USA TODAY’s story on cellulosic ethanol reports only the potential benefits and doesn’t mention the huge burdens it will have to overcome ("General Motors finances ethanol maker Coskata," Money, Monday).
If cellulosic ethanol is viable, it might lower the cost of ethanol production. But it won’t lower the transport costs. Ethanol is transported on trucks, and this is expensive. Oil and gas distribution is much cheaper than ethanol distribution.
This problem also changes the calculus concerning ethanol’s environmental impact. Is producing cellulosic ethanol from bacteria and transporting it on trucks cleaner than pumping oil, refining it and shipping it through pipelines? Is using wood to make cellulosic ethanol environmentally friendly? These questions remain unanswered. If a true alternative to oil is to be found, these questions must be asked, answered and tested in the free market. Nothing else will do.