Monday, July 23, 2007

Recycling on The Today Show and...Ethanol


Steven Dubner, author of Freakonomics was the Today Show's guest "expert" on the topic of recycling last week. Is he the correct authority to be informing people about what they should or should not be recycling? The snippets I remember included; Don't bother with newspaper, cans are easiest to recycle, plastic is not so good (depending on the type). Scrap metal...YES! Metal is "easier" to recycle.

He did mention the "three Rs", Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In my humble opinion, this is good advice. He also mentioned the mayor's of NY and San Francisco recent decrees that the city workers can survive without bottled water. We somehow survived on tap water for a few decades, we can do it again. There is a bottled water backlash coming and you can be certain that the big water firms are already on top of PR campaigns and green-washing to keep us buying. In fact, perhaps there are opportunities for progressive programs to keep selling bottled while encouraging reuse & recycling of the bottles? Partnerships with companies like Recycline? True cost pricing for the bottles as a percentage of the selling price so people are aware of it?

I enjoyed Freakonomics. It's a good read.

Meanwhile, a conversation at a late afternoon business meeting last week turned to the topic of the BTU content of ethanol. The point was made that ethanol contains less energy per gallon than gasoline. With increases in the percentage of ethanol in our gasoline, the per gallon energy is going down while the prices continue to go up. With less energy available, you'll travel less distance on the same volume, or, use more to go the same distance. Check out page 18 of this Fuel Economy Guide from the EPA, DOE, & EERE. Interesting. We are starting to pay more for less energy. I suppose that's part of the point; getting people to think about where they are spending their energy dollars.

The debate about ethanol's place as a solution for our energy "problem" is ongoing. Converting corn to ethanol is driven more by the desire for corn belt politicians to bring money to their states than by good energy policy. Unfortunately, this kind of policy is not new to us. Governments are poor choosers of technology, and should not be placed in those positions.

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