August 24, 2008

Ethanol Extends Discussion About Energy

By Bekah Porter

Does anybody else notice that discussing energy requires a lot of energy?

Talk on the topic just keeps going and going and going, and no fluffy, pink bunny with a drum set is needed to pound home the issue's importance.

But here in our tri-state area - and particularly in Iowa - we are fortunate to have the opportunity to put our money where our mouths are.

On Aug. 18, a study reviewed by U.S. senators at an agriculture committee hearing showed that corn for ethanol extends the nation's energy supply and saves the average American family as much as $1,500 annually.

Iowa alone has a capacity to produce 2.4 billion gallons of ethanol each year.

Pretty impressive, eh? And let's not forget that technology in the renewable fuel market continues to grow.

Earlier this month, a Johnston, Iowa, gas station implemented the state's first blender pump - a gas pump that allows consumers to create their own blend of ethanol ranging from a standard blend to an E85 blend.

Of course the industry is surrounded with skepticism - for example, is ethanol responsible for climbing food costs? But when you look at the fact that conserving energy continues to be a top priority - not to mention a useful way to save some cash as well as a slice of the environment - you have to give the industry some credit.

Still, ethanol is not the end-all, be-all. Small steps have to be taken on each level to gain true energy efficiency. That means we the people have a responsibility to trim, trim, trim when taking ourselves

to task.

In addition to pumping our cars with ethanol, drivers can follow these tips to cut fuel usage:

-- Reduce our speed by 10 miles per hour or more.

-- Drive less aggressively by accelerating smoothly and slowly applying brakes.

-- Avoid idling the engine.

-- Maintain recommended tire pressure.

-- Regularly maintain your vehicle with wheel alignments, new air filters and more.

-- Reduce the load in the car by removing unnecessary items from the trunk of the car.

-- Minimize use of heater and air conditioner.

-- Close windows at high speed.

-- Choose energy-conserving oil.

-- Consolidate trips.

-- Use cruise control.

Options are available to cut energy costs on the farm as well, including:

-- Conducting a farm energy study, which will document past energy use, determine problematic areas and provide a plan to save more energy.

-- Maintain and clean lights and ventilation fans.

-- Use compact fluorescent bulbs.

-- Consider adding windbreaks, grazing systems, tractor heater timers and livestock waterers.

-- Question every trip with any vehicle.

-- Consider either reducing till or converting to no-till.

-- Identify rebate or grant opportunities.

These tips are well-worth looking into, as Alliant Energy estimates that energy accounts for 15 percent of farmers'expenses.

Porter's e-mail address: [email protected]

(c) 2008 Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.