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Ethanol editorial missed a few key points

by: Submitted photo An aerial view of Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery located at Port Westward in Clatskanie.

I read with interest the editorial on the ethanol plant rebirth ('Ethanol plant rebirth is cause for scrutiny,' Spotlight, June 8). I am a Federal Aviation Administration-licensed aircraft mechanic retired from Horizon Airlines, a trained diesel mechanic from the U.S. Navy, two-year automotive certificate from De Anza Junior College, operated my own foreign auto repair shop for six years, have a Bachelor's degree in Science, information and Technology from San Jose State, and have been a member of the SAE for over 40 years.

The written editorial gave a discussion about the problems, and costs to make alcohol as a replacement fuel but failed to discuss the other side of the argument. That is: What should we do to get off of petroleum use? The writing inadvertently suggested that we stick to petroleum fuels. This is not going to help reduce pollution and fuel costs.

The very last sentence was really something to chuckle about. Reduce the nation's food supply by encouraging corn cultivation. If our nation had a problem of not having enough land to grow food crops on, then I would see every acre of land around my area in Warren growing food and not weeds.

Such is not the case.

There are acres and acres of land here in Columbia County just growing weeds. Just take a drive up Tarbell Road, and onto Slaven up to Hazen to view weeds growing everywhere. So far I have not been contacted to plant my 2.6 acres into a food crop. I do plant two plots for donating to the food bank, but a good acre-and-a-half could be used; so the comment that we do not have enough land for growing food does not compute.

Now, to go one step further, let's do away with beef and use all of that farm land for food crops. Next, let's make it necessary for anyone wanting a pickup have to prove a farm or business need to own one. Then, remove all V8 engines from vehicles moving toward four cylinders and less.

During my automotive training, I learned that alcohol as a fuel did not have the detonation problem in high-compression engines like that of gasoline. This was one of the reasons race cars used an alcohol fuel. By raising the compression ratio on a piston engine, more power could be produced, meaning that the engine could be operated at a lower RPM developing the same horsepower of a lower-compression engine using gasoline operating at a much higher RPM. In evaluating the two engines, the miles-per-gallon would be very similar.

The problem our country faces is that we have not been subjected to the real cost of driving our living-room couches down the public roads at accelerating speeds without any regard to the posted speed limits. This lifestyle has to end, and we need to move into the real world.

I just loved driving the new 2003 Honda Element, but 24 mpg was more than I could handle when our 1989 Honda Civic wagon with 227,000 miles on it was giving us 34 mpg. In November 2008, we took delivery on a 2009 Honda Fit/Sport with a 1.5 L engine, and are getting 34-37 mpg. We are waiting for the TATA Motors to ship in the NANO vehicle, which has a two-cylinder 33 horsepower engine.

Honda has a turbo-charged four-cylinder diesel engine installed in an Accord, and CV-R vehicles as showcased at a previous auto show, but have not brought the engines into the U.S.

Biodiesel is a synthetic fuel to consider while moving to the next generation of transportation vehicles.

The one thing to keep in mind is that the first quantity of a synthetic fuel produced can be used to power the system to generate more synthetic fuel, and not to keep using the original fuel source. A large solar array system could be one source of power to make synthetic fuel.

As the Third World countries move into the auto driving arena, the world quantity of oil is going to be divided up giving less to each group. If our country does not wake up, people are going to find themselves riding bikes, or walking long distances.

Commentary by Richard Scherer of Scappoose