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Here's another article from the University of California about Ethanol. How there isn't enough land mass on the planet to provide enough ethanol to replace 10% of fossile fuel use. That producing ethanol uses as much energy as it supposedly saves. How it's not very good for the land. And that the byproducts aren't so good either. Anyway, this isn't the first article or report. It won't be the last. Hopefully people will start looking past the few dollars that they are saving; which is offset by government subsidies; and realize that ethanol is not the answer. Here's the article. Later... Mike...
CCMike, sorry, there is no truth in the MSN article. In the interest of disclosure, you ought to mention that Patzek works for Shell oil. And his frequent collaborator, Pimental, is an entomologist. Thats right, he is a bug guy. Neither of these guys knows anything about biofuels, or crop production. They are just oil industry shills. Sorry Mike, you have been had. I would agree that corn ethanol is not our best option, I think we should be looking at sugar beets and miscanthus giganteum. I also noticed that Patzek's paper fails to mention either one of them. DinosaurFan, on work's old cast off 'puter
Last edited by Dino@his Dad's; 10-11-2007 at 10:36 PM.
At least we're making some progress -- Dino agrees "that corn ethanol is not our best option"
In any case, if you want to argue, instead of crying foul about possible affiliations, try some logical arguments centered on the topic instead.
BTW, oil companies would also be affected by by the drying out of the supplies, and they also need to look for possible replacements.
In any case, here is a quote from the linked article:
The U.S. agriculture lobby is incredibly powerful, and it has somehow managed to convince Congress that our next 100 years of energy should also come from the sun. Not in its most efficient route, directly transformed by the magic of electronics from solar rays into electricity via large and small grids of photovoltaic cells. But in the most inefficient way possible: From the growing of corn and then its refinement into fuel.
How inefficient is the ethanol solution? When you break the "agrofuels" system down scientifically, you can see that 99.9% of the energy in sunlight is lost in the process, with the greatest waste coming in the creation of ammonia-based fertilizer from natural gas, and in the refinery. That is, for every unit of energy that is put into creating agriculture-based fuel, almost three-quarters of it is dissipated before it actually does any work. The greatest amount of energy lost is not in the creation of ammonia-based fertilizer, as many believe, but in the refinery.
Do you disagree with any parts? Why?
While I do not necessarily agree with the "99.9%"; it's still true that one need to put in lots of energy to create ethanol using the current methods, and so currently most people would be better off if we were to use the fossil fuels used in the process directly. There are several viable alternatives with much less waste (but much less political clout, too)
IMHO, ethanol, using any grown source with the current technology (fermentation and distillation) is not viable in the long run. There is minuscule chance that it may be viable using various waste products, but I wouldn't bet on that either.
Switchgrass may be better than corn, but that doesn't mean it's good. Here's a quote from wiki:
However, there is debate on the viability of switchgrass, and all other biofuels, as an efficient energy source. University of California, Berkeley professor Tad Patzek argues that switchgrass has a negative ethanol fuel energy balance, requiring 45 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced. On the other side, David Bransby, professor of energy crops at Auburn University, has found that for every unit of energy input, switchgrass yields four units out. In a 2007 lecture Professor Richard Muller, also of the University of California, Berkeley, noted that it is the conversion of switchgrass biomass into ethanol which introduces significant inefficiencies. He also noted that The Helios Project at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory is actively trying to engineer metabolic pathways in bacteria to more efficiently convert cellulose to ethanol.
The main problem I see is that people want to make ethanol. That's wrong, plain wrong. And to make it even worse, they want to make it in the old fashioned way -- fermentation followed by distillation. Needless to say, distillation requires lots of energy, and a significant portion of that energy cannot be recovered. That is, IMHO, the Achilles' heel of ethanol.
There need to be a paradigm shift, people need to think out of the box, and instead of trying to make ethanol a bit more efficiently, we need to see if there is another compound that can be used as a fuel, and can be made using less energy, and less valuable resources. Alas, many politicians and a good portion of public appear to be fixated on ethanol, and it it might take a little while until they wisen up.
If you read this group, I posted several ideas/ways (usually links to articles/research papers) to make fuels other than ethanol for IC engines. Some of them may not see the light of day, or may not be suitable for most of North America because of the climate (i.e. jatropha) but there's no way that we can't have something better than ethanol.
What gets me in this deal is ethanol mileage isn't that much better than gas vs cost. Just to throw in some OLD SCHOOL Knowledge. In the 60s there were carbs. designed that got 50+ MPG in Mustangs with a big cut in smog. The oil companies for years have bought up any inventions that promoted good mileage. In 1979 I owned a CK20 4x4 Chevy with a 350 4sp 3:73 gears and got regularly 14-15 MPG. I read the the 2008 Flex Fuel 4x4 Chevy gets 16 MPG. Come on there is something wrong with this picture. In 1967 I owned a 1956 Ford 2 door Sedan, with a built 312 with a 3sp & overdrive. On the road I got around 18 MPG. What we need is to hold the oil companies accountable which will never happen.
I'm beginning to think that this topic should be banned, like politics or the civil war
Anyway, IMHO, ethanol of some sort is a worthwhile pursuit as a temporary measure, until some of the more complicated tech can come in.
I'm sure that it can't replace all -- or maybe even the majority of -- current petroleum demand. But, it could probably have a large impact -- in the same way that the 55 mph speed limit and the mild winter busted up the 71 oil embargo.
I don't know a lot about how it's produced. I do know that there are efforts to use the switchblade grass and other feedstocks in some reasonably efficient manner. Delivery also has some issues, but I think that they're getting resolved. Getting away from petroleum is going to be a lot like eating an elephant -- a bite at a time.
As for alternates, I don't know all of them, but they all seem to have drawbacks.
1. Plug in Hybrids -- I doubt that we have anything like the electrical capacities in place to deal with the massive loads that they will create.
Plus the battery tech isn't there yet ( GM says soon)
2. Solar -- most sun to electric conversions are fairly inefficient. I think that
a solar cell with 10% efficiency is considered good. Reasonably priced ones
are significantly worse
3. Hydrogen -- one of my all time favs -- but there are numerous issues with generation and storage.
(Yes, I know there are more options -- but, I don't know a lot about them).
I believe that something is needed in the long term, but ethanol MAY be the
choice for the transition. As for how well it works -- it has it's points. It's way too early to really talk about mileage and costs -- but oil won't be getting cheaper any time soon. As for making power, Car Craft and others have shown some mighty potent E85 rods.
Just another data point. According to Popular Science, we're currently spending 820 million $ a day to get that black gold to the US.
His whole argument appears to be begging the question. The only "facts" he points out is that oil will be scarce and cause chaos in 9 years. The article title sums it up nicely, for his purpose.
Ethanol has been proved by many to have differing amounts of energy costs. But using corn, some facts are unavoidable; it produces fuel, and it gives a byproduct of cattle feed.
The most realistic energy numbers indicate a 25% payoff using corn. Obviously if 4 out of 5 gallons of ethanol pay for the production that leaves 20% of ethanol produced is net production. Ethanol gets 75% of the mileage of regular gasoline. Which means it takes 1.33 gallons of ethanol to replace a gallon of gasoline. And it seems the average gallons worth of ethanol produced per acre is something close to 300 gallons. That would mean 60 gallons is net production. 60 gallons could replace 45 gallons of gasoline. With annual gasoline consumption at 117 billion gallons, that would mean it would take 146 billion gallons of ethanol. Which means we need 2.4 billion acres to produce enough net fuel to replace annual gasoline consumption (based on March of 2005's gasoline consumption). I prefer to think of it as 487 million acres using the full 300 gallons per acre at a loss, which is still 20 million more acres than we have total! All corn acreage could only produce 14.5% of total gas consumption, estimated from several place. But they are still using corn. I have seen estimates that switchgrass can produce 2000 gallons of ethanol per acre, but that would still mean we'd have to come up with 73 million acres. Not a problem in my mind.
Ethanol is not going to completely remove our oil issue. They are even requiring oil still be used in ethanol to make E85! What does that tell you? Saab made a hybrid that can run 100% ethanol using special fuel injection so cold starting is not the issue. But the main goal is to stretch our oil supply out until a solution is found. Ethanol can come from several different crops with varying amounts of efficiency. Corn just happens to be the most popular. And my personal favorite BTW. We're not going to starve if we continue to use corn. Alot of corn is going to waste in some places.
Fully electric vehicles are great and all but it requires many times better, cheaper battery technology before that will happen. The new lithium technology does look promising but the market takes time to adopt such new technologies. I do hope more people adopt a hybrid that uses a fully electric drive train but with a small generator, using gas, diesel, ethanol, or w/e works, to charge the battery pack. That breed seems to be the most promising for most people and at the same time the most efficient.
We're not going to produce enough to replace all of our oil anyway. But corn is produced in large amounts over much of the country making it cheap, available, and it's moderately efficient. It's still the logical choice for 5% of our gasoline consumption until a better option becomes available. E85 uses 1/3 the oil annually for 30% more cost per mile. It's still a good deal.
As opposed to the department of Agriculture shills on the other side of the issue. I used to work for the department of energy, and stand by their opinion that it does indeed take more energy to make ethanol using current technology than you get back when you burn it.
What do I do for a living now? I am in the middle of building an ethanol plant. We would not be doing it if not for the government subsidy.
In the 60s there were carbs. designed that got 50+ MPG in Mustangs with a big cut in smog.
I can believe up to 30 or so mpg (after having owned a '71 Maverick -- a very similar car), but 50+ is really stretching it.
The oil companies for years have bought up any inventions that promoted good mileage.
The usual conspiracy theory. Provide some proofs, please.
In any case, some reasons why some old cars got surprisingly good mpg are:
a) lack of many emission equipment such as EGR that decreases efficiency
b) lighter cars
c) less equipment that sucks power
d) ethanol free gasoline
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