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Ethanol and our flex fuel future?
Posted by: Jon Henke on Monday, April 10, 2006

Wulf at Atlasblogged points out that there are a lot of great arguments for looking into alternative energy sources, including environmental and geopolitical reasons. And one shouldn't discount the allure of plain old greedy capitalism. So, why aren't investors just throwing money at alternative energy sources?
Okay, for investors, alternative energy is a little more hit-or-miss. It seems like a pretty rosy long-term outlook, if you can guess correctly which alternative energy sources will take off, and when. You don't want to put money into windmills and find Don Quixote took out your investment for personal spite.
And not only is there a lot of risk, there's a crowding-out effect from government spending on research.

Still, it is interesting to see which alternatives are being utilized...
[Brazil] expects to become energy self-sufficient this year, meeting its growing demand for fuel by increasing production from petroleum and ethanol. Already the use of ethanol, derived in Brazil from sugar cane, is so widespread that some gas stations have two sets of pumps, marked A for alcohol and G for gas.
...and how fast investment is being made to capitalize on those alternatives...
The use of ethanol in Brazil was greatly accelerated in the last three years with the introduction of "flex fuel" engines, designed to run on ethanol, gasoline or any mixture of the two. [...] As a result, ethanol development has been led by Brazilian companies with limited capital. But with oil prices soaring, the four international giants that control much of the world's agribusiness — Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Born, Cargill and Louis Dreyfuss — have recently begun showing interest.
Ironically, US tariffs of "54 cents a gallon on all imports of Brazilian cane-based ethanol" are actually restraining the growth of the very industry we claim to desire. Still, car producers seem fairly willing to invest in flex-fuel vehicles. In Brazil, "more than 70 percent of the automobiles sold in Brazil" have flex fuel engines" and they've generally "entered the market generally without price increases."

So, how practical is ethanol? Honestly, I don't know. I'm not competent to make the scientific judgements, but it's worth pointing out that technology is rapidly increasing the efficiency of production...
"Brazil's ethanol yields nearly eight times as much energy as corn-based options, according to scientific data." [...] "For each unit of energy expended to turn cane into ethanol, 8.3 times as much energy is created, compared with a maximum of 1.3 times for corn..." [...] "There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to improve that ratio to 10 to 1," said Suani Teixeira Coelho, director of the National Center for Biomass at the University of São Paulo. "It's no miracle. Our energy balance is so favorable not just because we have high yields, but also because we don't use any fossil fuels to process the cane, which is not the case with corn."
Genetic modifications and technological advances suggest the yield efficiency can still be increased more.

Such promising technological advances, real world success and private investment give support to this American Enterprise Magazine article on "taking the world off the petroleum standard and putting it on an alcohol standard" ...
Ethanol can currently be produced for about $1.50 per gallon, and methanol is selling for $0.90 per gallon. With gasoline having roughly doubled in price recently, and with little likelihood of a substantial price retreat in the future, high alcohol-to-gasoline fuel mixtures are suddenly practical. Cars capable of burning such fuel are no futuristic dream. This year, Detroit will offer some two dozen models of standard cars with a flex-fuel option available for purchase. The engineering difference is in one sensor and a computer chip that controls the fuel-air mixture, and the employment of a corrosion-resistant fuel system. The difference in price from standard units ranges from $100 to $800.
Read the whole thing. Like Wulf, I'm disinclined to government intervention where the market should operate and I'm no fan of Dr. Robert Zubrin's suggestion that "Congress should immediately require that all future vehicles sold in the U.S.A. be flexible-fueled", but I can certainly see the value of structuring our economy such that the flex fuel alternative is not actively discouraged by tariffs or tax policies that reward probable dead-ends like hydrogen or electric powered vehicles.
 
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The problem with ethanol isn’t just that the US is using corn to produce ethanol, which isn’t as efficient. The problem (which is also what is driving gas prices up) is that ethanol can’t be distributed anywhere near as efficiently as gasoline using the current infrastructure. Piping gasoline is much cheaper than trucking ethanol.
 
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
URL: http://jeffthebaptist.blogspot.com
Also, how much energy is in a unit of ethanol compared to a unit of gasoline...saying that a gallon of ethanol costs 80% of a gallon of gas is fine, HOWEVER if a gallon of ethanol only has 75% the energy of a gallon of gas, it actually doesn’t make sense to burn ethanol. Also, it sticks in my head that in the early ’80’s during the LAST ethanol craze, that it came out that ethanol damaged engines or required a special lubricant, IIRC. And that drives up long-term costs, possibly. As Jon says, this is a question that takes some technical expertise and generally all one hears from is the "Ethanol is GREAT" crowd. I find myself thinking if ethanol is so great, why aren’t more people, not just in the US, driving ethanol powered cars?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
If we’re going to hype alternative fuels, I suggest algae-farms for biodiesel.

You can pipeline biodiesel, as far as I know (unlike ethanol, it’s no more corrosive than normal diesel, which is to say, for all relevant purposes it isn’t. The only possible issue might be if the pipelines use natural rubber seals, which biodiesel doesn’t get along with very well. But I imagine they probably use synthetics, since cars have since the 80s if not earlier).
 
Written By: Sigivald
URL: http://
If ethanol can compete, then its time to end corn and direct ethanol subsidies.
Ethanol, making the world safe for Archer Daniels Midland

Ethanol, Your in good hands with Con-Agra

Ethanol, taking your money one drop at a time

Ethanol, the last refuge of a scoundrel

Ethanol, Crucifying America on a cross of corn

 
Written By: kyle N
URL: http://impudent.blognation.us/blog
Ethanol — a fuel that you can drink! *hic*
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Mark you raise an good point, Ethanol will be opposed by MADD! The dirvers will be able to drink the fuel... and what if you go into a dry county, can you be arrested for boot-legging?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Sigivald, the biggest problem with biodiesel is that it gums up when it’s cold, which pretty much knocks it out of contention for a good portion of the US during the winter months. Still a good idea for Texas, but Michigan won’t be able to us pure biodiesel for, oh, about 10 months out of the year (or at least it feels like that sometimes...). Also, car/truck/whatever manufacturers are a bit afraid of biodiesel because it’s so darn easy to make, meaning any old fool can make a poor quality batch, put it in his truck, screw his truck over, and start complaining wildly. Granted, that won’t be an issue for algae farms, but it makes people in general more afraid of biodiesel in general. Minnesota had to repeal some biodiesel mandate they had for precisely this reason.

As for ethanol, it really only has three problems: the transportation issue Jeff mentioned (ethanol takes up water rapidly, meaning it can’t be piped easily), the low energy compared to gasoline that Joe mentioned (not actually a problem; the cars will still run just fine), and the cost. Costs for corn ethanol aren’t going to decrease too much (and it’s a crappy method of producing it anyways), but the costs for cellulosic ethanol are dropping like a rock and will continue to do so in the near future. So really, other than the transportstion issue (and since ethanol production is inherently decentralized, as opposed to oil refining, it’s not that great of an issue), ethanol’s a perfectly acceptable alternative. You just have to give it a few years.
 
Written By: Mariner
URL: http://www.concordparty.org
Thanks Mariner, but my point about low energy IS an issue...to the extent if it takes twice as much ethanol even at HALF the price to produce a given amount of energy I’m not saving money. I don’t mean to be confrontational...I understand my vehicle will run fine, BUT rather than 4 round trips per tank to work, if I only get 2 round trips I have to fill twice as often, so using my example ethanol needs to be TWICE AS CHEAP AS GASOLINE, for me to break even, just on fuel costs alone. So cost per unit of energy output is a critical factor. You say cellulose production is a possibility?

Is that METHANOL? If it is, I’m going to flat out tell you that Methanol is NOT going to be an acceptable substitute...really ethanol you can drink, Methanol kills you and sure as shootin’ a whole bunch of folks are going to figure out that straining the "torpedo juice" thru a piece of bread will make it drinkable, and then they or their heirs will sue the pants off ADM or Bob’s "Methanol is Us" Plant. At least that’s my take... of course the form of production you discuss may not be making methanol, so my point is moot.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Joe,
If it takes twice much but costs half as much, sure, that’s a wash.
But if everyone starts using it, economies of scale kick in and technologies advance (the almighty dollar providing the incentive to reduce production costs) and Bob’s your uncle, as the Brits say.
Which is why the flex-fuel vehicles are actually a good idea: ethanol-enriched fuel didn’t work in the 70s and 80s because those cars weren’t flex-fuel capable. Now that they are, the U.S. can reduce it’s oil dependence by a final total of 1% (because not all cars are flex-fuel, because vehicle fuel is only a portion of our fuel oil demand).
But it’s a start, and economies of scale and ethanol production technology advancement to reduce cost of production will make the flex-fuel vehicles worth it in another 5 years, which then will make next-generation vehicles that can handle higher percentages of ethanol economically feasible, and so on.


...I think/hope.
 
Written By: Nathan
URL: http://brain.mu.nu/
Because of the infrastructure issue, the only alternative energy source that seems likely for automobiles in the near future is electricity. We can’t pipe ethanol very well, but we can set up local electrolyzing stations all around the country, without any new infrastructure. And it’s a snap to develop home battery charging devices for electric cars or for "pure" hybrids - cars that run pure electric under 30 mph or so.

So then the question arises; is it any better to run the car off of electricity that has to be generated at a power plant? That’s not free, and it pollutes, so the greens aren’t on board unless it can be shown that the coal-burning power plant is better for the community than the fleet of petroleum-burning SUVs and sports cars that they hate so. Joe’s question about cost would still stand, but I believe the gap has been closing for some time.

The one place where electric cars immediately come out ahead is that most of the electricity produced in the USA ultimately comes from domestic sources. If we want to free ourselves from dependance on the Middle East, electric cars are probably our best bet. After all, how cheap is our oil, really?
 
Written By: Wulf
URL: http://www.atlasblogged.com
Well Nathan I hope, too...IF:
1) The cost of ethanol is equal to or LESS thant he cost of the 1% reduction in oil consumption; and
2) The Federal Government offers no subsidies or incentives for ethanol; and
3) Makes no mandates for ethanol fueled vehicles make up some percentage of the production fleet.

In short, IF ethanol can make it when confronted with gasoline, that’s kewlllll. I would posit that if ethanol is competitive at current oil prices, in the medium term it will not pan out. In the medium term oil prices will fall, making any investment in ethanol a wasted investment. In the long-run it may pay off, so again the cost per unit of energy output is critical.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Of course, we will NEVER remove our dependence on oil, foreign or otherwise or the price volitility of oil. Oil is going to stick around because it’s a nice fuel, jets aren’t going to burn ethanol. And many products apart from gasoline require oil. The best we can do is REDUCE our use of oil in many forms, making it more possible to burn US oil, BUT if the price of oil skyrockets on the International Market, the price of oil will skyrocket in the US, too. After all, Exxon lives to sell oil, and if Exxon can get $100/barrel in India or the PRC that’s where it’ll move it’s oil supplies to.

So the best we’re going to do is depress the market price to a degree as we switch to Alternative Fuels and make ourselves LESS vulnerable to oil embargoes from the likes of Iran and Venezuela, but we will stay have to pay the economic costs of a boycott, to the extent that boycotts drive up the price of crude.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Oh, I know it’s still an issue, but it’s one we can get used to. If driving a mile on ethanol was cheaper than a mile on gasoline, would you be willing to fill up 25% more often? I agree that looking at the price of ethanol alone is misleading (and sadly all too often that’s what is reported), but if the dollars per gallon of equivalent gasoline was cheaper, I think we’d all be willing to make the switch. That’s what I meant when I said it wouldn’t be a problem.

(And for the record, ethanol is 2/3 as energy dense as gasoline. However, it also burns more efficiently. So the end result in terms of mpg is somewhere around 70-75% of gasoline IIRC)

Also for the record, cellulose production is still ethanol, just made from cellulose rather than starch. This is the holy grail of ethanol use, since we will NEVER produce ethanol cheaply enough and in sufficient quantities with corn. Corn simply requires too much energy inputs and has too low a yield per acre. Heck, we use about 13-14% of our corn for ethanol, which has displaced a whopping 1-2% of our oil needs. Needless to say, that’s pathetic. In comparison, switchgrass (a cellulosic ethanol crop) can produce up to 3-4 times as much ethanol per acre as corn and can also be grown on land not suitable for other crops. And that’s not counting the billions upon billions of gallons ew can get "free" from agricultural and forestry waste.

One other point: it still makes sense to invest in ethanol even if it’s just barely cost competitive now. The big advantage it has in the long run over oil is that both the raw material AND production costs will go down in the future, whereas with oil only the raw material cost is truly variable. We’ve had centuries farming corn, and in that time yields have improved tremendously (while costs have fallen dramatically). We’ve barely scratched the surface with switchgrass, and if ethanol does take off we’ll improve that a whole lot more. At the same time, since cellulosic ethanol production is a brand new enterprise, production costs will fall as process improvements are made. So yes, oil prices will fall in the mid term. But so will ethanol. And, assuming this takes off, it will almost certainly fall more dramatically.

Wulf, I don’t see electric cars taking off in any form other than plug in hybrids. It’s similar to flex-fuel: people aren’t going to completely change fuels if they can’t still have the option of using gasoline. Otherwise, the leap to full electric is just too great. And electric has its share of other problems (low power, low mileage before refill) to let it stand on its own. That’s not to say we should ignore this completely - plug in hybrids is one of the best short term solutions. Better yet, flex-fuel plug in hybrids. Let the care run on electric power for the first 25 miles or so, and then let the gasoline/ethanol kick in. Plug it in overnight so that it draws power over off peak times, and if you drive less than 25 miles in a day, it’s all "free." And if you drive over 25 miles, well, who cares? Your car won’t get stranded, you can still drive on highways, and you’ll still save gas in the long run. But keep it as a hybrid; otherwise no one will buy it.

Besides which, I think electric is better than oil in every way. For one, it’s domestic energy rather than imported. Two, proven coal reserves are much, much higher than proven oil reserves. Three, even if it does pollute just as much, that pollution is concentrated. That means it’s easier to reduce or convert to other forms (remember those algae Sivigald talked about? Some people at MIT are working on growing them from coal power plant emissions. Neat-o, isn’t it?) And finally, we can always use more nuclear power, which will at least shut up the intelligent environmentalists.

Even if we can’t kill all our oil, we can still get rid of most of it. Plug-in hybrids, carbon composite cars (lighter than aluminum), improved fuel efficiency, and ethanol can virtually eliminate our gasoline needs. Algae farms, preferrably from coal or ethanol plant emissions, can kill our diesel needs. Recycling and biopolymers can possibly put a huge chunk in our plastics use. Thermal depolymerization can take out a fraction of our heating oil needs. Coal or biomass liquefication if necessary. I don’t see any reason why an extremely aggressive push can’t reduce our current use by 80% or so. And best of all, it all comes from the US, not the Middle East.

Not a clue what to do about jet fuel though... Well, except for the liquefication bit. Anyone know if anyone’s looked into any replacement for kerosene?
 
Written By: Mariner
URL: http://www.concordparty.org
Quote: "The problem with ethanol isn’t just that the US is using corn to produce ethanol, which isn’t as efficient. The problem (which is also what is driving gas prices up) is that ethanol can’t be distributed anywhere near as efficiently as gasoline using the current infrastructure."

No, the problem is the amount of available biomass versus the number of vehicles we drive. We are not living in Brazil where there is a huge amount of biomass and relatively few cars. In the US, ethanol outside of a few areas with abundant biomass ethanol simply can’t replace gas. If we want to reduce foreign oil dependance and use an alternative fuel there is only one answer.

Nuclear power can be used to replace oil-fire power plant and produce cheap hydrogen. Its time to start using our own technology rather than being a bunch of technophobic ludites while selling off the technology to China. You’ve pushed one of my hot buttons.

Our Energy Policy is one of the best arguments for Libertarian economics as the government simply puts road block after road block in front the path to better Engergy effeciency because of nanny-like evironmental concerns and coporate interests.
 
Written By: Septeus7
URL: http://
"No, the problem is the amount of available biomass versus the number of vehicles we drive. We are not living in Brazil where there is a huge amount of biomass and relatively few cars"

While we do have the market cornered on vehicles, we also subsidize ALOT of farmers. We pay them to NOT grow crops. Farmers have, for as long as I can remember, produce more crops than we consume and could produce more yet. If you ask me, the ethanol solution IS the best of all the options on the table even if you take into consideration the drawbacks.

Oh, and count me in for Nuclear energy too. We have the technology and hardly use it.
 
Written By: markm
URL: http://
The problem (which is also what is driving gas prices up) is that ethanol can’t be distributed anywhere near as efficiently as gasoline using the current infrastructure.
True. That would be a problem to overcome. I’m not sure how expensive retro-fitting the current infrastructure would be VS trucking or other distribution mechanisms, but it’s a barrier that’s possible to overcome in a variety of ways. It’s just a cost problem, and as long as gas keeps rising, the investment should be there.

Also, how much energy is in a unit of ethanol compared to a unit of gasoline...saying that a gallon of ethanol costs 80% of a gallon of gas is fine, HOWEVER if a gallon of ethanol only has 75% the energy of a gallon of gas, it actually doesn’t make sense to burn ethanol.
True. One gallon of gas is not equivalent to one gallon of ethanol. I don’t recall the exact difference, but I’ve read that, for some complicated reason, the difference in gas mileage is not quite as great as the difference in energy. Still, ethanol does produce lower gas mileage, so the proper evaluation is a cost-per-mile basis, rather than a cost-per-gallon basis.
Also, it sticks in my head that in the early ’80’s during the LAST ethanol craze, that it came out that ethanol damaged engines or required a special lubricant, IIRC.
Yeah, that’s why we’re talking about "flex-fuel" vehicles. They have gas systems designed for various fuels.
Sigivald, the biggest problem with biodiesel is that it gums up when it’s cold, which pretty much knocks it out of contention for a good portion of the US during the winter months.
Doesn’t really matter. As a commodity, liquid fuels suitable for automobiles are fungible. It doesn’t matter where the increased supply is used. The existence of greater supply for Region X frees up supply suitable for Region Z.

 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Because of the infrastructure issue, the only alternative energy source that seems likely for automobiles in the near future is electricity.
For the very near future, yeah. It will be interesting to find out how and how fast our infrastructure could adopt flex fuels. I’m not sure if Brazil provides a good model, since they’ve got different land-use realities, though.

Course, if gas keeps rising, then even trucking the stuff all over the place might become economical.
Our Energy Policy is one of the best arguments for Libertarian economics as the government simply puts road block after road block in front the path to better Engergy effeciency because of nanny-like evironmental concerns and coporate interests.
Agreed. That why, as Wulf said, it’s most enlightening to watch what the markets are investing in, rather than what politicians are speculating about.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
There are two fundamental problems with ethanol as a fuel. The first is that it simply requires a cleaner engine to run at the efficiencies discussed in this thread. With a car from the 80s or earlier, you had to avoid high compression in a seldom-maintained daily driver or you’d get damaging "knocking" (at least, with any fuel you’d get from a pump). This is just an engineering problem, however, and OBD2 has forced many of the required changes already, so it may be no big deal. Alternatively you can just live with even less effeciency, which may still be a bargain if gas prices stay high.

The more serious issue is the fact that - with American corporate farming techniques - it takes a similar amount of eneregy to produce ethanol as the ethanol itself produces. Because we grow so much food on so little land, we use an amazing amount of fertilizer to grow crops, and there’s a significant amount of oil required in that process. Ethanol from corporate crops in America is just another Ag subsidy.

Now, there are certainly ways to address that problem, but if you’re not going to use so much fertilizer that the excercise is pointless then you’re going to need vast amounts of land. So either you remain dependant on imports for energy, or we go back to massive deforestation to create farmland. I rather like the fact that America’s been reclaiming land for forests from farms for a while now.

Ethanol is a distraction IMO, eventually someone will get a hydrogen fuel cell worked out, so can use hydrogen (as a battery) and power our cars from nuclear and solar power.
 
Written By: Skorj
URL: http://
Storage will probably be a major problem, particularly in cities. Very few gas stations have room for additional underground tanks, even if they could get a permit.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
"There are two fundamental problems with ethanol as a fuel. The first is that it simply requires a cleaner engine to run at the efficiencies discussed in this thread. With a car from the 80s or earlier, you had to avoid high compression in a seldom-maintained daily driver or you’d get damaging "knocking" (at least, with any fuel you’d get from a pump). This is just an engineering problem"

Saywhu huh?. Splain. Compression ratios are not a problem with methanol. It’s got a very high "octane rating" which is one reason it’s used as a fuel in some racing applications.
 
Written By: markm
URL: http://
Skorj, Fuel cells are not gonna happen anytime soon. I’ll be generous and at least concede the possibility that they eventually might end up working out, but there are a lot of people convinced that it’s a lost cause. They’re ridiculously expensive at the moment thanks to a large amount of precious metals (the engine alone costs about $40k), they’re not much more energy efficient than gasoline (or even worse than gas), and there’s no good way to store the hydrogen. Could these problems eventually be solved? Perhaps. But it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

And your complaints about the energy required to make ethanol are irrelevent. Corn grain ethanol is not a long term solution. It’s not even a medium term solution. Anyone who’s serious about ethanol as a real replacement for gasoline doesn’t consider corn grain. It’s cellulose that’s the answer. For example, we can potentially replace over a billion barrels of oil from agricultural and forestry waste alone (which is practically free in terms of inputted energy). And the dedicated cellulosic crops, most notably switchgrass, require FAR less energy per gallon ethanol to grow than corn.
 
Written By: Mariner
URL: http://
MArkM, I don’t hink methanol is going to pass the "liability test." Seriously, few people drink gasoline, but a good number "huff it." Methanol will be worse, even if it IS a race fuel.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Hows this for a free market, libertarian solution ...

Lets treat the half-trillion dollar war cost as a subsidy towards the price of gasoline. A gas tax could recoup that subsidy and drive gas prices towards their real, unsubsidized, free market cost. That will speed up our movement to non islamic energy sources, help balance the budget and get our troops out of the middle east faster.


 
Written By: cindyb
URL: http://
But CindyB the troops won’t be coming home from the Mid-East any time soon. They’ve been there 60-plus years, why change now? And any way I like the idea of trying to make the Mid-East a better place... the status quo sure isn’t any picnic, is it?

And Cindy does the word "fungibility" mean anything to you? Because your posting would imply it doesn’t.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
People always bring up "but methanol/ethanol is used as a race fuel" when discussing the need for a clean engine. It’s worth pointing out that pure methanol/ethanol is mostly used in race cars with engines that are cleaned and rebult as often as every 1/4 mile! It’s certainly true that if you run pure ethanol all the time, your engine will stay pretty clean, and you can run higher compression than gas. It’s only when you use ethanol in an engine that has deposits left from impurities from gasoline that you have issues. Again, I’m not sure this is still a real problem in modern cars, as an engine pretty much has to adapt to changes in engine conditions to be OBD2 compliant.

As far a "fuel cells", I realize now that people use that word in two ways. I’m talking about a normal internal combustion engine running on hydrogen, but the hydrogen is stored as a metallic hydride, or otherwise not as a gas or liquid. That’s one of the pool of technologies that Bush instructed the federal governement to offer a few billion in bounties for, and researchers seem pretty gung-ho about it, as the value of such a technology would be enormous. Of course, there’s no predicting when or if basic research will pay off, but vast wealth is good motivation.

Nothing will significantly change the amount of oil we use in the next 10 years - infrastructure is hard. If we had fusion power plants coming online tomorrow, producing power at a cost "too cheap to meter" it would still take us more than a decade to build out the additional power lines needed to replace heating oil consumption, for example, and that’s easier infrastructure than cars. Ethanol seems atttractive because the infrastructure is mostly in place, but it simply doesn’t scale to this problem, not without really impressive changes in land use for farming (and there goes the timescale again).
 
Written By: Skorj
URL: http://
OK, having just done the math: if the average American consumes a 2600-Calorie/day diet, that’s about 130 watts on average throughout the day. America consumed roughly 2600 watts worth of imported oil, and a bit more than 4000 watts of total oil, average per capita in 2002. That’s a heck of a lot of corn.
 
Written By: Skorj
URL: http://
One thing I haven’t really seen in the the ethanol debates, is the sheer amount of land that’s needed.. Consider.. (and if my math is wrong, please yell..)

1 barrel of oil = 42 gallons.

The US uses 20 million barrels of oil per day.. 47% of that oil, is gasoline.. approx 20 gallons per barrel.

20 gallons per barrel times 20 million barrels is 400 million gallons of gas.. per day.

times 365 days, we use about 146 billion gallons of gas per year..

1 acre of corn produces about 414 gallons of ethanol.. of which we’d get 1 crop per year..

146 billion gallons, divided by 414 gallons per acre (assuming equal energy output of ethanol and gasoline, which they aren’t..) means we’d need 352 million acres of land devoted to growing corn strictly for ethanol to replace *ONLY* gasoline.. not any other forms of energy.. or other oil products..

cia.gov factbook has US arable land at 19% of land mass..

The 352 million acres of land needed for ethanol.. is about 15% of our land mass of 2.2 trillion acres.. or about 80% of available arable land.. again.. just to replace gasoline..

 
Written By: phuknjrk
URL: http://www.liberallyspeaking.blogs.com
Egad, are my posts just not showing up or something? Let me repeat myself.

Anyone who’s serious about ethanol as a real replacement for gasoline doesn’t consider corn grain.

And, for good measure...

Anyone who’s serious about ethanol as a real replacement for gasoline doesn’t consider corn grain.

phuknjrk, your math is right, your assumptions are wrong. We won’t use corn grain. Save the corn grain for cows and for biochemicals. Instead, we use agricultural waste and dedicated energy crops. As I posted earlier, the waste alone can net us somewhere around a billion barrels of oil, or over 1/4 of our current gasoliine use. And energy crops yield more ethanol per acre than corn and can also be grown on land not suitable for farming. You say we’d need virtually all our arable land to replace gasoline. I’ve seen predictions that say we’ll use 0 acres of farmland to replace gasoline. It’s all in the assumptions you make.
 
Written By: Mariner
URL: http://www.concordparty.org
So Mariner we can conclude that the true number lies between 0% of arable land and 80%. I mean only to say, a WHOLE lot more study is going to be necessary before we make any decisions.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"People always bring up "but methanol/ethanol is used as a race fuel" when discussing the need for a clean engine. It’s worth pointing out that pure methanol/ethanol is mostly used in race cars with engines that are cleaned and rebult as often as every 1/4 mile!"

Um...not so. Last I looked (and it was some time ago)but the Indy 500 is 500 continuous miles. They don’t stop every 1/4 mile to "clean and rebuild" it. (I don’t know if that racing league still use alcohlol but they did for a long time)

What’s the hangup with "clean"???. The ethanol doesn’t care about a dirty engine. Knock or ping isn’t a problem (E85 has a 102ish octane rating. What gives?
 
Written By: markm
URL: http://
For more info on ethanol, visit:

http://www.ethanol-news.com
 
Written By: Ethanol
URL: http://www.ethanol-news.com
While we are on this ethanol & flex fuel debate, I was wondering what the thoughts would be for biodiesel from feedstock such as algae...true, these are not replacements for gasoline ( actually for diesel), but I thought I’d raise the questions to get some feedback...

I was going through the site Oilgae.com - Biodiesel from Algae and it appears to me from what I read there that biodiesel from algae could be having a real potential to replace petro-diesel...any thoughts?

Ec, IT
 
Written By: Ecacofonix
URL: http://www.eit.in

 
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