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Print 71 comment(s) - last by mindless1.. on Aug 2 at 5:22 PM

Process promises 10 fold increase in simple sugar production from non-food crops

As scientists all around the world look for alternatives to oil for fuel, several options have materialized. Electricity has a significant amount of support behind it, but for many drivers an electric vehicle isn't a real option due to the extremely limited range current battery technology can provide.

One of the few fuel alternatives not based on oil that is currently in use in relatively large quantities is ethanol. Many of the fueling stations around the U.S. now have stickers on pumps that say the gasoline is mixed with 10% ethanol. Large portions of General Motor's vehicles are already capable of running on 85% ethanol.

The problem with the mass production of ethanol is that the crops most suited to making ethanol -- corn, potatoes, and sugar cane -- are also food crops that are needed to feed people in many developing parts of the world. Another problem is that production costs for ethanol using these food crops vary with the price of the food crops. Another fear is that in areas where the amount of land for growing food crops is limited, the amount of crops grown that need to go to human consumption could be greatly reduced leading to increased food shortages around the world.

For these reasons, significant resources have been dedicated to finding other renewable plant sources for ethanol not based on food crops. Cellulosic ethanol production is one source of ethanol not based on food crops and could possibly produce ethanol for as little as $1 per gallon. One startup company, called LS9, has claimed it has developed a process that uses bacteria to produce synthetic gas using biowaste and weeds.

The University of Georgia (UGA) announced that a team of researchers at the university has developed a new technology that could greatly increase the yield of ethanol produced from non-food crops like Bermudagrass, switchgrass, Napiergrass and possibly even clippings from lawns.

According to UGA, its process uses a fast, mild, and acid-free pretreatment process to increase the amount of simple sugars released by inexpensive biomass by a factor of ten. UGA also says that corn stover or bagasse -- the waste material left behind after corn and sugar cane harvests -- can be used to produce ethanol with its process.

Professor of microbiology and chair of UGA's Bioenergy Task Force, Joy Peterson said in a statement, "Producing ethanol from renewable biomass sources such as grasses is desirable because they are potentially available in large quantities. Optimizing the breakdown of the plant fibers is critical to production of liquid transportation fuel via fermentation.”

The researchers say that the same plant materials used to produce ethanol in its process can be used to produce ethanol with other processes commonly used today. However, the process typically needed to convert the fibrous stalks, leaves, and blades of plant wastes into simple sugars requires soaking under high pressure and high temperatures. The process produces hazardous solutions and byproducts that must be removed and disposed of safely.

The UGA researchers say that their process is environmentally friendly and removes the harsh pre-treatment chemicals and the need to dispose of the harsh chemicals and side products produced using traditional methods.

Gennaro Gama, UGARF technology manager in charge of licensing the UGA technology said, "By allowing for the use of myriad raw materials, this technology allows more options for ethanol facilities trying to meet nearby demand by using locally available, inexpensive starting materials. This would greatly reduce the costs and carbon footprint associated with the delivery of raw materials to fermentation facilities and the subsequent delivery of ethanol to points of sale. Local production of ethanol may also protect specific areas against speculative fluctuations in fuel prices."

Gama added, "It’s easy to imagine that this easy-to-use, inexpensive technology could be used by local governments, alone or in partnership with entrepreneurs, to meet local demand for ethanol, possibly using yard waste as a substrate."



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I really don't understand
By Kary on 7/30/2008 6:15:01 PM , Rating: 2
If you make ethanol then you convert the sugars into alcohol and the rest is viable feed (high protein food is the waste product).
If you make bio-diesel the you convert oil/fat into soap and bio-fuel leaving behind the other edible components (corn meal you extracted corn oil from, for instance).

Convert grass to fuel.... can the waste material be used for food (even animal food). Is it really better to have farmers convert to the new money crop...grass..instead of growing corn that, even if it is used to make fuel also has food as a byproduct?

I think the waste materials are mostly used for animal feed, but still, I have to admit that I've really enjoyed that beef/chicken/pork prices seem to have stayed stable even as gas/electricity/shirts/...everything else has gone up in price




RE: I really don't understand
By TheDoc9 on 7/30/08, Rating: 0
RE: I really don't understand
By Kary on 7/31/2008 10:24:31 AM , Rating: 2
"What? You serious? "
I'm not sure what part you are asking if I am serious about...

Yes, alcohol is made from sugars (the rest of the "mash" is dried and used for animal food typically)

Chicken here costs roughly $0.79 to $2.49 (legs/skinless breast meat)
Pork runs from $1.97 up
Beef runs from $2.28 up
These prices went up for a bit then came back down.

Gas has DEFINITELY went up
Electricity seems to be up about 30%
Shirts...ok, I haven't shopped for shirts in awhile...might be wrong there


RE: I really don't understand
By masher2 (blog) on 7/31/2008 11:33:51 AM , Rating: 3
> "Chicken here costs roughly $0.79 to $2.49..Beef runs from $2.28 up"

Not sure where you live, but chicken here is as high as $5/lb. Beef runs from $3-$4/lb for ground up to $15/lb for decent ribeyes. I don't buy filets any more; they go for over $20/lb. These prices are up sharply from a couple years ago.


RE: I really don't understand
By Machinegear on 7/31/2008 12:26:46 PM , Rating: 2
Don't doubt his observations. I share them. You my friend, must live a fair distance from where cows and chickens are produced/processed. You have the privilege of paying higher food prices from the higher transportation costs. Enjoy the city. :)


RE: I really don't understand
By Kary on 7/31/2008 12:33:25 PM , Rating: 2
"Not sure where you live, but chicken here is as high as $5/lb."

South eastern US

...$5/lb ....ok, I'm talking basic/uncooked chicken...leg quarters, breasts...no marinade..nothing fancy in the price range I was talking about


RE: I really don't understand
By iFX on 7/31/2008 4:43:41 PM , Rating: 2
It depends on what you buy where I live.

I can buy 1.5 lbs of "chicken tenders" (uncooked) from the meat case at my local butcher for around $3.50. Whole chickens (fryers, not stewing hens) go for about $6.00.


By PresidentThomasJefferson on 8/1/2008 5:07:10 PM , Rating: 2
Where do u live?
Here in SoCal (LA/OrangeCounty area), u can get at Ralphs, Superior Grocers, Food 4 Less, BuyLow Warehouse:
chicken thighs/drumsticks for 99 cents/lb --usually $1.29/lb ..chicken breasts at $1.99 /lb

beef chuck/roundhouse/bottom round steak for $1.29 to $1.49/lb

pork at $1.29 to $1.89 a lb

--but if u're getting NewYork, Sirloin or Ribeye, it's $7 to $13/lb .. so get the roundhouse/bottom/round/chuck steask insteasd


By Seemonkeyscanfly on 8/1/2008 12:40:56 PM , Rating: 2
Shirts...ok, I haven't shopped for shirts in awhile...might be wrong there ...

Nuts, I thought you were saying skirts at first. I love to see skirts go up by as much as 40 or 50 percent. :)


RE: I really don't understand
By geddarkstorm on 7/31/2008 10:35:36 AM , Rating: 1
I seriously doubt /farmers/ will switch to growing grass and weeds. You don't need farmers to grow them, and actual food crops will always be more valuable. Grass comes in plentiful supply, unlike corn.


RE: I really don't understand
By snownpaint on 7/31/2008 11:34:48 AM , Rating: 2
We grow grass all over the US.. down our highways, on our golf courses, FL and CA are covered.. In NJ there are field set aside stated, "saved from development.. Imagine the lawn care industry feeding our ethanol plants. Farm it??? I have a lawn, that gets cut once a week, makes 2 loads of clippings that get throw in a much pile. If my town alone contributed their clippings (50000+ homes) that is 100000 loads of clips a week, or a bouts.


RE: I really don't understand
By Kary on 7/31/2008 12:39:58 PM , Rating: 2
" I have a lawn, that gets cut once a week, makes 2 loads of clippings that get throw in a much pile. If my town alone contributed their clippings (50000+ homes) that is 100000 loads of clips a week, or a bouts. "

But on such small scales I doubt you would produce enough ethanol to even offset the fuel for the mowing, much less the transport costs. Only large scale areas could be cost effective (where they fertilize the fields and apply lime..allow the grass to grow to over head height before cutting and bailing for easy transport...aka, done by a farmer and sent to a nearby chemist instead of being fed to cattle directly). Few people will let their lawns grow tall enough for it to be remotely useful as a fuel source (ok, I do, but most people like to be able to see over the lawn).


RE: I really don't understand
By Nik00117 on 7/31/2008 2:21:02 PM , Rating: 2
It doesn't take much gas to mow an acre of lawn. I mean that would be the smart thing to do, simply ask citizens and poeple that when they bag their grass clippings living it on the side of the road and a truck willc ome by to pick it up. To which it is then processed and made into ethanoal.


RE: I really don't understand
By paydirt on 7/31/2008 4:29:29 PM , Rating: 3
When you remove the clippings from your lawn, you remove a good source of nutrients for your lawn, then you need to add fertilizer back to the lawn. For now, folks should leave the clippings on their lawn and then they won't need to fertilize as much.


RE: I really don't understand
By afkrotch on 8/1/2008 5:26:53 AM , Rating: 1
Would prefer if they did fertilize, then we have something to do with cow shit.


RE: I really don't understand
By mindless1 on 8/2/2008 4:41:59 PM , Rating: 2
We need to get away from the idea of a perfect lawn. Leave clippings or fertilize more and what happens? You have to mow more, using more gas, higher consumption of lawn grooming mechanical products, more air and sound pollution especially considering all those 2 stroke blowers, wead-eaters, edgers, etc. People could just use manual tools instead of gas powered ones, but "could" and "do" aren't the same.


RE: I really don't understand
By ahodge on 7/31/2008 8:24:44 PM , Rating: 2
"But on such small scales I doubt you would produce enough ethanol to even offset the fuel for the mowing, much less the transport costs."

But, you see, I already mow my lawn. I already put it in the yard debris container that is taken away by the garbage man. I suppose it goes to the dump? I'm not sure. Regardless, I think what he is saying is that all this "WASTE" becomes a potential fuel source.

Now, if this takes off, I might not have to pay the disposal company for my yard debris pick up any longer. Perhaps the profit margin on what was once considered waste, will be great enough that the disposal company will consider picking my debris up free of charge, perhaps driving trucks running on 100% ethanol.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. This is all speculation based on an industry in it's infancy and working within an economic climate I can't predict.

-Alex


RE: I really don't understand
By afkrotch on 8/1/2008 6:04:16 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
But on such small scales I doubt you would produce enough ethanol to even offset the fuel for the mowing, much less the transport costs.


Instead, waste your gas mowing the lawn and then throwing the clippings into your trash can that gets picked up by trucks and hauled to the dump.

Either way, you are going to use fuel. If you take the clipping and convert them to fuel, you get some of the fuel you'd use back. If you could get 20% back, it's better than 0%.

Also mowing a lawn takes nothing. I can put in 1 gallon of gas into our riding lawn mower and have 2-3 lawn mowings ( about 3/4 acre).

I'd prefer if they looked more into creating fuel from farming left overs. Corn stalks, straw, potato plants, etc.


RE: I really don't understand
By mindless1 on 8/2/2008 4:44:49 PM , Rating: 2
That's what they're doing, developing ways to convert these higher cellulose, lower starch plants and plant parts.


RE: I really don't understand
By Spookster on 7/31/2008 1:54:06 PM , Rating: 3
I can just see it now. An outbreak of thieves going around mowing everybody's lawns to sell the clippings to these refineries.


AMAZING I CAN'T WAIT
By rubbahbandman on 7/30/2008 6:19:58 PM , Rating: 1
Ethanol still isn't a real solution. Let's see here, it's corrosive so you can't transport it through oil pipelines. It's grown primarily in 5 states all located in the Midwest, so to reach the heavy populations on the coast you have to transport it oh let's see around 1500 miles and most likely by trains, barges, and DIESEL-powered trucks. But wait what about diesel-ethanol trucks?? Oh nobody uses them cus they're too expensive and guess what, they will end up with far LESS power because ethanol performs at about 60% efficiency versus gas in terms of BTU's. Good luck with ethanol, IT'S THE FUTURE.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates it will take roughly 2 million train carloads, 50 thousand barge loads and 20 million truck loads to move 20 BILLION gallons of ethanol to market (emphasis on Billion because the general standard for ONE barrel of oil is 42 GALLONS, and we ALWAYS talk about U.S. demand in terms of barrels). America's transportation infrastructure will need to nearly double its capacity by 2035 to meet anticipated growth in demand."




RE: AMAZING I CAN'T WAIT
By jbartabas on 7/30/2008 7:06:17 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
It's grown primarily in 5 states all located in the Midwest, so to reach the heavy populations on the coast you have to transport it oh let's see around 1500 miles and most likely by trains, barges, and DIESEL-powered trucks. But wait what about diesel-ethanol trucks??


Did you actually read the article or you just stopped at the title?

Oh, and it's a detail but ethanol is not grown, no more than electricity comes out of your wall ...


RE: AMAZING I CAN'T WAIT
By rubbahbandman on 7/31/2008 2:51:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Oh, and it's a detail but ethanol is not grown, no more than electricity comes out of your wall ...

Thanks for the red herring, ok the crops grown for fuel usage if that statement can make it past your ignorance... Care to dispute any of the real issues related to ethanol? Until they solve the transportation issue, ethanol will continue to fail as an effective alternative energy.

The article even states it is for local demand (likely due to transportation issues) not to mention this "local demand for ethanol" will not impact any of the big coastal cities in a meaningful way.


RE: AMAZING I CAN'T WAIT
By mindless1 on 8/2/2008 4:58:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Care to dispute any of the real issues related to ethanol?


Ok. Ethanol is already being transported and used in gasoline. If we need new pipelines we managed to create them once, it can be done again.

You wrote that it's only grown in 5 states but what was the point of this news article? That there may be new sources grown elsewhere. We don't have to entirely replace gasoline, any amount of ethanol used could be of benefit in reducing gas consumption and lowering prices IF the conversion of more plants and plant wastes is viable.

You write about trucks, trains, as if they are a problem. It's exactly the opposite, that they already exist, the infrastructure to do it is existing tech even if it needs expansion. We manage to transport everything else, it would be silly to think any fuel just falls out of the sky into a funnel positioned over your car's gas tank.

Ethanol is a real viable alternative today, simply using more of it in the gas we use for the years until more and more vehicles are multi-fuel capable, instead of trying to switch suddenly from all gas to mostly ethanol.

Big coastal cities have to have their food brought in. Same goes for plants and plant waste converted to ethanol. Same goes for gasoline. There's not so much difference except in how much farmland is available but let's face it, there is a lot of land in the US that is capable of producing certain grasses and other plants that don't need a lot of water. Don't you even realize that every city could have an ethanol refinery? Less, not more transportation than involved with oil then gasoline when you consider a lot of the waste that had to be transported either way.


RE: AMAZING I CAN'T WAIT
By MarkHark on 7/31/2008 6:40:23 PM , Rating: 2
By your logic, using oil in USA makes even less sense, since most of it has to be imported from Middle East, which is even further then the distance from Midwest to the coast, and thus also sees high transportation costs between extraction and consumption sites.


RE: AMAZING I CAN'T WAIT
By ahodge on 7/31/2008 8:47:44 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Ethanol still isn't a real solution. Let's see here, it's corrosive so you can't transport it through oil pipelines. It's grown primarily in 5 states all located in the Midwest, so to reach the heavy populations on the coast you have to transport it oh let's see around 1500 miles and most likely by trains, barges, and DIESEL-powered trucks. But wait what about diesel-ethanol trucks?? Oh nobody uses them cus they're too expensive and guess what, they will end up with far LESS power because ethanol performs at about 60% efficiency versus gas in terms of BTU's. Good luck with ethanol, IT'S THE FUTURE.


While I agree with you that Ethanol is not an efficient method of storing energy. What you're missing in this article is its primary point. Grass is abundant and is an ideal source of ethanol if we can increase it's sugar output for fermentation.

Grass grows EVERYWHERE. Planet Earth had a whole episode on grass and its ability to grow everywhere, also pointing out that it is the most abundant plant on earth. Ethanol can be produced locally using this technology. Forget transportation costs.

IMHO, I'm not sure why we bother with any combustible fuels when we could put all our research into better batteries that are lighter, faster charging, more recyclable, etc. This way, we've eliminated any emissions when using the stored energy (released in an ICE during combustion). We need to drop the silly pursuit of ethanol and hydrogen power, divert funds into battery research, the fruits of which we can enjoy in our cars, ipods, laptops, etc.
-Alex


RE: AMAZING I CAN'T WAIT
By afkrotch on 8/1/2008 6:18:11 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
IMHO, I'm not sure why we bother with any combustible fuels when we could put all our research into better batteries that are lighter, faster charging, more recyclable, etc. This way, we've eliminated any emissions when using the stored energy (released in an ICE during combustion). We need to drop the silly pursuit of ethanol and hydrogen power, divert funds into battery research, the fruits of which we can enjoy in our cars, ipods, laptops, etc.


OMG!!! What a great idea. We'll save so much on combustible fuels. Seeing as in 2007, 71.7% of the US's electricity was created by burning coal, natural gas, or fuel oil.


RE: AMAZING I CAN'T WAIT
By afkrotch on 8/1/2008 6:31:43 AM , Rating: 2
RE: AMAZING I CAN'T WAIT
By ahodge on 8/1/2008 12:58:05 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, so we switch to a mix of renewable power (where feasible) and nuclear power. Thanks for pointing that out.


I guess I will be the first to say it...
By AntiV6 on 7/30/2008 5:18:42 PM , Rating: 4
This article is pretty sweet...




By TheDoc9 on 7/30/2008 5:52:09 PM , Rating: 2
hopefully we see some use of these new ethanol producing technologies in the coming years. After all, how much sense does it make to use our food supply to power vehicles.


RE: I guess I will be the first to say it...
By arazok on 7/30/08, Rating: 0
By SiliconJon on 7/30/2008 7:23:26 PM , Rating: 4
I don't see any reference to Jason Mick in this article. Get lost troll boy. If you find fault in anyone's articles feel free to point them out with non-fallacious arguments, citing references if your rebuttal contains information not of "common knowledge".


Ethanol is a waste of time.
By William Gaatjes on 7/30/2008 6:34:35 PM , Rating: 2
Just delaying the invitable while it is as dirty as ordinary gas. And it takes valuable ground.




RE: Ethanol is a waste of time.
By geddarkstorm on 7/31/2008 10:41:57 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, valuable ground, where only weeds and grass can grow and not crops. Mm, very valuable ground indeed.

Crops take fertile land and special soil--grass and weeds can grow darn near anywhere, like arid and rocky ground. And, what about using inedible crop waste? This technology opens up a /lot/ of doors. 10x increase in production is no small matter.

Ethanol is doubtfully a solution; electricity and hydrogen are the way to go it seems, but it's still nice to have good advances. No need to throw up inaccurate objections.


RE: Ethanol is a waste of time.
By Kary on 7/31/2008 12:47:42 PM , Rating: 2
"Yes, valuable ground, where only weeds and grass can grow and not crops. Mm, very valuable ground indeed."

Grass isn't as easy to grow as you might think..it does require fertile soil..high nitrogen for good growth.

Still, I'm not bashing this technology. I have seen the waste from sugar cane in HUGE piles.. now that would be worth converting to ethanol. It is already just piled up and set to rot (this is taken only from observations of a sugar mill in south Louisiana that I drive by from time to time)


RE: Ethanol is a waste of time.
By afkrotch on 8/1/2008 6:57:31 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Grass isn't as easy to grow as you might think..it does require fertile soil..high nitrogen for good growth.


Certain types of grass that one would use for their lawn, yes. There are many types of grass and out of these different types of grass you can grow it everywhere. If one type of grass doesn't grow in one area, used a different type.

I'm not gonna grow Kentucky blue grass in Baja, California, but desert grass should be fine.


non-issue
By Silver2k7 on 7/31/2008 4:51:59 AM , Rating: 3
Invalid argument!!

"The problem with the mass production of ethanol is that the crops most suited to making ethanol -- corn, potatoes, and sugar cane -- are also food crops that are needed to feed people in many developing parts of the world."

If you use farmeland-x to produce plant-x to make ethanol of or if you use corn in the same field to make ethanol.. whats the difference.. i see none.. your still using plant-x on farmland that could have yeilded edible crops.. you get ethanol both ways. This is just a political issue and a real life non-issue imho.




RE: non-issue
By geddarkstorm on 7/31/2008 10:44:22 AM , Rating: 3
If you use grasses and weeds, then you don't need farmland. If you use crop waste which cannot be eaten, then you could say the efficiency of crop use goes up, but is not shifted. This is a matter of resource management and efficiency, and issue that's as real as it gets.


RE: non-issue
By afkrotch on 8/1/2008 7:18:25 AM , Rating: 2
Plenty of unusable land for crops, but suitable for growing grass. Take land used to grow cocoa beans. After a short while, land used to grow cocoa is robbed of it's nutrients to support the grow of cocoa plants. So it is abandoned and they cut down more rain forest to plant more.

This land cannot support cocoa plants, but it could easily support grass.

Some farms can also support their crop and grass. A cherry orchard or apple orchard can easily grow both their crop and grass. Just about every orchard I've been to has grass growing anyways, whether they wanted to or not.

http://www.theartark.com/2-d-works/artistspics/bri...

http://www.theartark.com/2-d-works/artistspics/bri...

Pretty much any farmer than grows fruits/vegatables that hang from a tree or plant, could also grow grass. There is no need to swap edible crops to grass.


Found this...
By Sanity on 7/30/2008 6:20:31 PM , Rating: 2
on the National Center for Policy Analysis web site:

"While ethanol reduces CO2, it increases the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) which are a prime component of the smog which plagues many U.S. cities.

Worse, when ethanol is burned, it emits acetaldehide — considered a probable human carcinogen by the EPA — and peroxyacetyl nitrate, which damages plants."

Apparently, burning ethanol emits something like 100 times the amount of acetalwhatever than oil does.

I still think we're better off with alternate energy sources that don't require burning anything. Unless you consider hydrogen fusion to be burning something. That'd be sweet.




RE: Found this...
By hcahwk19 on 7/30/2008 6:31:55 PM , Rating: 4
The only grass we need to be burning is that good stuff we aren't allowed to have.

"It's okay. We are now armed with Mighty Joint!"

--Josephus in History of the World Part I


wow
By GlassHouse69 on 7/30/2008 7:01:09 PM , Rating: 2
I agree!

The more grass I do, the more ethanol I want to drink!

hm




By snownpaint on 7/31/2008 11:25:17 AM , Rating: 2
I have been soapboxing this grass for gas for a year now. I am so happy to see it coming. It would be nice to see lawn care companies providing the US ethanol market. With the amount of clipping from those few states and the interstates it would be a enormous, non-seasonal, renewable, source of bio-mass..




ethanol from grass clippings
By phazers on 7/31/2008 4:19:50 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder how lawn booze tastes...




Could be promising but ...
By US56 on 7/31/2008 8:27:34 PM , Rating: 2
the overall efficiency of an improved cellulosic ethanol process may still not be economically competitive with the production of methanol by the well known thermochemical process using the same biomass feedstocks. Methanol is also a superior motor fuel with greater potential energy conversion efficiency and lower emissions for internal combustion engines optimized to run on methanol. Methanol can be produced now using known technology. Frankly, the misdirected focus on ethanol whether produced from agricultural feedstocks or otherwise is only delaying an effective solution to the economic bloodletting the U.S. is currently suffering due to the overdependence on fossil fuels. There are vast potential sources of biomass available for the production of synthetic fuels in the U.S. but there seems to be a collective mindset which prevents any effective movement to cut the petroleum umbilical.




ethanol grass
By clearway on 8/1/2008 11:15:46 PM , Rating: 2
grass is the number 1 crop in America
Brazil has been using very high ethanol and or gas in their cars for years
why not?




Nobody really cares.
By GreenyMP on 7/30/08, Rating: -1
RE: Nobody really cares.
By FITCamaro on 7/30/2008 6:04:33 PM , Rating: 4
Speak for yourself. I'd love them to get off corn based ethanol here in the states. At least then our food prices for products using corn (which is a ton) would go back down.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By GreenyMP on 7/30/2008 7:02:17 PM , Rating: 2
I am with you. But I don't think it will happen until a large portion of our government is turned over. I haven't ever met a politician that would say, "Yea, that was the dumbest thing we ever thought up. And I voted for it".

My point was that new technologies (like CO2 scrubbers) could make a large difference in a short time, but then what would the politicians use to get elected? They would have to fall back to the war or illegal immigration.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By Ringold on 7/30/2008 9:06:21 PM , Rating: 2
For whatever it's worth, I've seen a couple Republican Senators say almost exactly that on CNBC; they say something along the lines of "It looked like a good idea at the time, but we were wrong, and it's time to end the subsidies."

But such honesty is, admittedly, rare.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By therealnickdanger on 7/31/2008 8:12:21 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
But such honesty is, admittedly, rare.

And under-reported. There are tons of brutally honest quotes out there about the current energy blunders, but so long as Britney keeps showing off her cooter and Obama keeps turning water into wine, you're not going to see anything in the media.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By othercents on 7/30/2008 7:05:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
then our food prices for products using corn would go back down

Are you sure? The last stats I received was that <1% of food production is used for ethanol. However it does require gas to harvest and ship this food that is grown. Wouldn't it be fair to say that food prices are more likely to increase because of gas price and not ethanol usage?

http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/CPIFoodAndExpendi...

Other


RE: Nobody really cares.
By Ringold on 7/30/2008 9:19:09 PM , Rating: 3
The last statistics I saw indicated that 34% of our corn crop was going directly to ethanol plants.

In fact, if you use the search tool at the very link you provided, I searched for "ethanol" and found multiple reports from the USDA that have maps showing that ethanol plants are (predictably) located near corn fields, that increasing amounts of the corn crop have gone to ethanol production, that federal subsidies and tariffs are largely behind it, and that it is having a huge impact on the entire agricultural market beyond merely corn while simultaneously having a negligible impact on the auto fuel market. Search tools are your friend in that regard.

As for fuel costs, I don't see why that would have such a huge influence on agriculture commodity contract prices. That should impact everything roughly equally, but you've seen inflation excluding food and energy rather tame; that wouldn't be the case if your supposition was true. Like everything else you can buy at a WalMart, fuel is but a component of the cost to bring it to the store shelves. People perhaps underestimate the efficiency of moving things in bulk?


RE: Nobody really cares.
By afan on 7/31/2008 2:36:52 AM , Rating: 2
I think I might be able to add something to address your last comment:

>As for fuel costs, I don't see why that would
>have such a huge influence on agriculture commodity
>contract prices. That should impact everything roughly equally

corn-ethanol farmers use large quantities of nitrogen-based fertilizer to gain high crop yields. large quantities of natural gas (hydrogen comes from here) + heat + pressure + air =yields= Ammonia. Ammonia can be directly added to crops or can make other fertilizers:
- urea
- ammonium sulfate
- water-based nitrogen fertilizer.

Don't forget the natural gas, energy for heat/pressure it takes to create nitrogen fertilizer, and the energy to distribute it to the corn.

corn based ethanol is a scam and terrible policy - a farm subsidy.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By randomly on 7/31/2008 8:33:43 AM , Rating: 2
Corn ethanol is not a viable energy source. It consumes as much or more petroleum to raise the corn, harvest it, process it to ethanol and ship it as it produces fuel. It may not even break even. The only thing that makes Corn based ethanol work in the US is the $7 Billion USD in government subsidies, of which something like 70% goes to the Archer-Daniels Midland corporation. 45% of ADM's profits come directly from the government corn ethanol subsidies. ADM donates VERY generously to both Democratic and Republican parties.

The only semi-successful biofuels program is in Brazil where they derive 30% of their transportation fuel from Sugar cane based ethanol. Brazil grows their sugar on slash and burn cleared Amazon rainforest which is soil depleted in about 6 years requiring more slash and burn. Sugar Cane yields 6 times as much ethanol per acre as corn. To supply the current US consumption of transportation fuel from sugar cane ethanol you would have to plant 100% of the available farm land in the US with sugar cane, there would be no land available for growing food. But you can't grow sugar cane in the US because of the climate. Even in Brazil it's not a sustainable energy source.

Not to mention the depletion, erosion, and damage to crop lands, pesticides and fertilizer impacts etc.

Biofuels have a severe problem in that they are just extremely inefficient systems for collecting energy into a useable form. The idea seems attractive, but the poor efficiency and enormous crop areas required just don't make it feasible yet.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By tmouse on 7/31/2008 9:11:31 AM , Rating: 2
To be fair I have never seen a real comparison of the total energy used in getting petroleum versus biofuel. People point the tractor fuel, transport cost and refining costs as parts of the bio equation but leave out similar if not higher components in the petroleum end. Take the tractor fuel (planting, cultivation and harvesting) ok but remember oil rigs have dozens of crew members each with vehicles. The wells do not produce gas so the crude has to be shipped. As it has been pointed out the biorefineries are often close to the fields this is absolutely not true for oil by orders of magnitude. The energy from oil is certainly more due to the structure of the compounds and you get more products so the refining step is an absolute win for oil. On the waste by product side oil is far inferior and the cost of transport, storage and disposal are also never mentioned in any of the comparisons I have come across. I'm certainly not saying there is anything close to parity but there is a lot of very one sided examples sited in these "comparisons" most people site.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By masher2 (blog) on 7/31/2008 11:39:40 AM , Rating: 3
> "To be fair I have never seen a real comparison of the total energy used in getting petroleum versus biofuel"

Plenty of such studies exist; they've been done for 20 years or more.

> "People point the tractor fuel, transport cost and refining costs as parts of the bio equation but leave out similar if not higher components in the petroleum end. "

Eh? Lifting costs for petroleum at Gwahar are a few cents per barrel...and transportation via supertanker costs nearly nothing per gallon due to the enormous volumes involved. It's essentially all free energy.

The calculations are a bit more complex for offshore oil, especially deep-sea, but it really doesn't take much energy to drill a hole and pump in some pressurized steam. Comparing it to the energy required to produce fertilizer, grow and harvest corn, then operate a large-scale ethanol refinery is just silly.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By afkrotch on 8/1/2008 8:06:05 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
The calculations are a bit more complex for offshore oil, especially deep-sea, but it really doesn't take much energy to drill a hole and pump in some pressurized steam. Comparing it to the energy required to produce fertilizer, grow and harvest corn, then operate a large-scale ethanol refinery is just silly.


How many ppl here have worked on a farm? Crop rotations, no fertilizer needed. Grow it? Let it sit there. Every week go out and do some gravity irrigation. When it's ready to harvest, corn harvester and a tank of gas. Add in a truck with a tank of gas to transport it where it needs to go (usually not that far away).

Course I'm talking about our little 11 acre piece of land. Increase the amount of land and you increase the amount of fuel, time, etc uses. But you also get more crop.

I can't imagine that the cost differences between creating ethanol from corn or from drilling oil, but I doubt the corn option would be significantly higher.

Your comparison of the two sure does seem bias. Drill a hole and pump pressure steam into it. Compared to...building the oil well, drilling down, pumping out the oil, possibly doing nitrogen injection, get the oil, hauling it to where it needs to go, processing the oil into fuels we can actually use. Also the differences in crude oil. A light sweet crude is easier to create gasoline from, while a heavy sour crude is not. Corn is corn. There is no light sweet corn vs a heavy sour corn.

Not all refineries are able to process all forms of crude.

I wouldn't call them even. I'm sure the regular oil method requires less energy than going ethanol, but I just don't think it's hugely different.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By masher2 (blog) on 8/1/2008 10:39:51 AM , Rating: 2
> "I'm sure the regular oil method requires less energy than going ethanol, but I just don't think it's hugely different. "

You couldn't be more wrong. The official term for the concept you're describing is known as EROEI (energy return on energy investment). For oil, that figure can be as high as 140:1 for a place like Gwahar, down to about 7:1 for deep-sea oil extracted via pressure.

For ethanol, various researchers have calculated rates as low as 0.69:1 (a net loss on energy production) up to 1.65:1, which is still a value not much above breakeven.

http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/abstract.cgi/esthag/20...


RE: Nobody really cares.
By tmouse on 7/31/2008 7:52:56 AM , Rating: 2
While I do not think it was a cure all and certainly not without significant impact release number 0155.08 also from the USDA show that it does have some positive impacts. Also in a weird round about way it could be helping the USA with its number 1 health crisis. A significant portion of corn for human consumption is converted into high fructose syrup for storage/transport/profit reasons. It is being put into most of our food, mostly as a bulking agent and is a significant factor in America’s problems with obesity. If you are trying to lose weight or have diabetes avoid foods with the words high fructose corn syrup as one of the first 3 or 4 ingredients or replace it in your mind with raw sugar because to your body that’s what it is.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By ElFenix on 8/1/2008 2:46:59 AM , Rating: 2
a very small portion of the corn crop is either sweet corn or popcorn. the vast vast majority is dent corn, which is not much of a food crop, though it may be the kind used for HFCS.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By SiliconJon on 7/30/2008 7:31:41 PM , Rating: 2
And maybe we can get our lawns mowed on the cheap as businesses sell us lawn cutting jobs by the block, reducing costs by using the clippings for fuel production and improving efficiency by getting us in large yard-chunks.

Though I love the alternatives and improvements we continue to make, my bicycle has saved me more gasoline than any of my available alternatives. Granted not everybody can use a bicycle for most of their communting, but there are many who can. If that's YOU (general audience), give it a try - it feels good and saves gas money.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By James Wood Carter on 7/30/2008 7:36:47 PM , Rating: 3
Its not so cool when its raining though, but yeah cycling can be addictive specially when the route involves stretches of forests and fields


RE: Nobody really cares.
By Ringold on 7/30/2008 9:22:25 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, I enjoy it for recreation, but I'm in Florida. It's not suitable to replace any of my commuting at all. Not that I travel 100 miles to get to a Publix, it's just that I prefer not to be a sweaty mess when arriving at most destination, and rather hard not to be one with 90+º F and 80+% humidity.

Just spent a week in Indiana, and the weather was beautiful, but for a good chunk of the summer I'd still not put on a suit and go for any distance.

Car > all else


RE: Nobody really cares.
By RaulF on 7/30/2008 10:26:25 PM , Rating: 1
There's so much land that goes by un-used that is now being used for corn ethanol. And corn ethanol is not the same corn that we eat.

The food shortage is a myth created by rumors, just like the price of gas.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By afkrotch on 8/1/2008 8:28:52 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The food shortage is a myth created by rumors, just like the price of gas.


What myth about fuel prices? It's called supply and demand for fuel.

If I pump out 10 million barrels for 10 different countries, then all of the sudden one of those countries wants more than normal, why wouldn't the cost increase?

Especially right now where some countries aren't producing what they use to back in 2001. US still overcoming the effects of Katrina. Nigeria having it's issues. I think Iraq is over what it was producing, but it's a heavy sour crude, which one one really wants.

Add in stock panics and we see our fuel prices rise. I'd expect the prices to come back down, but we won't be seeing $1.35 a gallon anymore, unless we fine easily accessible oil.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By mindless1 on 8/2/2008 5:22:03 PM , Rating: 2
It's not supply and demand, or wouldn't you believe it if some*one* like OPEC told you? Google is your friend.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By masher2 (blog) on 8/2/2008 11:04:14 AM , Rating: 2
> " And corn ethanol is not the same corn that we eat"

Yes it is. The type of corn grown for ethanol is dent corn, which is the vast majority of the food crop. It's used for corn syrup, corn feed, and corn meal, which is a food staple to a large part of the world. The only thing dent corn is rarely (but still ocassionally) used for is table corn, which is a very small portion of the food use of corn.

And in any case, your point is doubly moot, as a farmer can switch between dent corn and sweet corn in a single planting season.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By BWAnaheim on 7/31/2008 2:00:22 AM , Rating: 3
It is not just corn prices. As corn prices increase, consumers (including food processors) shift demand to substitute goods like wheat, rice, and rye. This demand shift, in turn, then drives the market price up for these substitute goods, as well.

If the demand for corn decreases due to a ethanol source change, the demand for all grain-based food products could decrease assuming that alternate supply sources exist and that a limited number of producers do not have monopolistic or oligopolistic pricing power.


RE: Nobody really cares.
By masher2 (blog) on 7/31/2008 12:08:27 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
"Real solutions like this take away a campaign position...I don't think it will happen until a large portion of our government is turned over.
"Real solutions" don't need government involvement to implement. If cellulosic ethanol can produce fuel significantly cheaper than gasoline, we won't need govenment subsidies or mandates. People will buy it on their own, like hotcakes.


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