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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 01-22-07, 07:31 PM   #1
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Has it happened already?

I heard something on the radio this morning that cattle ranchers are experiencing a hay shortage in some parts of the country. One guy said that the farmers couldn't switch to corn because it has become too expensive due to the higher demand by the ethanol industry. He also said that if a good way to convert cellulose to ethanol were invented then grass and hay would also become expensive. So is the alternative fuel industry already affecting food prices? I mean are we already reallocating part of our food chain into fuel for SUVs? Maybe ethanol fuel put food prices up to the point where we stop eating like pigs and loose a few pounds. Last summer I heard some speculation that alternative fuels would make food more expensive but I didn't expect it to happen so quickly. It just rubs me the wrong way for when I have to pay more for my food so polluters can drive their cars and continue to degrade my quality of life. If this is true it will make me feel that I'm subsidizing car owners through my higher grocery bill.
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Old 01-22-07, 07:56 PM   #2
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price of corn has already doubled

your also paying 54 cents a gallon in ethanol subsidies

6 gallons of water + natural gas or coal + corn = 1 gallon ethanol which has less energy than what it took to produce it

cellulosic ethanol is a dead end unless a bug can be invented that will break the lignin and leave the carbohydrates in the plant alone(good luck), and even if that did happen, its still an extra step in a process that borders on being a net loser anyway
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Old 01-22-07, 09:21 PM   #3
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Last month I talked to a guy who breeds Black Angus cattle. He said feed prices are putting the squeeze on ranchers here in central Texas. I asked if it was helpful that dried distillers grain (DDG, an ethanol byproduct) could be used for cattle feed. He said, no, the DDG is cheap where it's made, but the cost of transporting it to this area makes it way too expensive.
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Old 01-22-07, 09:54 PM   #4
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not only that but the DDG is limited in how much they can feed them before it becomes a problem, I think Ive read its around 15% max of their diet

there's also an import tariff on ethanol which makes the domestic stuff attractive to produce

What's going to happen is more of the same just on a bigger scale, when the energy prices spiked last go round the poorer 3rd world nations found themselves unable to afford it, so demand fell off a bit, now the food prices are gonna get squeezed and some will starve, literally. The US will undoubtedly wipe out any excess food production and send that towards fuel. The US will cease to export food, and become a net importer of that too. Any poor nations depending on cheap grain from the US are gonna be out of luck unless they grow it themselves.
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Old 01-23-07, 06:57 PM   #5
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I don't know if you have been following Spanish language news. But the price of Tortillas is going through the roof, causing much havoc in Mexico. It's caused by corn being used for ethanol.
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Old 01-23-07, 08:49 PM   #6
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Hopefully noone thought that impending oil shortages would only cause an increase in gas costs...

It is almost funny (except that it isn't) how tied together all of these issues are.

The price of corn is high due to this increased demand. Many say we can't grow enough to make a significant dent in oil consumption.

Partly this is due to how much farmland we have decimated to build McMansions and create sprawl.

The same problem that has created a lack of walkable neighborhoods etc. Which created a greater demand for cars.

Which use more oil, which brings us back to an impending oil shortage.

And we think we are the most intelligent creatures on the planet.

-D
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Old 01-23-07, 11:31 PM   #7
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Food price increases wouldn't be nearly as big a problem if so many food/land sources weren't being wasted to feed livestock. The bigger concern, to me, is how chemically abused are the cheap foods going to be if this trend continues?
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Old 01-24-07, 12:30 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by pedex
[...]6 gallons of water + natural gas or coal + corn = 1 gallon ethanol which has less energy than what it took to produce it[...]
Eh... it depends. What hasn't been discussed is the potential for more efficient engines via E85. The upper limit for gasoline efficiency depends on the octane of the fuel, higher octane implies that more EGR can be run, which absolutely kills pumping losses and boosts efficiency. E85 powered SI/PFI engines have greater efficiencies than their diesel counterparts, which means that vehicles tuned for E85 could nearly double current gasoline vehicle efficiency, all things being equal. So, if E85 is close to having an EROEI~=~unity, but doubles gasoline engine efficiency, the efficiency of use has roughly doubled. I'm guessing the enthusiasm for E85 is based on a 2002 (or 03?) paper done by the DOE, in which a VW TDI engine was retrofitted for SI/PFI/high EGR and showed better than diesel BTE with E85 and Methanol over the entire power band. The significance of this is low cost, greater than Prius energy efficiency, no hybrid system needed. Otoh, the US automotive industry has a history of accepting government grants for EV/AFV/efficient hybrids, using a small portion to build prototypes, and pocketing the rest while shelving the prototypes. Sure, they could make them, but they don't. Getting back on topic, I'm guessing in the short term corn prices will go up, as will any meat prices and certain foods. But, within a decade, I'm betting we'll see the normal corn prices, adjusted for inflation. Even if the current high cycle batts/ultra-caps are a load of horse %^&*, by 2015, the patent on EV size NiMH batts will have expired, and those are more than enough to build ~150-250 mile small passenger EVs that will absolutely trounce gas vehicles in cost over the life of the vehicle. These are the same batteries that SoCal Edison has "field tested" up to ~130k miles with little to no degradation in charge, and expects to approach 200k of useful life. So, EVs should have already hit, and I'm betting will hit, in a big way within the next decade.
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Old 01-24-07, 07:44 AM   #9
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Occasionally I go with some friends in their car to the new sprawl area of town. Inaccessible by bike or bus. The new subdivisions have all the grey tract houses with HUGE 3 and 1/2 car garages in the front of the house. Or maybe a two car and a 2and 1/2 car garage. All the winding streets connect to arterial roads which have no sidewalks much less a bike path. So every drives everywhere on what was the worlds best farm land a few years ago. And the old sprawl of 20 or 30 years ago is now the new ghetto.

Meanwhile in Mexico the tortilla's are getting too expensive to buy and people go hungry. Ethanol plants in the Midwest,USA,are spouting up all over the place. It makes the grain farmers and Agribusiness pretty happy though. The per capita income in the county I live in has decreased 15% in the last 10 years due to loss of manufacturing jobs. So who is buying all the new houses and new cars? Why aren't there sidewalks and bike trails in the new urban sprawl area? The huge indoor mall doesn't even have bus service and it has been there and is still growing for the last 25 years.

It is not just about the declining standard of living in the first world vs. 3rd world countries. It is about the average person being squezzed out everywhere.
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Old 01-24-07, 08:09 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lyeinyoureye
Eh... it depends. What hasn't been discussed is the potential for more efficient engines via E85. The upper limit for gasoline efficiency depends on the octane of the fuel, higher octane implies that more EGR can be run, which absolutely kills pumping losses and boosts efficiency. E85 powered SI/PFI engines have greater efficiencies than their diesel counterparts, which means that vehicles tuned for E85 could nearly double current gasoline vehicle efficiency, all things being equal. So, if E85 is close to having an EROEI~=~unity, but doubles gasoline engine efficiency, the efficiency of use has roughly doubled. I'm guessing the enthusiasm for E85 is based on a 2002 (or 03?) paper done by the DOE, in which a VW TDI engine was retrofitted for SI/PFI/high EGR and showed better than diesel BTE with E85 and Methanol over the entire power band. The significance of this is low cost, greater than Prius energy efficiency, no hybrid system needed. Otoh, the US automotive industry has a history of accepting government grants for EV/AFV/efficient hybrids, using a small portion to build prototypes, and pocketing the rest while shelving the prototypes. Sure, they could make them, but they don't. Getting back on topic, I'm guessing in the short term corn prices will go up, as will any meat prices and certain foods. But, within a decade, I'm betting we'll see the normal corn prices, adjusted for inflation. Even if the current high cycle batts/ultra-caps are a load of horse %^&*, by 2015, the patent on EV size NiMH batts will have expired, and those are more than enough to build ~150-250 mile small passenger EVs that will absolutely trounce gas vehicles in cost over the life of the vehicle. These are the same batteries that SoCal Edison has "field tested" up to ~130k miles with little to no degradation in charge, and expects to approach 200k of useful life. So, EVs should have already hit, and I'm betting will hit, in a big way within the next decade.

increases in compression and rpm range = less engine life all else being equal

1 gallon of ethanol has less energy than 1 gallon of gasoline

currently E85 engines based on what's happening ion places where its common, like brazil for example. E85= about 15% less mileage, not more

this is whats happening now, not futuristic possiblities which may or may not happen


I would guess the extra things needed to be done to ICE engines to handle more compression like whats done with diesels would more than likely offset any gains even done on a massive scale.

the answer is still less consumption, less miles traveled, and much more efficient vehicles, and that means smaller lighter cars and less powerful cars, and eventually, very very few cars
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Old 01-24-07, 10:13 AM   #11
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Related article originally from the Boston Globe:
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines07/0105-07.htm

Al
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Old 01-24-07, 10:19 AM   #12
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the other elephant in the room not being talked about is water

while the US doesnt have any super serious water issues yet, there are places where it is becoming a big problem, ethanol isnt gonna help that at all

all these things are tied together, its systemic, and must be approached as such, single "magic bullet" type knee jerk decisions wont work very well
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Old 01-24-07, 10:25 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by pedex
the other elephant in the room not being talked about is water

while the US doesnt have any super serious water issues yet, there are places where it is becoming a big problem, ethanol isnt gonna help that at all

all these things are tied together, its systemic, and must be approached as such, single "magic bullet" type knee jerk decisions wont work very well
Absolutely. Maybe the US doesn't have any water issues that currently impact usage, but the usage levels have significantly impacted the environment. Most western rivers are just about dead. Only saline sludge flows into gulf of baja from the colorado river after all the usable water has been taken out and agricultural wastewater seeps back in.

A great read is a book called Cadillac Desert.

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Old 01-24-07, 10:25 AM   #14
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we are so screwed now =(
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Old 01-24-07, 11:58 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lyeinyoureye
Eh... it depends. What hasn't been discussed is the potential for more efficient engines via E85. The upper limit for gasoline efficiency depends on the octane of the fuel, higher octane implies that more EGR can be run, which absolutely kills pumping losses and boosts efficiency. E85 powered SI/PFI engines have greater efficiencies than their diesel counterparts, which means that vehicles tuned for E85 could nearly double current gasoline vehicle efficiency, all things being equal. So, if E85 is close to having an EROEI~=~unity, but doubles gasoline engine efficiency, the efficiency of use has roughly doubled. I'm guessing the enthusiasm for E85 is based on a 2002 (or 03?) paper done by the DOE, in which a VW TDI engine was retrofitted for SI/PFI/high EGR and showed better than diesel BTE with E85 and Methanol over the entire power band. The significance of this is low cost, greater than Prius energy efficiency, no hybrid system needed. Otoh, the US automotive industry has a history of accepting government grants for EV/AFV/efficient hybrids, using a small portion to build prototypes, and pocketing the rest while shelving the prototypes. Sure, they could make them, but they don't. Getting back on topic, I'm guessing in the short term corn prices will go up, as will any meat prices and certain foods. But, within a decade, I'm betting we'll see the normal corn prices, adjusted for inflation. Even if the current high cycle batts/ultra-caps are a load of horse %^&*, by 2015, the patent on EV size NiMH batts will have expired, and those are more than enough to build ~150-250 mile small passenger EVs that will absolutely trounce gas vehicles in cost over the life of the vehicle. These are the same batteries that SoCal Edison has "field tested" up to ~130k miles with little to no degradation in charge, and expects to approach 200k of useful life. So, EVs should have already hit, and I'm betting will hit, in a big way within the next decade.
Stupid guy here. Would you please explain the POAI (plethora of acronyms and initials) in your post. I've noticed before that your posts are sometimes difficult to follow because you like to conserve those keystrokes. Obviously you're well informed on the topic and I'd like to be able to comprehend your writings. Thanks!
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Old 01-24-07, 12:01 PM   #16
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Another elephant is the fact that ethanol still emits greenhouse gases, both in its production and its use.

Also, George Bush likes ethanol, so there must be some fatal flaw in the logic.
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Old 01-24-07, 04:48 PM   #17
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I heard something on the radio this morning that cattle ranchers are experiencing a hay shortage in some parts of the country.
It's possibly just semantics that 'ranchers' wouldn't have as much of a feed problem as 'farmers' would. Cows turned loose to pasture/forage don't require the feed budget that (industrial) dairy cattle who are never out on their own do. I was amazed when I moved from NY (the rural part) to WA in 1994 that beef was about half the price in the PNW, 'cause they just don't have to feed the cows as much (yadda yadda grazing on federal lands yadda yadda subsidies yadda yadda).
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Old 01-24-07, 05:02 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by noisebeam
Absolutely. Maybe the US doesn't have any water issues that currently impact usage, but the usage levels have significantly impacted the environment. Most western rivers are just about dead. Only saline sludge flows into gulf of baja from the colorado river after all the usable water has been taken out and agricultural wastewater seeps back in.

A great read is a book called Cadillac Desert.

Al
Nope. The Colorado River no longer reaches the Gulf. It gets used before that.

Cadillac Desert is a great book. The videos are not to be missed either. They are, if anything, even more graphic. It's a must read for anyone who wants to understand Calfornia. Mulholland was a genius.

It's one reason I welcomed the chance to move to Arkansas.
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Old 01-24-07, 05:04 PM   #19
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for anyone who expects the inevitable death of an oil based world should see the documentary "The End of Suburbia" peak oil stuff, the fatal failings of alternative fuel sources, etc. Its good.
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Old 01-24-07, 06:03 PM   #20
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It's possibly just semantics that 'ranchers' wouldn't have as much of a feed problem as 'farmers' would. Cows turned loose to pasture/forage don't require the feed budget that (industrial) dairy cattle who are never out on their own do. I was amazed when I moved from NY (the rural part) to WA in 1994 that beef was about half the price in the PNW, 'cause they just don't have to feed the cows as much (yadda yadda grazing on federal lands yadda yadda subsidies yadda yadda).
The guys they talked to were putting hay out in the snow covered pastures for winter feed. It was Missouri or Montana I think.. a Northern state. When I was young I lived in a dairy farming area in the north and the farmers needed to grow hay for the winter even though the cows went out in the fields every day. One neighbor had no cattle but just grew hay to sell to the dairy farmers. I think the guys who were being interviewed couldn't grow enough hay this year because of the weather. The comments to the post have been interesting, I'm surprised it has had an effect on the food supply so quickly. In spite of our fat epidemic if it is true that the small percentage increase in ethanol fuel use has already affected the food supply then our nutrition supply system must be unstable.
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Old 01-24-07, 06:06 PM   #21
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all these things are tied together, its systemic, and must be approached as such, single "magic bullet" type knee jerk decisions wont work very well
I was thinking that returning the suburbs to field and forest and living car free would be a magic bullet since it has been so easy, profitable and fun. If not what should we as individuals do?
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Old 01-24-07, 07:09 PM   #22
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What happens if 15% of the fuel comes from ethanol, there is already a shortage of oil, and Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa go through a drought.

I don't think 15% of drivers will give up driving real quick. I could see people putting the gas on there credit cards in hopes of feeding their lifestyle that they have so much invested in.
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Old 01-24-07, 07:22 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by gwd
The guys they talked to were putting hay out in the snow covered pastures for winter feed. It was Missouri or Montana I think.. a Northern state. When I was young I lived in a dairy farming area in the north and the farmers needed to grow hay for the winter even though the cows went out in the fields every day. One neighbor had no cattle but just grew hay to sell to the dairy farmers. I think the guys who were being interviewed couldn't grow enough hay this year because of the weather. The comments to the post have been interesting, I'm surprised it has had an effect on the food supply so quickly. In spite of our fat epidemic if it is true that the small percentage increase in ethanol fuel use has already affected the food supply then our nutrition supply system must be unstable.
we live in a "just in time delivery" world now, big stock piles of things do not exist unless its petroleum or stuff we cant get rid off, like sulfur, big yellow piles of that crap everywhere

while our advances with technology are amazing sometimes, they are also vulnerable to sudden systemic collapse because of scale and interdependence of systems

here in the city where I live, average grocery store has about 3 days of stock, less of perishables

closest fuel depot and also a pipeline hub, they keep about 2-3 weeks tops of fuel around in tanks

there are ZERO big farms locally which make food for people, its all soy and feed corn

locally the biggest producer of anything is probably Annheiser Busch, also biggest water consumer, followed right behind it by the pepsi bottling plant

next small town over builds honda cars and motorcycles, and lots of the satellite parts makers are here in town

most of the electricity for the city is from about 60 miles away, coal fired, lots of it, a trainload every day

typical US midwestern city, we store nothing, produce little, and import everything, this is not a safe or stable way to do things, couple of things break and you may be waiting weeks for some majorly important items
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Old 01-24-07, 07:26 PM   #24
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I was thinking that returning the suburbs to field and forest and living car free would be a magic bullet since it has been so easy, profitable and fun. If not what should we as individuals do?
eliminate debt

get as far into the non discretionary side of the economy as possible

and conserve

in a nutshell, the answer to your question is the question isnt it? the problems we face defy any attempt at grasping the scale really, we've built one huge spider web of a interconnected beast in our McWorld
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Old 01-24-07, 07:41 PM   #25
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What happens if 15% of the fuel comes from ethanol, there is already a shortage of oil, and Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa go through a drought.

I don't think 15% of drivers will give up driving real quick. I could see people putting the gas on there credit cards in hopes of feeding their lifestyle that they have so much invested in.
Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas couldn't produce enough corn to supply 15% of the current US demand, especially if we want to continue eating beef.

Not to mention the small detail that ethanol is no solution to the greenhouse gas issue.
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