There's a reason the United States hasn't been too serious about diversifying from its dependence on oil for energy. It's cheap, and even at today's rising prices, oil remains relatively inexpensive.

Still, it is worthwhile to look for alternative and renewable sources of fuel, despite the fact it might not be as economical to do so at this time.

Many in the oil and gas production business believe world oil production is nearing its peak. Consumption among industrialized nations, particularly China, has grown dramatically.

Researchers at Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley basically have thrown cold water on the idea of ethanol and biodiesel production. Their research shows it takes more energy to turn corn or soybeans into alternative fuels that it produces.

Alternative fuels proponents, however, say the fuels burn cleaner than fossil fuels, reduce U.S. dependence on oil and give farmers another market for their produce.

We don't dispute the findings of the researchers, but we also believe the United States must get more serious about diversifying energy resources. And, we also suspect some of the research findings are politically motivated.

The U.S. Senate recently approved a broad expansion of the use of ethanol in gasoline, despite claims it most likely will increase gasoline prices outside the heavily agriculture region of the country. Politicians in states that aren't heavily agriculture are not in favor of higher ethanol mandates. California's own Sen. Dianne Feinstein claims doubling ethanol use will result in lost revenue for the government because ethanol receives a 51 cents-a-gallon tax credit.

The California study omits $3 billion in state and federal government subsidies that go toward ethanol production in the United States. The ethanol industry claims using 8 billion gallons of ethanol a year will allow refiners to use 2 billion fewer barrels of oil. Yet, some oil producers say the ethanol mandate will have negligible impact on oil imports.

The fact remains, however, the world's energy demands are increasing. Oil will only go so far, so it just makes sense to begin investing in renewable energy resources. In time, technology and innovation most likely will result in reduced energy to produce these alternative fuels.


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