Ethanol: The Green Fuel?

By Vladimir Posted in Comments (71) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

Forget for a minute that we're subsidizing ADM and Cargill's entry into the motor fuel business with 52 cents per gallon tax credit.

Forget that the overall energy gain from raising corn for ethanol is questionable in the first place.

Ethanol is being sold to the consumer as the ultimate green fuel. Afterall, what could be greener than something that is replenished year after year?

Well, there's a downside: a giant environmental downside. Farmers use a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer to maximize crop yields. Some of that fertilizer makes its way into the watershed. For most of the Corn Belt, that runoff ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.

The result is a giant annual Dead Zone, one that has nothing at all to do with the late, great Jerry Garcia.

[...more...]

From an article in Sunday's New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Every late spring, it forms 12 miles off the Louisiana coast and lasts for months: a sprawling, lifeless band of water known as the "dead zone."

Shrimp trawlers steer clear, knowing the low oxygen in this part of the Gulf of Mexico makes it uninhabitable for fish and other marine life. It starts at the mouth of the Mississippi River and can extend all the way to the Texas border, many years growing to the size of Connecticut.

It's not a natural phenomenon. Waste water and fertilizer runoff from farms and towns hundreds of miles up the Mississippi pour billions of pounds of excess nutrients into the Gulf, sparking unnatural algae blooms that choke off the oxygen needed for the food chain to survive.

[...snip...]

Scientists point to widespread increases in the use of fertilizers and manure by large farms in the heartland. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from these compounds then wash into Mississippi River tributaries.

According to a report being drafted by the USDA, about 3.7 million acres of farmland from 2000 to 2006 were turned into wetlands or were reconfigured to prevent runoff under various incentive programs. Compare that with 12.1 million more acres of corn expected to be planted this year from just last year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

[...snip...]

One of the biggest developments at this year's meeting is a draft report from experts appointed by the EPA. Their findings, among many, showed that previous science pointing to nitrogen and phosphorus as lead causes of the dead zone is correct.

It also sheds light on a geographic distribution of nitrogen outputs, saying 84 percent of the nitrogen in the river can be traced to the Ohio River valley and the Mississippi basin north of St. Louis.

[emphasis added]

We should seriously consider the total cost - to the economy and to the environment - that the taxpayer and the consumer is being asked to pay for this boondoggle.

Three companies that are much better at getting money from the government than they are at competing in the market place.

Much the way AGW people are political scientists, these companies are political capitalists. You can usually spot them using image advertising on the sunday morning talk shows.
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"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

The initial flaw in the idea of subsidizing ethanol or any other alternative fuel is to think that the government knows better....knows better as to what will work, knows better as to what the choices are and knows better as to the effects of using any particular source.

Ethanol is wrought with side-effects...most of the on the economic side as corn-related products begin to rise in price.

The answers should be funded privately and the process should private. Better answers will come from the aggregate trial and error of investors looking for the solution.

_Don't tread on me._

Energy return on energy invested (EROEI) for the system that produces and distributes corn ethanol very likely is negative. To the extent corn ethanol EROEI is negative, or even merely very low, the corn ethanol system increases our increasingly vulnerable national dependence on imported oil and natural gas.

The energy value of ethanol is lower than gasoline, which means that you will need to refuel more frequently with ethanol "enhanced" gasoline. The subsidized corn ethanol system also introduces new competition for corn and arable land, thus driving up food prices.

This is corporate welfare, and it does not serve us well.

--
"Authentic learning ends where faith begins."
Are Humans Smarter Than Yeast? (video clip: 8.5 min)

In addition to the dead zone, what about the reduction in corn as a food crop and the resultant increase in the price of corn based food products "Women & minorities hit hardest..."

I'm no authority on ethanol, but I understand that sugar is a much moe efficient source of ethanol. If that's the case, why not eliminate sugar quotas and price supports and grow sugar for ethanol?
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CongressCritter™: Never have so few felt like they were owed so much by so many for so little.

We could just import the ethanol. Even with the more than $1 a gallon difference in tariff + subsidy, we still import ethanol from places like Brazil. I'd be all for dropping the tariffs on sugar at the same time.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

Currently most US sugar comes from Sugar beets, the only reason being its highly subsidized. Without the subsidies sugar beets wouldn't be grown in the US, at least not in the amount grown today. Ethanol from sugar is also a bad idea given current Ag Policy, its worth FAR more as sugar than as a fuel. Brazil uses sugar cane to produce ethanol, which is much more efficient, but the US is limited on its ability to grow sugar cane.

That being said I'm no fan of corn based ethanol either, at least given its current economics.

"Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"

Is the other reason.

How much of america can grow sugar cane, anywhichway?

The makers of Dixie Crystals have a bone to pick with you.

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/SC032

______________________________
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

It has to be the nastiest agricultural crop. They like to burn the stubble once the crop is in.

Why do you think your paying more for that chicken? How about that gallon of milk?

One of the important factors is actually ethanol. Corn that is being grown is being diverted from feed for cattle and poultry to a biofuel. I don't understand why the government is so gung ho about ethanol as an alternative to gasoline. The amount of energy it takes to actually make a gallon of corn ethanol may not actually make it effective, not to mention the environmental problems caused by fertilizer, etc.
Also, the concept of using 'food' as an energy source to fuel our cars seems pretty stupid. People are paying more for food to eat because of corn-based ethanol production.

National average increases of food:
* eggs, per dozen, are more than 10 cents more expensive.
* white bread is up 13 cents per pound from a year ago.
* fresh chicken is more than 5 cents more costly per pound.

One food analyst says that milk will increase an additional 40 cents per gallon by September. That's quite a bit when the current national average is $3.78 per gallon of whole milk.

http://www.pressconnects.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070610/BUSINES...

Sugar-based ethanol is a much better idea, as exemplified by Brazil, who is self-sufficient when it comes to fuel for motor vehicles. Their ethanol is sugar-based; ours is corn-based.

I'm quite aware of corn vs. sugar based ethanol as well as the economics of program crop production in the US, I deal with it every day. Absolutely the price of corn has had an impact on food prices, last year a bushel was about $2.00 cash price, today its close to $3.70 or $3.80 per bushel, which has led to historically high acreage being planted.

As I said Brazil can make it work because they use Cane sugar, the continental US would have to rely primarily on Beet sugar, which again there is no incentive to do its worth too much as a sweetner to convert.

Per USDA 2006 study http://www.usda.gov/oce/EthanolSugarFeasibilityReport3.pdf

Ethanol from sugar beets is about $2.35 per gallon to produce, corn is $1.34. Based purely on production costs sugar ethanol (in the US) is an even worse gamble than corn ethanol. Sugarcane (US) to ethanol is projected at $2.40 pre gallon.

"Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"

President Bush, while on a recent trip to Brazil, sought an ethanol agreement with them. They make it out of sugar cane.

No one noticed. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/07/AR200702...

Google "Ethanol in Brazil." Most of their cars run on what they call gasohol. We could import it from Brazil and not have to use our corn.

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"The perfect is the enemy of the good."

Thats what we referred to ethanol as in the US as well. Problem everyone overlooks with Brazils success is the great population difference. To replicate their success in the US using sugar or corn is not within the relm of possibilities. Cellulosic ethanol is the only real option for renewable fuels from plant matter as far as cost (if it can be achieved economically) and feasibility with grown crops. It simply not pissible to grow enough corn or sugar in the US to get to the level of Brazil. If every bushel of corn produced were used to make ethanol you might get up to blending every gallon with 10%, anything more requires some breakthroughs that aren't around yet.

"Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"

Sorry, had to ask. Last time I checked (with a Brazilian business partner), they had 180 million people. We have 300 million. Is that enough of a difference to change the economics?

I must be wrong, in an attempt to recall something I read a while back I thought the difference in population was WAY different than that. My mistake.

From 2006 USDA study, see page 4 http://www.usda.gov/oce/EthanolSugarFeasibilityReport3.pdf

Estimate cost per gallon of $.81 from sugarcane in Brazil. Looks like they still beat us up pretty good.

"Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"

Ethanol in the stricktest sense is the result of turning a feedstock into a fuel. Gasahol is what they call it after its blended with Gas also referred to as E-10 or E-85.

"Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"

Rapeseed oil, oilseed oil.

There are better ideas, and using the South as a production empire is a -good- idea. more jobs, more sun, better conversion.

as a fuel are considerable. Besides the dollar costs, there is oil-energy expended when the chemicals used to help grow corn are produced. It may have been said here already, but I have heard that more oil-energy is used to produce a gallon of ethanol from corn than that gallon itself displaces.

That doesn't sound possible, except ethanol is more expensive than gasoline, right?

We've traded our National Sovereignty for cheap roofing and yardwork.

There have been a couple of studies about the "energy gain" by producing ethanol. Depending on who you trust one says its a net loser, one says net gainer. As far as the price per gallon goes ethanol as of June 5 survey was selling for a bit over $2.00 per gallon, that's before the volumetric blender credit of $.51 cents per gallon. Most of the producers have forward contracted the ethanol they produced. Price may seem appealing, but ethanol provides about 70% as much energy per gallon as good ole petro gasoline. So let's say you want to fill up your flex fuel vehicle with E85. 15% is regular unleaded at lets say $3.00, 85% is ethanol at $2.00 per gallon.

$3.00 X .15 = $.45
PLUS
$2.00 X .85 = $1.70
EQUALS
$2.15 per gallon, thats about the most you should pay for a gallon of E85 to get the same bang for your buck, at a local place here E85 is a few cents less than regular unleaded. I can't use it in my vehicle and wouldn't even if I could. Closer to a plant in NW, MO its about $2.40 per gallon for E85.

To answer your questions Ethanol SHOULD be cheaper than gasoline due to the fact it substitutes the energy value of only 70% of 1 gallon of gasoline. For the econ folks they aren't perfect substitutes.

"Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"

Per Mark's Mechanical engineering handbook, ethanol has only about 55% to 61% of the energy content of gasoline (comparing heat of combustion), not 70%.

I used 70% as a rough number. I try not to think about chemistry or mechanical engineering my brain can't handle such things.

"Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"

All ethanol plants will not use oil-energy. They can use any form of energy, including methanol from manure and garbage.

Corn takes plenty of motor fuel to plant, harvest & transport.

Nitrogen fertilizers are derived from natural gas.

After processing, the mash is dried using natural gas as the ethanol product is too low in heating value to use; if they did, they would consume more ethanol than they produce.

Maybe when you say methanol you mean methane?

I was referring to the process of taking cow manure or other waste products to provide energy to produce diesel fuel from soybeans. This plant has been designed. You can also plant and harvest using diesel from soybeans, not gas from oil. If there is a farmers cooperative plant, they sell themselves back the biodiesel at cheaper than market prices.

Methanol is a liquid form of methane. It is distinguished from ethanol, but can be used with it.
It is basically an alcohol produced from garbage or wood. It is now used to power electrical generators.

It doesn't matter what form of energy ethanol plants decide to use... the process still wastes a lot of energy in the pursuit of tax credits. We have much better uses for that energy.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

From my understanding importers of ethanol actually do get the blender credit of $.51 per gallon. They are however faced with the tariff of $.54 per gallon, which actually only makes the difference $.03 per gallon. Given all the subsides and tariffs imports of ethanol continue to increase because its so much cheaper.

"Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"

I cannot believe that you want Brazil to get rich at our expense, rather than keeping the money inside the U.S., and strengthening one of the few sectors in which the U.S. is still number one, agriculture. All we have left are our armed forces, defense technology and agriculture. We have already given away much of our lead in computer technology. How do you want persons in the Plains States to make a living?

You must have implied I want Brazil to get rich, I never mentioned anything of the sort, I simply pointed out what currently exists. I didn't make the law regarding the import tariff and credit. I'm employed in the ag industry and I'm quite aware how Ag works actually taught at a university for a couple of years. I was only stating facts as I understand them. As far as the Plains States (where I live) a lot more folks may livings outside ag than inside. Today in the US there are around 2 million farmers (as defined by the IRS, so actual "farmers"* way less), out of a 300 million population thats not much.

*By actual farmers I mean those who primarily make their living in farm production, IRS says a farmer is someone who sells $1000 or more of an ag product in a year.

"Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"

How can you be an Ag expert and think that only farmers will make money from ethanol. In some states, all agribusiness is very important.

And while we are at it, why don't we help out manufacturing. We can have the government hand out contracts to troubled manufacturers to make devices that don't work well and are destroyed after production.*

After all manufacturing is very important.

*Any resemblance to the DOD is purely unintended.
______________________________
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

We already do it. There are plants that get government contracts that keep them open for strategic/defense reasons. The government contracts also subsidize the private sector which uses some of these products. We could get our airplane and tank engines much cheaper overseas.

You have completely missed the point. There is no way to economically help ourselves by hurting ourselves. The way to shift these things is to find ways to make them economic.

Of course if I were in the oil business I would bitterly object to my taxes being used to put me out of business. Especially if I had just fallen out of political favor.
______________________________
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

If you could get more economists and less lawyers to run for office. I would name you as citizen of the year. Unfortunately, neither the government boys or the big business types are against government interference in the marketplace, if it gets them what they want.

The oil companies will never be run out of business. We are only talking about 10-20 percent of transportation fuels. If it works, they can easily buy out all of the ethanol plants which are owned by local investors.

The oil companies are not objecting to having the American taxpayer subsidize them.
The Congress cannot easily get their excess profits, but they can take way about 5 billion in yearly tax breaks and federal subsidies. Oil companies could make a deal with Congress and say they would set up some alternative energy programs.

And yes it does. Mostly because of aging eyes and teeth.
______________________________
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

I never claimed to be an expert, but being in the industry I'm more familiar with ag than most other things.

Farmers who grow corn are the majority of the ones who are benefiting fromt the ethanol boom. With cheap corn those who owned stock in plants benefited. Now with an increased corn price the growers are benefiting more due to increased demand and decreased projected ending stocks.

"Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"

The U.S. doesn't grow sugar cane. I'd rather make Brazil rich rather than continue to make Iran, and our other enemies rich.

Brazil is a friendly nation. BTW, Brazil started converting their cars to ethanol in the early 90's. If they can do it, we certainly can. It's all become political, as this conversation demonstrates.

Also, people here have complained that we would use up all of our corn if we used it for ethanol.

___________
"The perfect is the enemy of the good."

How much sugarcane is grown in Florida?
In recent years there has been a slight decline in commercial sugarcane production in Florida. Sugarcane acreage has decreased from a high of 454,400 acres (183,727 hectares) in the 2000-2001crop year to approximately 400,000 acres (161,874 hectares) for the 2004-2005 crop year. The 2000-2001 crop year yielded over 17.3 million U.S. tons (15.7 million metric tons) of stalks and 2.02 million U.S. tons (1.83 million metric tons) of raw sugar. The 2004-2005 crop year yielded 13.4 million U.S. tons (12.2 million metric tons) of stalks and 1.56 million U.S. tons (1.42 million metric tons) of raw sugar. Putting Florida's cane crop into perspective, prior to the Cuban embargo in 1961 Florida had only 50,000 acres (20,234 hectares) of sugarcane.

More info at this site.

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/SC032

Crucifying America on a cross of corn!

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"
Kyle

All you whiners get over it. It is going to happen. All alternative fuels will have to intially be subsidized by the federal government. Otherwise, we won't have a market or infrastructure for them. Who in this thread doesn't know that the federal government subsidizes oil companies at 5 billion dollars per year. Additionally, a good market for corn and soybeans means that we won't have farm subsidies. The money for biofuels will come from savings in oil and farm subsidies or tax credits.

Price is not the sole reason for alternative energy sources. There are strategic reasons. When you use corn and soybeans, fuel is not the only product. There are many by-products. At the same time, you can get agriculture products, plastics, and even booze.
Corn for gas and soybeans for diesel fuel will only be 10-20 percent. We will still need
oil and everything else. These ethanol plants will be transitioning from corn to other things as the market and technology improve. One possibility is re-cycling millions of tons of cow and hog manure.

In the debate there has to be a discussion on TCO, total cost of ownership with our oil imports. Oil/gas is subsidized indirectly by our foreign policy efforts & military especially in the middle east. Our effort in the middle east is definitely driven by national security but oil is a significant factor as well. (Which it should be.) Whether that oil importance factor is 5% or 95% of our efforts or somewhere between, is debatable, but it is something that isn't discussed and factored into a price of a gallon of gas when doing direct comparisons to alternative fuels.

It's easier to talk about alternative fuel subsidies because they are much easier to identify. Because indirect imported oil subsidies are tougher to pin down doesn't mean they don't exist.

I guess the question might be if the US was significantly energy independent especially from hostile regions, how much money could we save by reduction in involvement in those regions.

Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you. Washington Elected Elite

BS by zuiko

Our effort in the middle east is definitely driven by national security but oil is a significant factor as well.

That's why we're in Afghanistan, right? To protect their massive oil exports? If we were after oil supply we'd just leave the ME alone and let everyone there supply us. Saddam would've been happy to sell us all the oil we wanted. We are the ones that turned off the tap. And we've been trying to turn off Iranian exports for a long time now.

I guess the question might be if the US was significantly energy independent especially from hostile regions, how much money could we save by reduction in involvement in those regions.

Zero. If there wasn't a drop of oil in the ME, we still could not ignore the region. Oil does not drive our foreign policy. That's a lefty talking point that doesn't have anything to do with reality. There are plenty of other places we would intervene if it did.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

drilling in America, both offshore and in Alaska. The new rigs are safe, we saw that during the Gulf of Mexico hurricanes two summers ago.

Brazil did not achieve energy independence with ethanol, they did it by increasing oil production by 10% per year since 1980, mostly due to offshore drilling. The Ethanol in Brazil is cheap because sugar cane doesn't require fertilizing or work beside harvesting. Corn can never be grown that cheaply - the subsidies will never go away. Ethanol has less energy than gasoline and using it does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

End the folly now. It's the new tulip craze.

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"Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm." -- James Madison

Nothing should be excluded. We shall need more oil. But, the theory is that it is better to use up everybody else's oil, before we use our domestic reserves. Biofuels is just a small part of a grab bag of different energy sources. We can also perfect oil shale or coal liquidification in the West and Canada. We have started with corn and soybeans because we have plenty of it. Ethanol will be helpful if we go to 75-100 dollar a barrel oil.

Using the price of gas as a comparison to the price of producing ethanol is really propaganda. The cost of gas is not just what a person pays at the pump. The price of a bushel of corn or soybeans is not the real price of what it costs to our economy. How many billions in our farm subsidy program? It is reasonable to experiment with ethanol if the costs are transferred. Let's get better use out of farm subsidy money.

Do we consider the two-thirds of a trillion dollars that we will spend on Iraq as part of the price of gas? American taxpayers don't have their foreign policy exclusively for the oil companies.

I suspect some fellow-travelling with big oil companies on this thread. They are against ethanol because it breaks their monoplies. There are hundreds of little companies working on various aspects of biofuels. Somebody could have a breakthrough that might not even involve transportation. If we can have substitute for energy-oil in the many products that
use it, like plastics, etc., it might help.

The hundreds of biofuels plants being built are not designed to just use corn.

...the fishery in the Gulf of Mexico?

Corn is really the only significant source of ethanol right now.

There has not been an off shore oil drill platform oil spill since the 1970's. Even during Hurricane Katrina and the other hurricane that hit Houston right after Katrina, there were no oil rig spills off the coast.

Anyone who uses environmentalism as an excuse not to drill is just scare mongering the uninformed.

"Wubbies World" aka: Brian; MSgt, U.S. Air Force (Retired): An argument is a sequence of statements aimed at demonstrating the truth of an assertion.

It's the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone (caused by the reckless overplanting of corn, which is in turn driven by stupid and shortsighted government policies) that's killing the ecosystem. See the original blog.

Oil platforms, even old rusty, abandoned and sunk ones, are actually beneficial for marine life. They're artificial reefs, and provide the best fishing spots. Just ask any South LA fisherman.

In fairness, you overstate the spill-free record of the offshore drilling and producing industry. There have been spills, but the volumes involved have been very minor, much less than natural seepage.

We are trying to figure out how to get rid of one down here. It was built from tires and is poisoning its surroundings.
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"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

Tires? Sounds like you were sold a Tony Soprano special.

The Rigs to Reefs Program is a non-controversial program that has proved popular with operators and regulators alike.

Unlike tires, the platforms provide a hard substrate that promotes marine life growth. Most of them are barnacle-encrusted to begin with.

The Mississippi is carrying massive amount of ag runoff into the gulf, creating algal blooms, which deplete water oxygen levels below that needed for fish.

That is a real phenomenon, not some made up eco-garbage. And it affects us economically also. We should be working on reducing run-off.

But, the theory is that it is better to use up everybody else's oil, before we use our domestic reserves.

That's incredibly foolish. We have no idea what kind of reserves there are, but there's plenty of oil. We will never run out. As production of oil dwindles, the price will increase. That will lead to the production of new sources of oil, as it becomes worthwhile to produce in more expensive places and through more costly means. It will also produce a shift away from oil (all by it's own -- without government interference). We could apply this ridiculous theory to anything else as well. Maybe the government should close down the taconite and coal mines operating in the US and force the importation of all that as well. I'm sure the environmentalists would be happy with that.

Do we consider the two-thirds of a trillion dollars that we will spend on Iraq as part of the price of gas? American taxpayers don't have their foreign policy exclusively for the oil companies.

Yea that's it. If oil was our goal, we could've just been buying Saddam's oil all along. That money we are spending on Iraq is giving us a decline in oil production, even from the days of the global sanction regime (that we pushed for and won), not an increase.

I suspect some fellow-travelling with big oil companies on this thread. They are against ethanol because it breaks their monoplies.

If they really thought ethanol was the wave of the future they could certainly get in the business. If you can build and operate a refinery you can certainly build and operate ethanol plants.

There are hundreds of little companies working on various aspects of biofuels.

Yes, "little" companies like ADM and Cargill make out pretty well on the massive ag subsidies. The subsidies also give a place for farmers to leverage their $100,000 government checks into even bigger government checks. Great deal for everybody except the people that have to pay for it.

Somebody could have a breakthrough that might not even involve transportation.

Ethanol isn't exactly cutting edge. We aren't talking about cold fusion here. We're talking about grain alcohol. The production of which dates back quite a few years.
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Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. - Milton Friedman

Look at the private-investment landscape. Huge dollars have flowed out of alternative energy R&D in the last year or two. They have gone to fund industrial-scale production of ethanol. (And cellulosic research has gotten something of a boost too.) The government has already distorted the market by mandating a certain level of ethanol use.

If you hang around private investors, you'll hear them say often enough that they don't care where demand comes from. It can be organically generated by free markets, or it can be mandated. In fact, mandated demand can be better from an investor's point of view because markets remove demand when it no longer makes sense, whereas political mandates live forever.

I am hopeful about the cellulosic research. It would allow us to use otherwise nonarable land while at the same time improving it. Its also a nice use of what would otherwise be wastewood.
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"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

Algae and hemp both produce more energy per acre than corn. If we get celluolose fermentation to happen, we'll see yield increases from corn, and high-fiber plants like grasses and hemp will become very valuable as crops (ok, we'd have to evaluate whether we'd want to legalize hemp) and if it's celluolose we're after, we'd be able to avoid many of the environmental problems associated with ag monoculture (the need for fertilizers, pesticides, etc).

It's clear that corn isn't our best fuel source- it's just something we've been historically good at promoting and subsidizing. As we try to scale that process beyond food needs and attempt to apply it to fuel needs as well, we're bound to find that there's better ways to skin that cat.

it would make far more sense to make diesel fuel from coal or mine oil shale, than to produce ethanol. At least then we'd have better fuels, without significantly increasing the cost of both fuel and food to the general populace. EThanol is a bad deal on both points.

I've read some good things about using switchgrass.

http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/misc/switgrs.html

Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you. Washington Elected Elite

Glenn Beck interviewed Jerry Woodall recently, and he is currently driving around Indiana in a car that has water instead of gasoline in the tank. He has developed a process of making hydrogen from water and aluminum to power the vehicle. link:
http://hydrogen.ecn.purdue.edu/

"We should scrap this “comprehensive” immigration bill and the whole debate until the government can show the American people that we have secured the borders -- or at least made great headway."
Fred Thompson

is how much would it cost to run the car in real life, versus, research project. Since the aluminum and gallium are consumed in the process of liberating hydrogen, how much would it cost to replenish both metals pre mile say versus gasoline or diesel fuel?

On my previous post link there is a link to an NPR interview that the professor had about this project. He said the aluminum is recycled, and ALCOA is working on getting a 75% recovery in the recycling process.

"We should scrap this “comprehensive” immigration bill and the whole debate until the government can show the American people that we have secured the borders -- or at least made great headway."
Fred Thompson

the aluminum is oxidized (i.e. consumed). Otherwise, you could run on the original load of aluminum and gallium forever. That clearly isn't the case. If there weren't any technological hurdles, everyone (i.e. auto manufacturers) would be making these cars now. That also clearly is not the case. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for these water powered cars.

like the original load that produced the hydrogen, and one could not run on the original load forever. However, the aluminum byproduct can be recycled back into an aluminum alloy. If you listen to the professor's interview and read his papers you will understand his process better. I'm not saying there are no hurdles to overcome, and neither is the professor. One hurdle is to have a distribution system of places for motorists to get the aluminum and water. I think there is an abundance of water and aluminum on the planet. You'll have to find another reason to knock his idea because he already has answered your concerns about aluminum with recycling.

"We should scrap this “comprehensive” immigration bill and the whole debate until the government can show the American people that we have secured the borders -- or at least made great headway."
Fred Thompson

about the aluminum and gallium. Producing aluminum is a very energy intensive process. Recycling the metal will probably be less energy intensive than making new aluminum, but with even a 75% return rate (note that he only advetises a 50% recycle rate), you would end up consuming a heck of a lot of aluminum given the enormous demand for transportation fuel. Also. I think if you read papers on the process (which I have) you'll see that he is using a combination of Gallium and Aluminum to separate hydrogen. He states that the gallium can be of low purity, hence cheap, but doesn't address availability. I'd probably question this assumption at least until I could see actual numbers for gallium production or mining (?). Also. in order to get the process to be cost competitive with gasoline, he assumes that you can put the recycler next to a nuclear power plant and get electricity for $0.02/ kw-hr. This is the cost of generation for the utility and includes no profit or other costs for maintenance of the grid. You aren't buying power from anyone at that price. Also, did you see the amount of aluminum you'd have to haul around (330 lbs) this is 220 lbs more than the weight of gasoline for the same trip. There will be an energy penalty for this additional weight. I can probably think of dozens of other technical issues (like what purity does the water have to be? and How do impurities in the water affect the performance and life of your engine / fuel cell?).
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Researchers are notorious for overhyping the performance of their research and understating the technological hurdles in developing useful products from them. As I stated before, this is interesting research, but don't hold your breath waiting for water powered cars.

And if you look at the pricing in no way cheap.
______________________________
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
-Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

but was too lazy to look it up.

I agree with you that this is interesting research. I also will not hold my breath waiting for anything. The professor dreams that his grandchildren are going to be driving vehicles like this when they are adults, and I hope his dreams will come true.

"We should scrap this “comprehensive” immigration bill and the whole debate until the government can show the American people that we have secured the borders -- or at least made great headway."
Fred Thompson

At this point most of the benefits of ethnoal production are the big agro-corporations.

We'd use cellulose ethanol if we weren't playing special interest politics.

I'd say the biggest benefactors of ethanol are corn growers and those who invested (not talking publically traded stock, but direct investment in private/coop plants) in plants 3, 4 or 5 years ago. In some cases you could have already gotten your money back. That being said I haven't heard of anything that good for about 6 months, a lot of plants that started 2 or 3 years ago are now expanding and not paying dividends as they are re-investing in the expansion usually resulting in little to no additional debt. With the recent run up in corn prices margins have fallen, but most still seem to be profitable.

Cellulosic is the next step, but they still have some work to get there. Currently from my understanding the enzymes used in the process are still a bit pricey, but they have been coming down fairly rapidly. There are also a few commercial scale demonstration plants being constructed, but I think they are a year or two away from production.

"Cowards cut and run, Marines never do"

...according to the State of Minnesota, they investigated the big agro-corporations in 2006 and found no evidence of price-fixing in the ethanol markets, despite the huge disparity between the price of corn & the price of ethanol.

Ethanol, you see, tracks the price of gasoline, not the price of corn.

So an efficient processor of crude oil can be guilty of price fixing, but an ethanol producer who enjoys a huge margin (and a 52 cents/gallon Federal tax credit, to boot) cannot?

 
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