Gasohol a good start, but no final solution
Hawai'i is finally getting around to preparing regulations for a long-awaited "gasohol" industry. Compared to standard gasoline, the high-octane gasoline-ethanol blend is said to emit fewer greenhouse gases, such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
With a million cars on the road, any effort to reduce fossil-fuel emissions is more than welcome. Plus, ethanol is made from the fermentation of sugar or starch. That means Hawai'i can made good use of its sugar cane crops that are now grown largely for aesthetic reasons.
What's not to like?
Well, as with everything, gasohol has its critics. Here are some of their concerns:
On the Mainland, many believe that the ethanol provision, which is mandated by the federal Clean Air Act, was concocted to enrich farmers and food processors under the guise of improving the environment. Some call it "blatant corporate welfare."
A study by Cornell University scientist David Pimental found that the energy used to turn corn into ethanol exceeded the energy produced by the fuel.
Moreover, scientists say, while ethanol may reduce carbon monoxide, it can also create more smog via other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and acetaldehyde.
And, critics say, ethanol is more expensive to produce than gasoline, and would invariably cost more at the pump.
Without doubt, ethanol is a controversial energy source. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have a place in the Islands. For one thing, it is a source that can be homegrown, rather than imported.
Rather than look to gasohol as the solution to our dependency on fossil fuels, let's see how it works here with an eye on establishing truly clean, efficient and cost-effective alternative energy sources.