Those who lament the failure of biofuels lament commonsense rejection of products that aren't commercially viable, existing only because government tilts the playing field in their favor.
The Economist notes the drawbacks of “first generation” biofuels. Think of federally mandated diversion of 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop to produce ethanol blended into gasoline, which raises food prices and can cause poor engine performance and damage.
About fledgling “second generation” biofuels derived from agricultural waste, non-foodstock plants, even algae, The Economist writes: “Start-ups went bust, surviving companies scaled back their plans and, as prices of first-generation biofuels rose, consumer interest waned.”
And well it should, as fracking has “unlocked new oil and gas reserves and provided an alternative path to energy independence.” The Economist even notes that greater fuel efficiency and “lingering economic weakness” has “demand for fuel ... waning in many developed countries” and that large-scale “second generation” biofuel production would require “a staggering quantity of feedstock” for exotic, Rube Goldberg-like processes whose end products cost far more than conventional fuels.
Many types of biofuel research are worth pursuing. But no one should delude himself: Deployed before they're commercially viable, biofuels can't succeed without artificial government support. That's market wisdom to heed — not lament.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh Laurels & Lances
- President Carbon: Hypocrisy’s trip
- Greensburg Laurels & Lances
- Alle-Kiski Laurels & Lances
- Pittsburgh Tuesday takes
- The Thursday wrap
- Greater Pittsburgh’s ‘brain gain’
- The Pa. pensions debate: Union hypocrisy
- Mon-Yough Tuesday takes
- Witnesses can help
- Signing Michael Vick: Personal baggage & professional talent