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The Corner

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A Glimpse into the Future



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Before we throw another $20 billion down the renewable-energy hole, it might be worth asking: How’d that work out last time?

Barely a year after Congress enacted an energy law meant to foster a huge national enterprise capable of converting plants and agricultural wastes into automotive fuel, the goals lawmakers set for the ethanol industry are in serious jeopardy.

As recently as last summer, plants that make ethanol from corn were sprouting across the Midwest. But now, with motorists driving less in the economic downturn, the industry is burdened with excess capacity, and plants are shutting down virtually every week.

In the meantime, plans are lagging for a new generation of factories that were supposed to produce ethanol from substances like wood chips and crop waste, overcoming the drawbacks of corn ethanol. That nascent branch of the industry concedes it has virtually no chance of meeting Congressional production mandates that kick in next year.

Get used to stories like this. After the stimulus bill is enacted, you’re going to see a lot more of them.



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