November 21, 2007
The old argument goes that ethanol can't be sent through our existing pipeline infrastructure, so it must be shipped via rail or truck which burns more fuel and emits more greenhouse gases.
On the surface this sounds like a good old fashioned common sense issue, but is it really?
Of course what is implied in this argument is that gasoline is a better choice because of it's ability to shipped through the pipelines. Most people assume that all gasoline and other petroleum products are shipped through pipelines to terminals and only have to be trucked that last little bit to the gas station. But according to the American Petroleum Institute, pipelines carry about 68% of the petroleum and petroleum products moved domestically. About 27% of the remainder is moved by water and about 5% by truck or rail.
Just to put these numbers in perspective, we use about 140 billion gallons of gasoline per year, so that would mean that almost 45 billion gallons had to be shipped by means other than the pipelines. Compared to only 5 billion gallons of ethanol being shipped last year. Which do you think requires more fuel and emits more greenhouse gases, shipping 45 billion gallons of gasoline or 5 billion gallons of ethanol?
The argument also fails to take into account that ethanol plants are smaller, less expensive, and easier to construct than oil refineries. That means that if a particular area needs more ethanol, new plants can be built in that area to service that need. Doing so cuts down greatly on transportation needs and negates the need for pipelines.