Saturday, July 19, 2008

Better Fuel Options on the Horizon

While it does take years of development to mass produce new technology, good news came out this week about Shell's investment in advancing cellulosic ethanol.

Why should the average mom care? Because when it comes to forthcoming fuel options, your E85 corn ethanol isn't the best option. Yes, E85 corn ethanol gives you much less emissions, but it destablizes our food supply, sucks up land that would be used for food production or otherwise left natural, and its non-organic farming practices pollute the soil and water. Sugar cane ethanol, like what is found in Brazil, gives you more energy yield than corn, but it also has similar food supply and environmental problems, not to mention that sugar cane fields are often burned at the end of each harvest which contributes to carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

When it comes to ethanol options, the best option is biofuel made from cellulosic sources -- with the resulting fuel called cellulosic ethanol. This type of ethanol is made from waste (like corn stalk waste), algae, or prairie grass sources -- therefore, it doesn't cut into your food supply and has the potential for not only cleaning up waste (such as by using corn stalk waste) but also to be produced regionally.

Shell calls this type of fuel "next generation" or second generation biofuel. It is considered sustainable and has the potential to be a highly responsible fuel -- being responsible from start to finish, including the manufacturing and distribution process. And while is it obvious that a company like Shell is in the money-making, shareholder-pleasing business, I appreciate the fact that there is serious investment being done into advancing cellulosic ethanol from a major distributor. We all buy our fuel from major distributors.

Additionally, most large corporations that have begun to heavily invest in more sustainable and responsible products and operations are doing it because the writing is on the wall: if they want to survive in the future, then they have to protect their supplies or create more sustainable supplies. This is happening with organics, with sustainable seafood, and now starting to happen with fuel.

As a mom, the more you understand what are the best choices and the driving market forces, the more you are able to more articulately voice your opinion to let companies and your government know what you want. And then when better choices arrive, you can help fuel demand by buying products that are better for your family and the economy.

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