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OT: Now would be a good time to drive a stake into the heart of the ethanol industry.

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  • OT: Now would be a good time to drive a stake into the heart of the ethanol industry.

    With oil prices falling to more reasonable levels, there's no justification for continuing to subsidize the production of ethanol for motor vehicle use. The National Academy of Sciences just published a study that shows ethanol is dirtier than gasoline when the entire life-cycle is considered. Of course, anybody with half a brain always suspected that was the case.
    Any products mentioned in my posts have been endorsed by their manufacturer.

  • #2
    But stopping it will raise the price of oil (increased oil use) and that will make ethanol more attractive again.. lol.. kidding.

    It's politics... nothing to do with reality.

    Comment


    • #3
      The reason for ethanol is to transfer the old farm subsidies from food production to fuel production. This does 2 things:

      1) it maintains farmland, that theoretically could be used to grow food if necessary.
      2) it allows food prices to rise thus giving developing nation farmers a chance to compete.

      Sorry, I guess this explanation has to start from the beginning.

      People worry about starvation, especially democratically elected governments that would get turfed if they let their people starve. Thus, the US and the EU both decided, in a round about way, to subsidize their farmers so that they would produce more than enough food, just in case. Nobody wants to be a food importer when the day comes that there is not enough food to go around. Nobody. So, the US and the EU PAID their farmers to grow food, which they then dumped on world markets. This caused a lot of weird stuff to happen, like poor subsistence farmers in places like Africa rightly deciding it was easier to scrounge for work in the city and buy food than to grow it themselves. Lots of people did this, living on $1 per day for food, including a lot of people that used to farm. They had no choice... who was going to buy their $2 per day food when they can buy imports for less? We had mass migration to the cities, in a lot of places all over the world.

      So, poor farmers started protesting and, eventually, the US and EU found a new way to ensure they could grow food, if they had to, but not dump said food on the world market. They switched the subsidies to bio-fuel and then mandated that we had to burn it. Problem solved, sort of.

      The first thing that happened is that food prices rocketed up in places where people were used to living on 1$ per day. That hurt, but it had to happen. The second thing that happened is that farmers figured out all the loopholes and started dumping obscene amounts of pesticides on their "fuel" crops because they didn't have to meet food standards.

      In the long run, it's actually a good thing. If there was some kind of massive crop failure around the world, the corn used to make fuel could be diverted to feeding people. Given the choice between pesticides or starving... it's not that hard of choice when it comes down to it. Meanwhile, small farmers around the world no longer have to compete against subsidized US and EU farmers, so they can actually make a living.

      So... hate to tell you this, but your methanol tainted fuel is here to stay, until people get really hungry and start eating the crops that make it instead. Your gas tank is now an "excess food" sink that, in effect, provides a world food reserve. Let's hope were not around to find out how well it works.

      David...
      Last edited by fixerdave; 12-16-2014, 03:18 AM.
      http://fixerdave.blogspot.com/

      Comment


      • #4
        That's a well thought out explanation. I'm sure there's a healthy amount of politics and fraud involved as well, but at least there seems to be a "good" reason for the methanol and using corn to make fuel that can be burned in gassers. However, I understand that the process of growing the corn and converting it to methanol takes almost as much energy, and perhaps even more, than that which can be extracted by burning the methanol, especially when you consider transporting it to refineries where it must be mixed with gasoline and then distributed to the consumer.

        It may be more efficient to extract corn oil, and process it so that it can be used for diesel engines (perhaps even those used by the farmers), and it might also be used as heating oil. There are also crops (such as sunflowers) that are easy to grow and yield even more oil than corn. And if methanol is really needed, it can be produced much more efficiently from other crops such as sugar cane and perhaps sugar beets.

        Also, the dried biomass left over after extracting the sugar and/or oil can provide additional energy by burning it directly in pellet stoves for heat, or in boilers attached to steam engines for mechanical power and to generators for electrical power. Or the biomass can be converted to wood gas with about 75% efficiency, and it then can be burned in easily modified gas engines, and with less pollution than using gasoline.
        http://pauleschoen.com/pix/PM08_P76_P54.png
        Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
        USA Maryland 21030

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        • #5
          I don't like ethanol and avoid it any time I can.

          Hope its killed and never made again.
          Andy

          Comment


          • #6
            Another reason, related to fixer's argument, is that whenever farmland is cheap, which it is when there is excess food, the cities will move out onto former farmland, and permanently take it out of the "bank" of land.

            Developers snap up the land for cheap, because the land gets re-taxed as development land, not farmland, making it doubly expensive to keep. Taxing policy has a lot to do with how farmland is valued. Annexation by adjacent cities can amount to a seizure of land.

            Then, once areas around a farm are developed, the new residents try to sue or otherwise "abate the nuisance" of this smelly farm that is in their backyard (and has been for 150 years, as they should have known). It's effectively land seizure, and only keeping land valuable as farmland can possibly prevent cities from sprawling out to cover all the local farmland. If nothing else, ethanol at least does keep farmland valuable.

            As for the economics of ethanol, it would be hard to find a crop that produces much less ethanol per ton of total plant material than corn.... problem is most of the really good plants are tropical.

            Corn is fussy, cannot really survive decently without cultivation, and thus requires intensive farming methods. Other plants , even if the net yield is lower, would be better overall if they required a lot less "farming" work. Less pesticide, less fertilizer, etc. The less the farmer has to drive machines over the field, the better.

            And, many of the studies make unreasonable assumptions, mostly calculated to make ethanol look worse than it is. For instance, some assume the corn is destroyed in the process, "used up", with only disposal as an option. In reality, the residue can often still be used for feed, etc.

            Oil is subject to similar arguments, as is even electricity.... Both have a surprisingly low net output after ALL the infrastructure and on-going energy costs are subtracted.
            Last edited by J Tiers; 12-16-2014, 09:43 AM.
            CNC machines only go through the motions.

            Ideas expressed may be mine, or from anyone else in the universe.
            Not responsible for clerical errors. Or those made by lay people either.
            Number formats and units may be chosen at random depending on what day it is.
            I reserve the right to use a number system with any integer base without prior notice.
            Generalizations are understood to be "often" true, but not true in every case.

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            • #7
              The ratio is something like 4:1 for all food groups inclusive. That's four units of energy to produce one unit of food. So unless we return to the 1800's method of plowing fields, it's unlikely that "alternative fuels" will ever catch up. The problem is that population is increasing exponentially while energy is not. Perhaps if we went to nuclear powered tractors and transportation vehicles, we might make a dent. The alternative is another world war and return of the stone age. We could just start over.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by CCWKen View Post
                The ratio is something like 4:1 for all food groups inclusive. That's four units of energy to produce one unit of food. .
                What do you call a "unit"? Makes a HUGE difference.

                According one possible interpretation of your figures, we should all be starving, as it takes more energy to get food than the food gives.... Worse for beef etc, where the food is fed to an intermediate at an even lower net efficiency.
                CNC machines only go through the motions.

                Ideas expressed may be mine, or from anyone else in the universe.
                Not responsible for clerical errors. Or those made by lay people either.
                Number formats and units may be chosen at random depending on what day it is.
                I reserve the right to use a number system with any integer base without prior notice.
                Generalizations are understood to be "often" true, but not true in every case.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The latest report I have been able to find from the National Academy of Science was dated October 2011.
                  http://instituteforenergyresearch.or...ely-to-be-met/

                  The report also concludes that the RFS [Renewable fuel standard] “may be an ineffective policy for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions,” since the full life cycle of the fuel, including its transport, could result in higher emissions than conventional petroleum.

                  “May” and “could” it says. Would you supply a link to this newer report you are quoting please.

                  I’m just appalled that “researchers” can’t track energy used for transportation and provide a clear answer whether using bio-fuel decreases carbon dioxide emissions.

                  From the above report “…suppliers (farmers) say they need $92 to break even…”. That’s real science – “…farmers say…”.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The destruction and havoc it brings to engines alone should be enough to preclude it's use. Not to mention the non-sense crap that now gets told to owners of small engines is their new maintenance routine. Only put in as much gas as needed for the job. Oh cool, how much gas is that? Empty the device of all left over gas before storage for any small period of time. Oh cool, where's the 'empty it' valve? hmmm, don't have one, how am I supposed to do this again? Dispose of fuel that has been stored more than 30 days. Oh cool, dispose of that where? The nearest chemical disposal site is a 55 minute drive from my acreage.

                    Doesn't matter now though. Politics is involved now so it will never go away and each attempt to revisit it will just result in further stupidity. Like the tar baby, the more you fight the more you find yourself stuck to it.

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                    • #11
                      The price of oil isn't going to stay low for very long so enjoy it while you can. Demand will have to rise again, the world population isn't dropping, so the cost of gas will get higher, much higher. Pull out the cork, bend over and grab your ankles and bite down on a stick because when goes back up it will be painful.
                      The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

                      Bluewater Model Engineering Society at https://sites.google.com/site/bluewatermes/

                      Southwestern Ontario. Canada

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                      • #12
                        I look at this in a different way. The reason ethenol is used and will continue to be used are two words: Monsanto and Dupont. These two companies are responsible for the GMO (genetically modified organism) . There has been many attempts made to have food package labeling contaain whether it has GMO or not, and these two companies lobby the Govt and keep it quiet. Do a search and find out how many foreign contries will except our GMO produce for import. You will be surprised. More amd more testing has been done to prove this GMO produce contain the same chemicals as in Round Up! Imagine, walk into the hardware store and crack open a bottle of Round Up and take a swig!

                        This is the main reason the "organic" foods are in stores and are gaining popularity. The "GMO FREE" label is becoming more popular too.

                        Farmers argue tooth and nail that GMO produce is fine for consumption, because they are in bed with it.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The "unit" is universal and it's not my numbers. Make it anything you want. A log, ounce, gallon, bushel, dollar or Kw. The point is that we use more energy than what the food is worth. And there ARE millions of people starving! Perhaps you don't notice it sitting in front of your PC screen or TV chugging beer and pretzels in a nice warm house with two cars in the garage. There are millions that live day-to-day and sleep on the ground under open skies. I can't believe you would even entertain the idea that everyone in this world lives like you or in developed regions. How self-centered can you get?

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                          • #14
                            I say let the market decide. Without subsidies. The dollar is a great way to judge if a particular technology is a good idea or not. It even does a good job of deciding just how "green" it is. It really does.


                            Originally posted by lakeside53 View Post
                            But stopping it will raise the price of oil (increased oil use) and that will make ethanol more attractive again.. lol.. kidding.

                            It's politics... nothing to do with reality.
                            Another quote:

                            1) it maintains farmland, that theoretically could be used to grow food if necessary.
                            2) it allows food prices to rise thus giving developing nation farmers a chance to compete.
                            1. Mother nature does and did a fine job of maintaining our land for thousands of centuries. Mother nature even created that land in the first place. All we need to do is not muck it up and that has nothing to do with ethanol subsidies. In fact, if those subsidies encourage farmers to use chemicals that are not approved for food production, then those subsidies are encouraging us to MUCK IT UP so they should be stopped.

                            2. Perhaps developing nation farmers should concentrate on feeding their own population instead of getting rich on a world market. And perhaps developing nations should concentrate on making their citizens richer instead of their politicians. It absolutely sickens me to hear about millionaire/billionaire leaders in nations where the people are in poverty. And then they blame us for their problems. We need to send them some mirrors along with all the foreign aid.
                            Last edited by Paul Alciatore; 12-16-2014, 01:41 PM.
                            Paul A.
                            SE Texas

                            And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
                            You will find that it has discrete steps.

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                            • #15
                              Before I retired i went to several ethanol factories.

                              In the fermentation process there is as much CO2 produced as ethanol -- the CO2 eventually gets released into the atmosphere (lots of it gets put into beer and soda)

                              There is no doubt that production of ethanol for fuel is a net loss of energy (oil and electric power) and a net increase in atmospheric CO2

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