Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism

By Ozzie Zehner | Go to book overview
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3. Biofuels and the Politics of Big Corn

Years ago, fairy tales all began with “Once upon
a time…” Now we know they all begin with, “If
I am elected.”—Carolyn Warner

Iowa. That’s the answer to a question that growing numbers of scientists, aid workers, reporters, and environmentalists are asking about ethanol and other biofuels. But before we can address the question, it would be helpful to understand what biofuels are and how they are affecting our energy infrastructure.


Biofuels in Sixty Seconds or Less

Like photovoltaics and wind turbines, biofuels are another way to harness power from the sun, but through photosynthesis. Unlike wind turbines and solar photovoltaics, biofuels are easily stored and dispatched as needed, much like oil, coal, and natural gas, making their energy far more valuable.

Before the industrial revolution, biomass materials (i.e., living and recently dead plant material, such as firewood, and biological material, such as dung) were humanity’s primary sources of energy.1 The world’s first mass-produced flex-fuel

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Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism
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