Alcohol and cars do mix

I agree with Mike Tidwell that fossil-fuel-based global warming is producing violent changes in our weather — something that only the most die-hard right-wingers (think Rush Limbaugh) and those in the hip pocket of the oil industry (think Tom Coburn) are still denying ("Going to extremes," July 6). But to only offer wind, solar and geothermal power as solutions really just sidesteps the problem, and in the case of electric cars does nothing at all (at least until our electricity doesn't come mostly from burning coal and natural gas).

What we really need to focus on is something that will actually remove carbon from the atmosphere, and that solution is alcohol power.

Ethanol is produced from plant matter, and plants get their carbon from the atmosphere. So if we switched entirely to ethanol as fuel, we would not be adding more carbon to the atmosphere, we would be recycling it. And to gradually reduce the total amount of carbon, we need massive reforestation programs that will put carbon back into the ground where we found it in the first place. And yes, I'm aware that ethanol is far more expensive than gasoline. But so what? What is the cost of the extreme weather events that now seem to take place almost every day?

When you factor in those costs, the extra price of a gallon of ethanol seems small. And while studies have shown that corn-based ethanol produces more carbon dioxide that it removes from the atmosphere (due mostly to the energy-inefficient production of corn), the opposite is true of ethanol from sugar cane. Brazil is already using ethanol from sugar cane to make a significant reduction in its carbon footprint, and there is no reason we in the United States can't do that, and do it even more efficiently.

The solution to our problem already exists, but until we take our politicians out from under the thumb of big oil, we're going to see more extreme weather events like we've been living through the last few years. We can either close our eyes and hope the problem goes away, or we can start to solve the problem today. There's an election coming in November, let's show the big corporations that they can't buy our elections and give us more of the same nonsense that got us into this mess in the first place.

William Smith, Baltimore

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