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Sun Dec 11, 2011, 09:36 AM


OK- so I'll just come out and say it. I'm an ethanol supporter.

Not a supporter of the major corporations that are now running the huge ethanol plants- but rather a supporter of the small farmers who grow the input products, and a supporter of the fueling station small businesses who are selling it.

Because to me, gasoline represents death.

You see, I'm a U.S. Army retiree, and to me, every time I see an oil tanker, I can't get out of my mind the 22 fellow soldiers of my local National Guard unit- the 1462nd Transportation Company-- who were wounded in their year tour in Iraq.

They were wounded by small arms or IED's while hauling petroleum, for the most part.

So for me, every single gallon of gasoline comes at a price I do not want to pay.

Give me ethanol, and that will satisfy my needs.

I don't want to hear about false studies saying ethanol takes more energy to produce that it gives (that's wrong.)

I just want the USA to use LESS oil. Period. Whatever it takes to use LESS oil.

So my friends won't keep getting killed.

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 11 replies Author Time Post
Reply Ethanol (Original post)
James48 Dec 2011 OP
4dsc Dec 2011 #1
James48 Dec 2011 #2
Bob Wallace Dec 2011 #6
NYC_SKP Dec 2011 #3
Bob Wallace Dec 2011 #4
James48 Dec 2011 #5
Bob Wallace Dec 2011 #7
James48 Dec 2011 #8
Bob Wallace Dec 2011 #9
James48 Dec 2011 #10
Bob Wallace Dec 2011 #11

Response to James48 (Original post)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 09:40 AM

1. Food for fuel is immoral


I don't like food based ethanol as it takes food away from the world markets to make a fuel that Americans waste.

And by using ethanol blended fuels, you actually use more gasoline.

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Response to 4dsc (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 09:50 AM

2. Food for fuel is a false argument.

Turns out that making ethanol results in the production of "DDG", dried distillers grain, which is used for animal feed.

One Bushel of Corn (56 pounds) provides 31.5 pounds of Starch,or 33 pounds of Sweetner, or 2.8 Gallons of Ethanol plus 13.5 pounds of Gluten Feed and 2.6 pounds of Gluten Meal and 1.5 pounds of Corn Oil

Farmers produce enough grain for fuel, and for food, and have extra left over. And we still have more than half of America's farmland OUT OF PRODUCTION sitting idle, because leaving it idle means prices are high enough that we don't have to pay price supports to farmers.

You and I don't eat field corn. Animals do. And animals still eat the byproduct of ethanol production- the DDG.

False argument.

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Response to James48 (Reply #2)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 03:33 PM

6. The crunch is coming...

We're going to have a lot more mouths to feed.

And we're almost certainly going to be losing ag land to climate change. Look at what is happening in the Texas and Russia with drought and extreme heat. Look at the crop loss to extreme flooding that's been happening around the world.

Better we don't make ourselves dependent on fuel from croplands. People are going to need more food and the US can use more sources of income. Let's switch our transportation to electricity and grow food for people to eat.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 01:01 PM

3. Better than Petroleum or Coal, not nearly as good as Solar, Wind, Hydro, etc.


It's pretty simple once broken down:

Among other problems, like we're running out of it, fossil fuel use moves Carbon from the lithosphere into the atmosphere at rates that are upsetting to all systems (major understatement), while ethanol is just part of a terrestrial/atmospheric cycle.

Thus, methanol and ethanol are not as deadly. But, really, it's all stupid when we could get all of what we need from the sun and wind.

We really really could, with little in the way of new technologies. If we implemented new technologies, including storage solutions and a new smart grid, and conservation strategies, we could do it in one decade.

The best POV I've read is Tesla's:

'If we use our fuel to get our power, we are living on our capital and exhausting it rapidly. This method is barbarous and wantonly wasteful, and will have to be stopped in the interest of coming generations.

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Response to James48 (Original post)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 03:03 PM

4. Ethanol...

If we can make it from plant wastes and from products not grown on land suitable for normal agriculture then it can play a helpful role.

We do need to make sure that by using those plant wastes we aren't stripping valuable organic materials from our fields.

We do have some plants such as switchgrass which grow well on land not usable for other crops. Switchgrass has low water and fertilizer inputs, fixes carbon underground with its extensive root system, and improves the soil on which it grows.

But the real way to get the US off of imported oil is to move personal transportation to EVs and PHEVs. At least 90% of us could do quite well with a 100 mile EV like the Nissan Leaf or a "unlimited range" PHEV like the Chevy Volt.

Let's say 30% of us move to EVs. 0.00 gallons per mile.

Another 60% of us move to PHEVs. Currently Volt drivers are purchasing about 10 gallons of gas per 1,000 miles driven. 0.01 gallons per mile.

The other 10% stay with average 25MPG cars. 0.04 gallons per mile.

Our US fleet gasoline use drops from 0.04 gallons per mile to 0.01 gallons per mile.

That's a 75% decrease in oil use. A number we can meet with domestic supply. That would save lives and money.

(Someone please check my math. Fueled by only one cup of coffee....)

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Response to Bob Wallace (Reply #4)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 03:27 PM

5. Except- that electricity comes from coal.

At least where I am. The vast majority of electricity comes from coal, and burning it in old plants means tons of pollution in the air.

Sure, the Volt and the Leaf electric cars can serve a purpose, but again,you run into adverse environmental costs and offsets without looking at the big picture.

Most of my electrical comes from coal, with a small portion from nuclear, and a small amount from natural gas.

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Response to James48 (Reply #5)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 03:45 PM

7. Wrong.

In 2010 the US got 44.8% of its electricity from coal, down from well over 50% a few years back. That percentage will continue to drop as coal plants age and are not replaced. We've scheduled a large number of coal plants for early closure and we are building almost no new coal plants.

Wind, this year, reached 3% of our total electricity supply and will continue its rapid growth. Solar is starting to take off and will soon be a significant supplier. We're converting existing dams to electricity providers. The technology for tidal production is starting to work and we should see movement toward tapping the Gulf Stream before long.

We've got the technology in hand to produce all the electricity we want without fossil fuels. It's just a matter of doing it.

Natural gas is playing a larger role in electricity generation but that role will peak and decline as we use up the current oversupply of NG and prices rise. Look for NG to be more of a fill-in source of electricity as renewables take a dominate role.

In the meantime, even if we do use ~40% coal-generated electricity we don't have to fight wars to keep the grid flowing. And charging EVs/PHEVs with our current grid releases less CO2 than burning oil.

Oh, and refining oil into a gallon of gas uses enough electricity and natural gas to drive an EV a long way down the road. We don't need to generate 100% of the electricity we need to charge an EV, we can just divert energy we are already using to make gasoline.

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Response to Bob Wallace (Reply #7)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 05:22 PM

8. Maybe where you are Bob, but not here.

You cite 3% electricty in USA from renewable, and 44.8% from coal.

Ah, not in Michigan.

Here, in 2007, electric power generated in Michigan
primarily came from coal (53.6 percent), oil (4.1 percent), gas (10.1 percent), and nuclear (25.3 percent). Renewables make up less than 1% of current electric generation.

Yes, we're now investing in some limited wind in those areas where it makes sense.

You can't simply ignore the 53% made from coal, because you dream about the 1% made from wind. Coal's pollution is real, and devastates the environment as well.

The lessor of two (or three, or four) evils, at the moment, is renewable ethanol.

My 2 cents.

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Response to James48 (Reply #8)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 05:45 PM

9. Michigan, I once lived there...

Too bad you can't make electricity from snow and mosquitoes....

Look for offshore wind coming your way. You've got great wind potential in the Great Lakes.

Remember, at one time we got less than 1% of our electricity from coal. Then over a few decades we installed more and more coal generation. Now we're moving away from coal. It won't happen in a decade, but we might be done with coal in two decades.

Wind was 0.5% of our national generation five years ago, now it's over 3%.

If we installed renewables at the rate of 2% of total a year (which is about what we're doing now) we could get rid of coal in about 20 years. We can up that rate quite a bit and install renewables to power transportation at the same time. Just re-purpose some of the Iraq War money, keep subsidies sweet, provide low cost financing and step back. We've got people who would love to do the work building and installing new infrastructure.

In 2009 Michigan got 4% of its power from renewables.

"By the end of 2012, a total of approximately 700 MW of new generation is planned to become commercially operational. Based on current contracts, the majority will be from wind (93%) followed by landfill gas (3%), anaerobic digesters/biomass (3%), and solar (1%). In April, 2009, five commercial wind farms were in operation with a total of 83 turbine units.8 This compares to only 35 operational turbines in 2008. Michigan has significant wind energy potential and ranks 14th in the nation among states with wind potential."


I understand the ethanol approach, but I just can't see it ever getting as cheap per mile as electricity. The typical EV uses 0.35kWh per mile. At $0.08/kWh that's $0.028 per mile. To drive that cheaply in a liquid fuel car you'd need to get 50MPG and burn $1.40/gallon fuel.

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Response to Bob Wallace (Reply #9)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 06:28 PM

10. If only the Volt burned E85.

Although five years ago Chevy said that the Volt was going to also burn E85, it didn't work out that way.

If it did today (and that 1.8 liter engine in the volt is easily adaptable to ethanol fuel), then I would seriously consider a flex-fuel Volt.

Wouldn't that be the bee's knees?

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Response to James48 (Reply #10)

Sun Dec 11, 2011, 09:21 PM

11. Might be...

I wonder what makes more sense when it comes to biofuel. Is it ethanol or a gas- or diesel-like fuel?

"Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)ís Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered the first strains of Escherichia coli bacteria that can utilize both the cellulose and hemicellulose fractions of switchgrass pre-treated with ionic liquids to produce gasoline, diesel and jet fuel substitutes or precursors without any assistance from enzyme additives.

While this is not the first demonstration of E. coli producing fuel molecules from sugars, it is the first demonstration of E. coli producing molecules suited for all three major forms of transportation fuels. Furthermore, it was done using switchgrass, which is among the most highly touted of the potential feedstocks for advanced biofuels."


I suspect we're going to see biofuels on the market at a price competing with oil based products in the next few years. The form it takes, ethanol or more diesel-like, from plants or algae, I don't know. But I'm pretty convinced that we need to be aiming to use electricity for most of our personal transportation.

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