Skip to comments.Study says ethanol not worth the energy
Posted on 07/17/2005 4:09:40 PM PDT by Graybeard58
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Farmers, businesses and state officials are investing millions of dollars in ethanol and biofuel plants as renewable energy sources, but a new study says the alternative fuels burn more energy than they produce.
Supporters of ethanol and other biofuels contend they burn cleaner than fossil fuels, reduce U.S. dependence on oil and give farmers another market to sell their produce.
But researchers at Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley say it takes 29 percent more fossil energy to turn corn into ethanol than the amount of fuel the process produces. For switch grass, a warm weather perennial grass found in the Great Plains and eastern North America United States, it takes 45 percent more energy and for wood, 57 percent.
It takes 27 percent more energy to turn soybeans into biodiesel fuel and more than double the energy produced is needed to do the same to sunflower plants, the study found.
"Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation's energy security, its agriculture, the economy, or the environment," according to the study by Cornell's David Pimentel and Berkeley's Tad Patzek. They conclude the country would be better off investing in solar, wind and hydrogen energy.
The researchers included such factors as the energy used in producing the crop, costs that were not used in other studies that supported ethanol production, said Pimentel.
The study also omitted $3 billion in state and federal government subsidies that go toward ethanol production in the United States each year, payments that mask the true costs, Pimentel said.
Ethanol is an additive blended with gasoline to reduce auto emissions and increase gas' octane levels. Its use has grown rapidly since 2004, when the federal government banned the use of the additive MTBE to enhance the cleaner burning of fuel. About 3.6 billion gallons of ethanol were produced last year in the United States, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol trade group.
The ethanol industry claims that using 8 billion gallons of ethanol a year will allow refiners to use 2 billion fewer barrels of oil. The oil industry disputes that, saying the ethanol mandate would have negligible impact on oil imports.
Ethanol producers dispute Pimentel and Patzek's findings, saying the data is outdated and doesn't take into account profits that offset costs.
Michael Brower, director of community and government relations at SUNY's College of Environmental Science and Forestry, points to reports by the Energy and Agriculture departments that have shown the ethanol produced delivers at least 60 percent more energy the amount used in production. The college has worked extensively on producing ethanol from hardwood trees.
Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine with few or no modifications. It is often blended with petroleum diesel to reduce the propensity to gel in cold weather.
There is more oil in the Gulf of Mexico than Saudi Arabia. Let's lobby for drilling off Florida.
But don't let that upset your prejudices. We wouldn't want any oil money going to Midwestern farmers. You know what an undeserving bunch THEY are.
True but stand by for an assault by the ethanol lobby.
"Yeah, it sucks that people in the middle east are getting rich, let's soak it to consumers and make a bunch of large american companies rich at their expense!!! That will show them!"
You are in real trouble now!
LOL! OK, I didn't expect any little old thing like scientific evidence sway a true bliever. Don't let any evidence penetrate, just keep saying Ommm, Ommm.
But, but, but then we might be energy-independent, and we might not have to kowtow to Islamokazis and Communists, and that's a BAD THING </sarcasm_lefty>
All the more reason to drill, IMHO.
Speaking of fun filled threads. You might want to join into this slug fest.
SUVs : The Death of the Dinosaurs (Vanity)
grey_whiskers | 7-17-2005 | grey_whiskers
Posted on 07/17/2005 1:25:15 PM PDT by grey_whiskers
Let me be the first to predict the imminent death of the SUV's as a preferred form of transportation. This is not because the drivers are Starbucks-sipping yuppie scum, nor because they are chain-smoking over-the-hill-trophy wives, nor because they are preoccupied with their cell phones (though these are all true).
It is because the SUV's, despite their name, are not SPORT utility vehicles, but specialty UTILITY vehicles, good for ferrying half of a boy scout troop, or hauling home several months' salary worth of goods from Best Buy or from Home Depot in a single trip. In other words, they are large, lumbering, and specialized. Just like the dinosaurs. And like the dinosaurs, when the environment to which they have laboriously adapted changes--when their ecosystem changesthey will go extinct.
Just what is it that will spell the end of these suburban monsters? I used to think it was a spike in gas prices: surely no one can continue driving an 8- or 12- mpg beast in the face of $2.00+ per gallon charges at the pump. But I was wrong. These vehicles are status symbols. They are not Babe Mobiles, like a BMW roadster; these are what you buy after you have landed the babe and she has domesticated you, when you want to impress other couples. I have heard a yuppie explain this very point, when asked why he didn't abandon his new Durango, even though he was burning two gallons of gas a day, just commuting to work. "That's not the statement I'm trying to make." The automakers (even with 0% financing) must need supercomputers just to count their lease payments. And the now all customers can have the employee discount sales arent helping either.
Well, if it isn't gas, what will spell the end of the SUV? I think the answer is, when they outlive their natural utility (no pun intended). What are the SUV's used for, really? Certainly not (except maybe the Xterra or Hummer) for serious off-road work. They cost too much to buy, and you don't want to damage a leased vehicle! As noted earlier, SUV's excel at hauling around small people, buying stuff at Home Depot, and impressing the neighbors. When will these functions die off?
Let us remember that ever since the 60's, the vanguard of every cultural movement has been the baby boomers--from rock 'n roll, through Doonesbury, to career women, and SUV's. Boomers have delayed parenthood until late in their lives; now they have children at the same time as they have money. Boomers like a large house, they want a large vehicle to carry the furniture and hardware; they use the SUV for soccer practice, piano practice, singing lessons, birthdays, you name it.
But children grow older; they want their own cars. (How many people really let a 16-year old drive a $40,000 vehicle that they don't even own? And how much is the insurance?) Finally, the children move out. Now there is no need at all for ferrying the children; and the large house out in the 'burbs begins to feel 'empty' Honey, maybe we should look into a condominium, or a townhouse? And as the large house is downsized, there too goes the need for a wheeled dinosaur to haul lumber, furniture, plumbing. The day of the dinosaurs is done. And (by the way) the automakers will have to turn to another guaranteed profit center. Caveat emptor.
(Full disclosure: SUV's are also good for mashing subcompacts under their tires like a dinosaur stomping a frightened rabbit. The author drives a Nissan Sentra. This fact has nothing whatsoever to do with the contents of this article.)
You forgot the "cha-ching" and the laughter to the bank as they suck ever-increasing amounts of money from our wallets.
A man who has studied the issue. I do advocate tapping geothermal sources such as Yellowstone to create electricity to hydrolyze water into hydrogen and oxygen. there is enough magma in Yellowstone close to the surface to fullfill all the energy needs for the US for tens of thousands of years. There is a tempature catalized method of storing hydrogen that make high pressure storage tanks unecessary on vehicles. Mercedes pioneered this technology for bus fleets.
"They conclude the country would be better off investing in solar, wind and hydrogen energy. "
I stopped reading right there.
This study cannot be trusted. Their conclusion was written first.
None of the suggested investments could pass the test they used for ethenol.
Bet they assume the corn was grown only for fuel production. Not that byproducts of food production is used to produce fuel.
90% of statistics are lies.
Even accepting the studys conclusion turning 150 GBTU of coal into 100 GBTU of automotive fuel seems like a great tradeoff. The only losers are the oil exporting nations.
Well the bio-conversion refinery owners take a cut too
OK, I beleive the scientific evidence. But the point he made deserves a serious answer.
ethanol serves any useful purpose except to line the pockets of some midwest corn farmers.
If I had acreage and needed to make payments to the bank I would definitely be sowing and, hopefully reaping, corn whether I liked ethanol or not. If there is a market it must be supplied and better to pay the American Farmer than the Costa Rican, the Argentine, the Mexican, or whoever else that is NOT an American Farmer. I just hate being FORCED to buy ethanol.
Oh by the way, the concept of "fossil fuels" may be a totally flawed notion from the get go. Witness the photographs of Saturn's moon, Titan. There is an atmosphere of methane and oceans of hydrocarbons, that resemble oil or .... gasoline. Point being, there is no life there to fossilize and "produce" future energy reserves. I think that we are witnessing that this is just the stuff that our solar system's planets have as part of their inventory of compounds.
Did they say how much energy it takes to produce Hydrogen, compared to how much you get out?
How much energy does it take to mine the raw materials, produce the metals, manufacture, transport, and construct a wind generator, compared to the power output over it's expected life span?
How much energy does it take to manufacture a solar cell, and the batteries needed to make it usable? How much energy is wasted in charging the batteries, and rectifying the current to have a usable 120 volt AC current?
When these scientists answer these questions I will take their "Conclusions" seriously. Until then this appears to be just more "agenda driven" research.
Yet more evidence (as if any more evidence is needed) that humans are self deluded.
Great point. I never thought of it that way before.
|Corn Ethanol (Industry Average)||Corn Ethanol (Industry Best)||Corn Ethanol (State-of-the-Art)||Cellulosic Crop-Based Ethanol|
|TOTAL ENERGY INPUT||81,090||57,504||47,948||76,093|
|Energy in Ethanol||84,100||84,100||84,100||84,100|
|TOTAL ENERGY OUTPUT||111,679||120,361||120,361||199,500|
|Net Energy Gain||30,589||62,857||72,413||123,407|
The first column presents the energetics of ethanol based on the current energy efficiency of corn farming and ethanol production. Assuming the national average for energy used in growing corn and for energy used in the manufacture of ethanol, about 36,732 more BTUs, or 38 percent more energy is contained in the ethanol and other products produced in the corn processing facility than is used to grow the corn and make the products. In other words, the net energy ratio is 1.38:1.
The second column presents the energetics of ethanol based on the assumption that the corn is grown in the state with the most efficient corn farmers and the ethanol is made in the most energy efficient existing ethanol production facility. In this case, over two BTUs of energy are produced for every one BTU of energy used. The net energy ratio is 2.09:1.
The third column presents the energetics of ethanol based on the assumption that corn farmers and ethanol facilities use state-of-the-art practices. This is a best-case and hypothetical scenario. If farmers and industry were to use all the best technologies and practices the net energy ratio would be 2.51:1.
The data for the first three columns has been gathered from actual farming and ethanol production facilities. The data in the fourth column on the energetics of cellulosic crop-derived ethanol is more hypothetical since as yet no ethanol produced on a commercial scale is from cellulose. Feedstock production data assumes that a short rotation woody crop, such as a hybrid poplar, is used and processing energy data is taken from biomass-based ethanol facilities in the planning stages. The net energy ratio is 2.62:1.2The reader can "mix and match" components from Table 1. For example, if an average efficiency corn farm provided the feedstock for the most efficient ethanol plant, the entire process would use 27,134 BTUs in the growing of corn plus 37,883 BTUs for the processing into various products for a total of 65,017 BTUs. With the lower co-product credits of 27,579 BTUs in column one, the total energy output would be 111,679 BTUs and the net energy increase is thus 46,662 BTUs. In this case the energy output/input ratio comes to 1.72.
|Average(National)||Best Existing(State)||State of te Art (Farmer)|
|lbs/acre (corn)||BTU/acre (corn)||BTU/gal (ethanol)||lbs/acre (corn)||BTU/acre (corn)||BTU/gal (ethanol)||lbs/acre (corn)||BTU/acre (corn)||BTU/gal (ethanol)|
|Fuel||5.85 (gal.)||811,337||2,651||3.52 (gal.)||488,189||1,565||3.03 (gal.)||420,231||1,321|
|Average(National)||Best Existing(State)||State of te Art (Farmer)|
|Wet Mill (BTU/gal)||Dry Mill (BTU/gal)||Wet Mill (BTU/gal)||Dry Mill (BTU/gal)||Wet Mill (BTU/gal)||Dry Mill (BTU/gal)|
|Electricity||17,103 (2.07 kWh)||9,915 (1.2 kWh)||8,676 (1.05 kWh)||4,957 (0.6 kWh)||5,872 (0.9 kWh)||3,915 (0.6 kWh)|
|Products||Amount Produced (pounds)||Market Value (dollars per pound)||Total Value(dollars)||Energy Allocation (BTUs per gallon ethanol)|
|21% Gluten Feed||13.5||$0.05||$0.68||10,563|
|60% Gluten Meal||2.6||$0.12||$0.31||4,816|
|Method||Corn Oil||60% Gluten Meal||21% Protein Feed||Carbon Dioxide||Total Co-Products|
|Actual Energy Value||9,960||3,404||16,388||-||29,752|
|Market Energy Value||9,347||4,996||10,959||10,959||36,261|