If, hypothetically, all U.S. cars ran on 100 percent corn-based ethanol, and if one Ivy League professor's analysis is correct, then 97 percent of the entire country's land area -- including real estate now occupied by cities -- would be needed to grow corn.
Until recently, Brazil was better known for soccer and carnival than for leading the world into the future of energy consumption. But now Brazil is also famous for what might be called its "sweet gold." "Sweet" as in sugarcane, "gold" as in a fuel to replace "black gold" -- oil.
About three decades ago, Brazil decided to use its overabundance of sugarcane to decrease its overdependence on foreign oil. It created an industry of sugarcane-based ethanol, a grain alcohol fuel. That effort kicked into high gear a few years ago, when "flex-fuel" vehicles that can run on up to 100 percent sugarcane ethanol reached a critical mass in Brazil. The alternative to gasoline took off.
Now, the fifth largest country in the world is producing enough home-grown sugarcane-based ethanol to equal 300,000 barrels of oil per day. Ethanol currently supplies half of the fuel needs of Brazilian vehicles, and the government is expected to announce energy self-sufficiency within a year.
Can a similar approach lead to an energy-independent future in the U.S. and elsewhere?
Peak oil doomsday my hiney.