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Old 02-08-2007, 03:15 PM
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I need Information from the farmers here

I am currently engaged in a debate, via letters to the editor in a local newspaper, with a group of people who claim Bio fuels (Biodiesel and Ethanol) wont work because we cant grow enough corn. Their main arguement is that "the 2005 corn crop would have only produced enough Biofuel to fill 20 or 30 percent of the nations requirement if the whole crop had been committed to that end." They then claim that moving to Biofuel will drive the price of animal feed thru the roof and thereby drive the price of meat up.

I know that there are other crops besides corn that could be used and I believe that by allowing farmers to use all of their land instead of only enough to fill production quotas we could see a much bigger impact than the predicted 20 to 30 %. We would also see the farmers benefit because unit prices should rise. With more land in production more workers would be needed so those folks would benefit. Finally, with farmers working for fair prices we would be able to end farm subsidies so the federal budget would benefit.

My questions: is this at least partly accurate, where am I wrong?
How much land is in soil banks?
Which crop is the best feed stock crop? Canola?
Can the residue left after pressing for oil then be fermented to make Ethanol?
What else can you give me to support my arguement?

I know I just opened a big can of worms LOL
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Old 02-08-2007, 05:57 PM
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Phew...those are a lot of questions. And, they are tough questions.

First off, you do not want to talk about biodiesel and ethanol together. Yes, they are both alternative fuels, but the feedstock and effiency of production of the two are very very different. The only similarities are that they are agricultural renewables.

When you think about biodiesel, you are talking about oil seeds: canola, soybeans, mustards, safflower, sunflower, cotten seed, peanuts, etc.. Corn is not considered a good oil source for BD, since it is mostly starch and sugar. For example, the biodiesel yield from an acre of corn compared to canola is 18 gal. to 127 gal. respectively (see table). When you think of ethanol, you think of starchy/sugary crops: corn, sugar beats, sugar cane, switch grass. Anything with starches and sugars are good for ethanol...even potato peelings, apple juice pulp and such will work for making ethanol. Grains: wheat, barley will work too. AND YES...CANOLA IS ONE OF THE VERY BEST OIL SEEDS CURRENTLY GROWN IN THE US. Although coconut and palm oil are very high in oil content, we don't grow those in the US and they would have to be imported, requiring tearing out huge areas of tropical rainforest for plantations...WE DON"T WANT THAT...DEFEATS THE PURPOSE!! Plus, their oil gels at higher temperatures than canola and soy. Canola is the superior BD oil. See table below...
Click the image to open in full size.

Ethanol requires a lot more energy to produce than biodiesel. For BD, every unit of energy input gets you 4 units of energy output, and that includes everything from planting though to the ending BD product. Ethanol is not anywhere as efficient as biodiesel as a fuel souce, but it's about the best thing we can use in gasoline powered cars as an alternative at this time and in the near future.

The beauty of BD is any diesel powered ANYTHING can use biodiesel: pickups, delivery trucks, semis, contstruction equip., trains, ships, buses, diesel heaters, diesel generators...on and on and on. Biodiesel is by far superior as an alternative fuel for just about anything using diesel RIGHT NOW TODAY!!!! NO NEED TO DEVELOP ANYTHING NEW, like E85 vehicles, or MODIFY EXISTING ENGINES!! Big advantage!!! I bought my 1999 F-350 PSD specifically because it was a diesel, knowing I could use one of the best currently available alternative fuels right now and be as close to carbon neutral as just about anything can get today, other than solar, hydrogen, geothermal and wind (which don't easily translate over to a personal vehicle).

We're farmers and are growing canola, right now, on our farm. It is headed straight to the biodiesel processor at the time of harvest. But, here's what's really neat about BD for a farmer. Virtually, all of our equipment; tractors, combines, swathers, semis; run on diesel. We will be producing enough canola oil on our farm to fuel our own equipment with B100 to cultivate and harvest everything growing, canola, wheat, barley, etc., and still have extra to sell. The canola takes up less than 10% of our irrigated ground. We can run the equipment at nearly carbon neutral levels, grow a variety of crops and still help supply BD to others. Not only will the canola produce BD, but also a quality feed meal and glycerol as byproducts. Very little, if anyting, is wasted.

That brings us to your question about, "Can we actually supply the feedstock for all this alternative fuel?" Boy...that one takes a lot of number crunching and more brains than I have, but there are lots of opinions out there. Even the smartest people are battling that one out. But, I'll tell you this...we still have to try. To sit around arguing and not getting it done, gets us nowhere. If there is a demand, it will happen. If there's money to be made, it will happen.

Long term, I am hoping for hydrogen power to become a main energy source, but that will take time. When it's here, that's probably the way I'll go, but for now BD is the very best available solution from what I see. Electric vehicles seem attractive, but that power has to be generated somewhere and is typically it's from coal or oil...not carbon neutral afterall are they. Hybrids are okay, but still require gasoline. A diesel (BD) hybrid would be really nice, but I haven't seen one yet.

No...I didn't answer all your questions, but there is more info out there. I'll look around though my stuff and get back with some good info links to answer more of your questions.
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Last edited by Wheatina; 02-08-2007 at 06:03 PM.
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Old 02-08-2007, 07:37 PM
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Phydeaux88,
I agree completely with Wheatina concerning his analysis for BD. In my case, I grow soybeans I calculate based on my experience making BD and growing soybeans that conservatively I can produce about 50 gal. BD from one acre of soybeans. This 50 gals of BD will allow me to till, plant and harvest 10 acres of soybeans. That's a ten to one ratio. Interestingly enough not only does the soybeans from one acre produce 50 gals. BD but 1500 lbs of high quality 42-48% protein animal feed. Also soybeans being legumes need no fertilizer nitrogen and only moderate amounts of phosphates and potash.
The situation for corn and ethanol is more complicated. Corn yields between 3 and 4 tons grain (100-130 bushel) per acre of which about 80% is starch (100x56x.80=4480 lbs starch). Current ethanol plants produce about 2.8 gal of ethanol per 56 lb bushel of corn. You can see that at at 100 bu/A is 280 gal of ethanol. Unfortunately that 280 gals is only about 1800 lbs or only about 40% of the inital starch. The rest of the starch was used to supply the energy the yeast needs to make the ethanol and is release as carbon dioxide. The conversion is not nearly as good primarily because the BD (or triglycerides) is made by the soybean plants right in the field using solar energy. Also corn needs nitrogen supplied either as fertilizer or produced "in situ" by legumes. Even using switchgrass isn't going to change the energetics all that much.
But the real answer to your editor is "so what". Where did he get the God-given right to eat cheap meat? I eat meat because I grow my own. I recently did a little analysis of the beef industry by going to the grocery store, tabulating the prices of the various cuts of meat and calculating the retail value of a 1100 lbs steer (based on industry yield factors). Today that steer, delivered to the packer is worth about $1001 dollars (1100x$0.91) but the retail value at an average $4/lb is more like $3000. Remember the hide alone is worth a $100. So an animal that took 30-36 months (from bred cow to fat steer) for the farmer to produce and carry all the risk increased threefold in value inside of two weeks after slaughter.
All that aside I believe that there is now a new economic model where there is a direct relationship between fuel and food. "The more you drive the less you eat". If it takes all the corn to make 20% of the motor fuel then price of food will increase to the point where people will choose either to eat or drive. They will probably drive less in order to have some food. Remember there is a direct relationship between the high fructose corn surup in pop (soft drink) and ethanol in motor fuel. Who knows maybe they will eat less and walk more and be all the more healthy.
Finally you need to remember that it has only been about sixty years (my lifetime) that we have had essentially unlimited supplies of motor fuel. Before World War Two motor fuel was effectively limited, during WWII gasoline was strictly rationed. The last sixty years has been a historical aberration.
Good luck,
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Old 02-09-2007, 08:01 AM
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Phydeaux88,

After posting the above I have an additional thought. It is that time year where I review my farming operation and try to make some plans. This past year I made some 1500 gal of BD worth to me $3.00 a gal (spring price 2005). Well, with that 1500 gal I produced about a hundred ton of organic corn, soybeans and wheat. Ironically I just broke even. I would have been better off just to sell the BD and take the money. The conclusion is that food is so underpriced that serious disequilibrum between food and fuel is corrected it is pointless to talk about the effect of biofuels on food prices. Also by my calculations feed grains account for about 12% of the retail price of beef. Remember the supermarket markup for beef is typically 100%, That means the store takes the wholesale price and doubles it for the retail price.
For what it's worth.
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Old 02-09-2007, 01:10 PM
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I also farm - one thing that hasn't been mentioned (unless I missed it) I that the corn used for the E-85 can now be sold (after the oil is taken out) as distillers grain which can be sold as an animal feed. Here is an excellent article from the national corn growers assoc. http://www.ncga.com/ethanol/main/index.asp This link also has many other links for references.
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Old 02-09-2007, 09:35 PM
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Bigredtruckmi,
You are correct but you need to remember that there are two important parts of the feed value of any feed. First is the nurtrients supplied, protein, minerals, vitamins, etc. and the second is the energy. Without a source of energy any organism, cow, pig, human or bacterium cannot metabolize the other nurtritional elements into tissues, cells or even maintain itself. For example feed analysis labs report the energy value for every feed analysis in megacals per lbs and these energy valves differ depending on whether you are feeding for growth (Eg), lactation(El) (milk production) or just maintainance (Em). The problem is that the distillers grains is an excellent source of protein but most of the energy has been removed. This lack of energy will dramatically change the economics of cattle feeding in feedlots, and broiler and hog production. Whereas previously livestock farmers had excess energy and limited protein now they will have more protein than can be efficently used than the energy to use it.
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Old 02-10-2007, 05:14 AM
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The short version of it all,

Petroleum fuel has powered us for a long time as a one stop shop for energy.

That has to change.
Biofuels will not replace all our energy requirements. Not even close. If we let the farmers grow everything it might replace 20%. (there are some interesting algee experiments going on) that could increase this number very significantly.

Electric cars are another solution. Large cities should create laws that strongly encourage the purchase of electric vehicles for people who drive the appropriate distances and penalties for those who drive larger vehicles.

I propose this solution,
We create a way (I can think of many practical ones), to identify the type of vehicle you are driving when you pull into a gas station. The larger the vehicle you are driving, the more you pay for fuel. Those with hybrids get a big discount.

Problem solved.

Within 5 years, anyone who doesnt absolutly need a big vehicle wont be driving one.
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Old 02-10-2007, 07:51 AM
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What I was thinking is that a lot of people think that once the corn is used for E-85 that there is nothing left of it. I've had to correct some city friends of this one.
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Old 02-10-2007, 08:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murphy2000
The short version of it all,

Petroleum fuel has powered us for a long time as a one stop shop for energy.

That has to change.
Biofuels will not replace all our energy requirements. Not even close. If we let the farmers grow everything it might replace 20%. (there are some interesting algee experiments going on) that could increase this number very significantly.

Electric cars are another solution. Large cities should create laws that strongly encourage the purchase of electric vehicles for people who drive the appropriate distances and penalties for those who drive larger vehicles.

I propose this solution,
We create a way (I can think of many practical ones), to identify the type of vehicle you are driving when you pull into a gas station. The larger the vehicle you are driving, the more you pay for fuel. Those with hybrids get a big discount.

Problem solved.

Within 5 years, anyone who doesnt absolutly need a big vehicle wont be driving one.
So what your proposing is to penalize EVERY working stiff that HAS to use a pickup or truck for work, ALL farmers, truckers, delivery drivers, cable guys, plumbers, electricians, ad nauseum? That's really smart....... NOT!
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Old 02-10-2007, 10:50 AM
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Murphy makes a good point, although I don't think many would agree with his/her way of going about it. Conservation is a huge part of the solution and the most viable near-term and long-term solution. The alternative fuels will also make a substantial contribution fairly quickly. It's going to take a real mix of of alternatives and conservation.

I wonder, though, how quickly higher costs will slow us down from our gluttonous consumption?? It will have to cost an awful lot more. People complained about high gas prices last year, but still jumped in their monster SUVs to go down to the corner to pick up a gallon of milk and fill up the tank. It would take awhile to have an impact.

What irritates the hell out of me is why so many think that conservation means more cost, especially for businesses. The money that can be save with a few small changes is amazing. Creative conservation can save so much money and energy, if people would just take a closer look. We've gone way too long in this country with our wasteful ways.

The electric car solution will work only when we have developed better technologies, like; better batteries, fuel cells, hydrogen fuel, solar, wind, etc.. If everyone started plugging in their electric cars right now, we'd have just as much greenhouse gases produced, if not more, to generate the power needed.
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Old 02-10-2007, 02:20 PM
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I Have for kids that i have to drive over 200 miles round trip every other week to pickup for thw eek end then the same trip all over again. I have a 88 full size bronco that gets about 12 mpg (I plan to convert this truck to a diesel soon and make my on BD).I need a vehicle that has room for all of us and my fiance and still use as a daily driver and hunting etc.. I don't feel that I should pay more for fuel than the guy driving the little Geo just because his gets better mileage than mine. I can not afford to pay insurance, personal property taxes and tags each year on multiple vehichles just to make the greenies happy and I will not do it!!! Let them drive what they want and I will drive what i want where and when I want and not have to pay more for my fuel. The idea of this makes me sick, it sounds to me like your saying that if you cant afford the new high tech stuff you shouldn't be able to drive.
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Old 02-10-2007, 02:33 PM
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That's right Ken! Not everyone can afford brand new greenie tech and it's not rational to think everyone can run out and buy new greenie stuff.

That's the beauty of biodiesel!! You can be green as grass with an inexpensive USED diesel vehicle big enough for a football team...you can have a bus, if you need one.

If you can make your own BD, you'll be way ahead on the expense side of big rigs and your neighbors will label you the treehugger guy next door.
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Old 02-11-2007, 10:32 AM
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i truck corn evry day to utica energy in oshkosh wi every day at the rate of 4000to 5000bushels a day there are 18 other trucks other than my two doin the same.just to give ya an idea how much corn is needed for an ethonal plant to run.they have a shed there that holds holds 3million bushel if they dont haul no corn what so ever the 3million bushel will only run them 2months thats allot of corn.that ruffly187500 acres of land needed if you get 160 bushel to the acre.i dont think there to much land left in "soil banks"any more unless its just usless.the probelm with land shorteges is simple poeple are moving out of the city's and farm land is getin developed at a much fastr rate than say 20-30 years ago.if people would respect others there wouldnt be alot of crime and people would stay in town and leave farm land alone.as afr as feedin animals after the ethonal is brewed(after all its just a pure grade of moonshine)they have what left over at utica they call it wet cake others callit deistillers grain its a good feed but not as good a reguler corn as far as beens go after they take out the oil they have soybean meal left over and thats ben a staple farm feed for years.
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Old 02-11-2007, 12:30 PM
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Thanks for the input folks I really appreciate it.

I am all in favor of Biofuels because it can be done quickly. I realize fuel cells and other energy sources ar the future but they do not work well at this time and a lot of research must be done to make them work. Biofuels will fill the void in the interim.

Two of my questions were not addressed and I would still like info on them

How much land capable of growing appropriate crops is not currently farmed because it is tied up in Federal soil bank programs? (just a good guess will do)

Can some crops be pressed for oil then processed to produce EtOH?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Murphy2000
Biofuels will not replace all our energy requirements. Not even close. If we let the farmers grow everything it might replace 20%.
Murphy where did you get that number?

If that 20% is accurate, and I do not believe it is, what is wrong with replacing 20% of our petroleum requirements with Biofuel while we figure out how to do it a better way?
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Old 02-11-2007, 12:40 PM
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According to FSA web site there is 37 million acres under the conservation reserve program.
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