For those looking to replace oil, not just to find more of it in odder places, ethanol and other biofuels are getting new attention. Although in the U.S. ethanol from corn has a reputation both for draining energy and being corporate welfare, high oil prices make it more interesting. The recent energy bill provided a guaranteed market for 72 billion gallons by 2012. This ugly duckling may yet become a swan.
Unsubsidized producers in Brazil are already making oceans of biofuel from sugar cane. An energy-equivalent quantity of ethanol brewed there sells for less than half the price of crude oil. More than half the new cars sold in Brazil can run on fuels ranging from straight gasoline to straight ethanol. And researchers around the world are experimenting with all sorts of plant oilsincluding canola, soybean, and palmto fuel diesels, which can’t burn ethanol.