Controversy in the numbers
Show me the numbers and the research. The net energy value of ethanol production is a hotly contested issue, and this article presents an overly simplistic view as an absolute fact.
Sure, producing ethanol CAN use more energy than the ethanol is worth. You could build an ethanol plant on top of Mt. McKinley and use Concorde jets to transport triple refined sugar to feed the ethanol production. That doesn't mean that ALL ethanol production is going to cost that much energy input to fuel it. There are a variety of companies out there making biofuels from a wide variety of sources and using several different technological approaches. Over time, some of their methods are going to prove more economical than others.
The nay-sayers need to stop fudging about natural gas or coal consumed during the production process - yes, those are non-renewable resources with energy values, but it's time to stop hiding behind the veil of "net energy". If 10 gallons of every barrel of oil is consumed when producing oil the conventional way and only 5 gallons is consumed producing ethanol (plus natural gas and/or coal) then THAT number really matters.
By hiding behind "net energy use", doubters are clouding the issue to score cheap sound bites. Substituting other energy sources for oil is a good thing. It reduces financing of despotic regimes, reduces the risk of oil tanker spills, and causes an overall reduction in fuel consumed during transportation to the consumer - even without pipelines, The fact that it helps a countries balance of trade and enriches the farm lobby hasn't been overlooked - but why should it be?
Fighting climate change isn't going to happen on the fuel production side. It's going to require clever engineering and power management on the consumption side. And the author is right about one fundamental thing - there will be some unintended consequences (ie; accelerated deforestation in unprotected areas) from the switch to bio-fuels. The solution is to protect those areas, not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Oh, and don't forget the fact that ethanol has been very successful at replacing MTBE. Ethanol works wonderfully as a fuel additive that reduces particulates in the air without the toxic effects of some other alternatives.