The Way I See It

Pimentel study resurfaces Down Under
By Mike Bryan | June 05, 2007
Our old friend Dr. David Pimentel, apparently no longer able to garner any traction for his ethanol/energy study in the United States, has taken his show on the road to Australia. I find it quite interesting—but certainly not coincidental—that whenever there is even a discussion of a mandate for ethanol, his study suddenly shows up.

Several state governments in Australia are considering implementing a fuels standard that would require the use of ethanol, and—viola!—his study is now in the news. Since 1994, there have been no fewer than 11 independent studies completed on this issue. All but one study (Pimentel's) shows a positive net energy gain in ethanol production ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 British thermal units per gallon. Either the professor is a genius when compared with the other 10 researchers, or his data is fatally flawed. I know where I would put my money.

Australia's biofuels industry is on the verge of great things. Pimentel's report, while getting a spot of news here and there, won't deter this great continent from moving forward with renewable energy. In fact, I am writing this column while in southern Australia. We have had the opportunity to meet with a number of groups wanting to develop projects. To say it has been exciting and very educational would be an understatement.

The enthusiasm demonstrated by these groups is clearly reminiscent of the earlier days of the ethanol industry in the United States. We met with farm groups that have suffered severe drought over the past few years, and other groups with green, lush farmland as far as the eye could see. All are eager to move forward in developing ethanol production, perhaps for different reasons but determined to enter into the value-added marketplace nonetheless. Whether they are hurting from the drought or dancing in the rain, almost everyone here understands the importance of renewable energy for their future.

Water in Australia is an issue of great concern for many. Now that winter has arrived Down Under, the grapes have been harvested, and the winter wheat is planted. Those areas that have suffered from severe drought are hoping for just enough rain this winter to get crops up and growing. Other areas are looking toward a bumper crop.

Whatever the outcome of the weather in this vast land, one thing is for sure. The Australian farmer is no longer satisfied with exporting grain, only to let someone else add value to it. Australia has officially joined the growing international community of renewable energy producers.

From Down Under, g'day mate!

Mike Bryan
Publisher & CEO