out of this and there isn’t enough left to produce sugar for consumer demand now with out using it for fuel. Wood, most grasses, legumes and small grains are about the same return or even less than corn. A few other ideas are sorgum, beet, sodax. These have a higher return than corn but not as high as cane, about 33% cane about 40%. Sorgum can be raised in most of the areas of the US that have available water. The problem lies in water for crops, and we are rapidly running out of farmable land. Just look around your area, the building in your town is like the rest of the country. We need to really get on solar and wind, along with hard conservation there might be a feasible answer to the current situation.

  • Toddo

    Ethanol production is a serious concern for one simple reason: we are utilizing food sources to make it. For the past 6 years, our world has not produced enough grain to feed the population. This problem will only get worse (much worse) if we devote more cropland to creating ethanol. There are many viable alternatives. Let’s pursue those options that will not leave the world’s people to starve.

  • Don Badeaux

    In the 80’s there was an ethanol from sugar cane plant in New Iberia, LA. didn’t work. Costs too much to produce, even with Government subsidies. Not the same using tractors and combines in US, versus cheap labor in the fields with cane knives, and manure for fertilizer. Anyhow, we can buy it cheaper from Brazil…


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