During the Fall ’06 semester, 14 students in Environmental Studies Senior Seminar set out with one objective—to cut through the hype about ethanol and find out what options actually exist for the alternative fuel. In trying to determine the answer, they realized that few avenues provided unbiased information on the topic. Some resources extolled the fuel as an answer to the United States’ energy policy, while others called the energy source a fad popularized by its heavily subsidized corporate backers.
Under the direction of Professor John Halfman of geoscience and Associate Professor Thomas Drennen of economics, the group realized that they needed to develop their own findings. They also decided that they would share those results with others by establishing a Web site.
The front page of their Web site, www.ethanolinfo.us, explains their objectives.
“We need to get past the hype and learn more about the realities of ethanol in America today. How is ethanol created? Is ethanol cost efficient and energy efficient? Is ethanol the solution to reducing oil dependency? What else should we know about ethanol?” Within the Web site are nine additional sections and an index that contains information on the processes by which ethanol is made, related government policies, social implications and more.
“This was a great experience to find out the actual options that exist,” said Justin Bauer ’07, of Burlington, Conn. “And then it will be up to everyone to decide if ethanol is the right choice for our country.”
While all the seniors are majoring in environmental studies, their other passions and areas of study made them an ideal group to address related issues. Bauer also studies international relations and English; Helen Carr, geoscience; Marilyn Cassedy, Ancient Greek; Nikki Dudley, education; Thomas Kelley Evans, English; Jessica Hardy, religious studies and geoscience; John Keating, education; Kathryn Loddengaard, geoscience; Mandi Markee, physics and computer science; Jay Mills, economics and writing; Patrick Sahradnik, economics; Adam Scott, history; Jen Voce, English and education; and Sara Vogel, political science and art history.
“I hope that this Web site will serve as a tool to educate those who seek a broad understanding of ethanol and the issues surrounding it,” said Cassidy. “It opened all of our eyes about the possibilities that exist.”