Skip to comments.Ethanol: A Tragedy in 3 Acts
Posted on 04/27/2006 10:45:52 AM PDT by Brian Allen
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"I think the most interesting thing I've seen on Ethonol was in an article posted here yesterday. In order to make enough ethonol to meet America's current demand for gasoline would require us to uses 71% of our farm land to grow the fuel."
Farm land can stay framland growing produce. Hundreds of millions of unused acres of switch grass can be used for ethanol, and it grows naturally in the Midwest. Cut all of it down and you'll have a brand new crop the next year without doing diddly. However, I doubt we will be able to fully supplant ME oil entirely from either switchgrass or corn, but if we produce 30% ethanol and 30% biodiesel our market demand would be so low oil prices would drop massively. We are still the #1 oil consumer in the world, we just have very little market leverage right now because demand is so high.
"Just an observation of what I saw in Brazil...There are many local ethanol refineries spread throughout the country side. They are small compact units. I realize it is sugar cane, but same thing could apply here. Transportation costs would reduce as more refineries are built. It also reduces the exposure to terrorist attacks on one large refinery concentration such as Houston, TX. It also reduces the exposure to weather related catastrophies (like hurricanes, etc...)"
Hadn't considered the groundwater angle.
And isn't corn grown with petroleum-based fertilizer? If corn requires oil to grow, then how does it solve the oil problem?
I suppose the answer is that most of the energy in corn comes not from the fertilizer but from the sun. But if that's the case, then isn't a corn field just a giant solar panel?
And if this is the case, then why not just build acres of solar panels? After all, a field of solar panels would require no oil-based fertilizer and would place no strain on the aquifers.
These questions seem obvious, so they must have easy answers. Maybe plants are more efficient at converting solar energy into usable power. And no doubt acres of solar panels would cost a fortune to manufacture. In a sense, a cornfield manufactures itself.
Arrhhhh....Sure 'n' it would be matey.
Then we could run the world on rum!
Fifteen men on a dead man's chest!
Yoho ho and a bottle of rum!
ping for later
When you're just killing time, Google on "biodiesel retailers map" and see if you don't think this fuel is popular in farm country.
The only way that ethanol makes sense is when it is made from cellulose. Using food crops for ethanol will drive up the cost of food. Using a plant that has been genetically selected for high cellulose content and rapid growth would be the way to go.
So far, the process of converting cellulose to ethanol needs more development. It will be soon.
That's what I figured. It's easy to store corn energy. Just fill a silo with corn or fill a tanker with ethanol. No batteries required.
Here's another question for you (if you don't mind):
Since plants store energy as carbohydrates, why isn't it a simple process to convert them into hydrocarbons? After all, they're both just carbon and hydrogen bonded together. Why do we have to turn the carbohydrates into alcohol, which has the disadvantages of low btu's and being water soluble? Why not just turn the starch into oil (or gas)?
"Ethanol is really only the solution to automobiles..."
It doesn't look like an economically viable solution for the long term. It takes too much energy and ground water to grow the crops and refine the ethanol. I would bet a considerable amount of money that in the year 2056 we will be driving two kinds of cars: 1) for short trips under 100 miles, we'll use battery-powered electric cars or battery/gasoline hybrids that run primarily on nuclear electric power, and 2) for long trips over 100 miles we'll use gasoline powered cars or gas/electric hybrids with much more efficient gasoline engines than we have today. (Only problem is I will probably not be around in the year 2056 to collect on this bet.)
This ethanol program looks like more of a political horse-trading deal designed to pump up the economy in the farm belt. If we REALLY want to lessen our dependence on ME oil for the long term, we have to build more nuclear power plants. Nuclear power produces enormous amounts of energy from small amounts of nuclear fuel at very low cost. Eventually we will have to build more nuclear power plants because we won't be able to produce enough natural gas to run all those gas power plants. Natural gas reserves get used up over time and eventually there will be no alternative to nuclear power. So let's stop all the political pandering to environmental groups and get on with nuclear power. I think the political background for nuclear power is starting to change: I saw last week that somebody in Greenpeace is now supporting nuclear electric power.
Ethanol is just rebranded Super Unleaded, 91 octane, and costs 10 cents more at the pump.
Could you provide a ballpark figure on what percentage of Corn in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana (the 4 major Corn growing states) is grown under irrigation?
$0.50 per gallon Subsidy?
Actually, NO. No self seeding corn varieties have been developed yet. And crops must be rotated, it depletes the soil to grow corn after corn after corn after corn.
My guess is that LESS than 1% of the corn in the 4 major corn growing states is grown under irrigation.
Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana are primarily dry land farming states. There are a few exceptions along the Mississippi river where the soil is sandy and won't hold moisture.
So to suggest that growing corn will deplete the aquafers is simply NOT the case in the major corn growing states.
Can't help you much there, but here is one link:
Or Google "percentage irrigation midwest" or something similar.
Oh, no. Is today Pirate Talk Day? I forgot to iron my costume.
I learn something new every day on Free Republic. Thanks.
The reason we don't grow our own US sugar cane much anymore (or at all) is because it is very, very labor intensive to harvest. And I'm sure the enviros go whack about the burning off of the leaves and stalks.
OTOH, that is when it's being used for food. It would seem that if being used for its cellulose to make that type of ethanol or biofuel, then maybe none of that has to be done for conversion. Hawaii was once one of the largest growers in the world, wasn't it? They have the highest fossil fuel gasoline costs in the US, too. Maybe there's an opportunity there for them.
On the other hand, there's no substitute for petroleum in aviation fuel - but I don't know about ships - are they run on diesel?
Nahhhh...that's on September 19th.
(But you knew that already, didn't you Granny!)
Thanks. That's *very easy* for me to remember.
That's funny. It's a date I'll never forget either.
Though, I'll wager we remember it for very different reasons.
Yes. Not precisely, but I knew.
" - but I don't know about ships - are they run on diesel?"
Ships can run on all sorts of stuff -- including kites.
Thank you! I have been saying this, to rolling eyes for some time now. Too many people don't realize we are in as much trouble with water in this country as we are with oil, maybe more so.
Well, *some* may believe it's the 100th Meridian, but I have always maintained that it's at 97.4° W, along I-35 in Oklahoma.
I've lived on each side of it and it's observable by even an untrained eye - except I've always called it the "tree line" (not the mountainous kind at elevation). To the east, trees, greenery and dark brown soil. To the west, tan shades of earth colors, scrub brush, and red soil.
That's a very glittering generality, but I'm just a 97.4° rebel contra, what can I say?
Hmmm, I best not *touch* that, lol. Unless, it's because you also know it's Sophia Loren's birthday eve.
Very interesting, I missed that. It seems ridiculous at first glance (like the spaghetti tree joke of years ago on BBC), but it must make sense to people who are using it. I'd sure want to tie some tails on it, though, lol!
Well, anyway, I asked that because I was wondering if Hawaii produced cellulose ethanol from sugar cane, what it would cost in money or energy to transport it.
Fish waste? Couldn't they use poi? It's got to be of *some use* to someone, lol.
I guess whale blubber is *out,* too. And we could probably all fly hot air balloons instead of airplanes to go long distances. Oh, geeze, what was I thinking? What about Conestoga wagons?
See, they didn't ask me. Granted, those scrub brush to the west of *my line* are the beginnings of the more arid area, but I suppose I was being too provincial in my POV - considering they mean for the *whole* US.
Over at the 100th, the scrub is even scarcer. The Plains Indians, as opposed to the Civilized Ones, chose to stay just west of that 97.4 line for some reason.
Nope. Not even close. But I did not know that.
That should be where the fossil fuel "aromatics" could be useful, lol.
I used to agree to everythingyou posited, but now I'm not sure about this line. If W's strategery turns out to be correct (we won't know for 5-10 years), then we'll have to play an active part in the rest of the worl to keep all the nutcase breeding grounds in the ME cleaned out. Had we cleaned up Afghanistan ahead of time, UBL might not have gottn the WTC events off.
Anyway, I'm ok with "biofuel" fads, but even if we had tech to run the entire economy off "cold peanut fusion" or something, we'd still have to keep the ME'ers on the road to prosperity since the only leaders they have want to train them to strap bombs on and dance with Israelis or New Yorkers....
" ... Rudolf Diesel invented the diesel engine in the late 19th century to run on a variety of fuels, including heavy mineral oil and vegetable oil. His engine has since been modified to run on polluting petroleum fuel."
That made me suspicious of all the test results, as they might be skewed somehow.
Still, I hope they can do something viable with fish oil, especially for those in the Alaskan bush who need generator fuel, as they pointed out. I guess "raw fish oil" would be from dark meat fish, like maybe amberjacks or some trash fish that people don't really like to eat very much.
Sometimes it's Rosh Hashanah and sometimes it's Yom Kippur. I just always have a party on Sophia Loren's birthday (doesn't everybody?), so I always remember it.
Are you implying that spaghetti doesn't grow on trees?