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  1. #1
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    3 quick biofuels questions

    I know I recently criticized these kinds of threads recently, but, again, bicycling without any kind of context is the utility forum. So here it is:

    I recently read that 1/3 of this year's corn crop, the largest corn crop in the US in a long time, is going to biofuels production. A lot of land that used to be used to grow other crops has been converted to corn production to achieve this result. Given the high price of food and the growing number of starving people in the world, this strikes me as absolutely immoral, if not actually criminal. I have three questions for anyone out there who knows more than me:

    1. WTF? Who came up with this insane idea?

    2. Who uses all the corn-based ethanol they're apparently so eager to produce? I know a few people who use biodiesel made from used vegetable oil, but not a single person who's ever used corn-based ethanol in their entire lives.

    3. What political action can be done to end this evil stupidity? (A recent vote in Congress increased subsidies for biofuels, but ended tax credits for wind and solar, which is perhaps the greatest proof ever that Democrats are at least as stupid, venal and cowardly as their Republican opponents.) I can see some sense in ethanol, if it's made from plants that can be grown on marginal land, but corn? It's not even a very efficient source of energy. This has got to be one of the greatest pork projects in history.
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  2. #2
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    2. Here in Iowa, the cheapest gas is a 10% ethanol blend. Sadly, I use it everyday.

  3. #3
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post

    2. Who uses all the corn-based ethanol they're apparently so eager to produce? I know a few people who use biodiesel made from used vegetable oil, but not a single person who's ever used corn-based ethanol in their entire lives.
    About every driver in the midWest fills their gas tank with a 15% ethanol concoction. I hear there are some stations selling E85, which is 85% ethanol. The going price for E85 is about $2.60 gallon while the above E15 is about $3.60.

    Expect to see more action on the ethanol front until someone finally figures out that it actually costs more than gasoline to produce... especially if reckon that $2.60 ethanol and hamburgers that have suddenly skyrocketed in price are all paid from the same pocket.

  4. #4
    vegan cyclist
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    1. big agro-buisness

    E-85 average price per gallon is 3.23. Sounds cheap till you factor in its energy content. E-85 has fewer BTU's (british thermal units) the average price one you consider the energy content vs gasoline is at 4.25
    http://www.fuelgaugereport.com/
    Last edited by onetrack; 05-12-08 at 03:57 PM.
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    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    Political action is the primary cause of ethanol use in the first place. It's a shame that of all the things we could have chosen to subsidize, we picked one of the least sustainable options. The farm lobby is again proving its strength -- at least in their support for the corporate farmer.

    I haven't followed closely, but know that Texas has been unhappy with the ethanol mandates for various reasons, despite being one of the largest consumers. My first reaction was to think that they must have some sensible officials there. Of course, I then remembered where our oil companies are based - that and all the cattle producers. I believe their initial complaint was increased NOx emissions in non-fortified ethanol and now it mainly seems to be the increase in food prices.

    http://www.governor.state.tx.us/divi...en20080425.pdf

    I suppose that he's reached the "correct" conclusion is more important than the motive behind it.

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Hey man, ethanol is YOUR tax dollars at work. $0.52 per gallon ethanol blending credit. Yaaa, that's right. YOUR tax dollars are going to the bijillionaire fuel companies so that they can convert food to fuel at a net energy loss.

    Take away the $0.52/gallon tax incentive and suddenly ethanol isn't so fun anymore.

    YOUR tax dollars are being used in a way to drive UP the cost of the food you eat, but at least fuel costs are down.... hey wait a minute... fuel prices are UP? AND Food prices are up?! Who did the math for this one??
    Mike

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    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Answers: (as I see them)

    1) Farm lobby (it certainly wasn't the environmentalists)

    2) My understanding is that ethanol is being used in fuel blends (as pointed out) as well as the E-85 that will burn in flex vehicles. FWIW the only station within a 50 mile radius of me that was selling E-85 closed up shop a few weeks ago. E-85 was being pushed as being "patriotic" because it used American grown corn versus the evil Arab Oil...very short sighted and expensive (to the taxpayers) policy.

    3) Kick everybody out of Washington and start over with politicians that aren't in the pocket of big business.

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  8. #8
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    2. Here in Michigan, ALL gasoline must contain at least 10 % ethanol.

    3. Hint--the farm bill is more important than the energy bill.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    n00b-sauce
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    Not ALL biofuel is made from food. Biofuel is being made in my town (my wife is their lab analyst) from previously discarded pig fat. They are also testing ways to make it with chicken fat. This BioDiesel is then mixed with regular diesel to be used in diesel vehicles, without modification. This is also being done in Europe.
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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YULitle View Post
    Not ALL biofuel is made from food. Biofuel is being made in my town (my wife is their lab analyst) from previously discarded pig fat. They are also testing ways to make it with chicken fat. This BioDiesel is then mixed with regular diesel to be used in diesel vehicles, without modification. This is also being done in Europe.
    Last I heard, pig fat and chicken fat was edible food.
    Last edited by mike; 05-12-08 at 04:27 PM.
    Mike

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    Banned. FXjohn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike View Post
    YOUR tax dollars are going to the bijillionaire fuel companies so that they can convert food to fuel at a net energ
    Do you eat field corn or consider it food, Mike?

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FXjohn View Post
    Do you eat field corn or consider it food, Mike?
    field corn is food. Cattle, pigs, and chickens eat it. And I eat cattle, pigs, and chicken.
    Mike

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    Banned. FXjohn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike View Post
    field corn is food. Cattle, pigs, and chickens eat it. And I eat cattle, pigs, and chicken.
    hmm, bugs must be food. chickens eat bugs and you eat chickens.

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FXjohn View Post
    hmm, bugs must be food. chickens eat bugs and you eat chickens.
    Yes. Bugs are food and I have eaten those too - on purpose in Thailand and Korea; fried in hot oil with a sprinkle of salt.

    Guess what - bugs eat corn too!

    Mike

  15. #15
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FXJohn
    Do you eat field corn or consider it food, Mike?
    The same fields that are used to grow corn for non peoplefood purposes can be used for corn you would want to eat.
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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FXjohn View Post
    hmm, bugs must be food. chickens eat bugs and you eat chickens.
    Interesting logic. I think the answer is that corn is contained in just about every package food we see on our grocery shelves. Take corn out and you are left with... not much!

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    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cerewa View Post
    The same fields that are used to grow corn for non peoplefood purposes can be used for corn you would want to eat.
    Or wheat and other food crops...

    Aaron
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    Banned. FXjohn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike View Post
    Yes. Bugs are food and I have eaten those too - on purpose in Thailand and Korea; fried in hot oil with a sprinkle of salt.

    Guess what - bugs eat corn too!

    mmm, delicious, huh??

  19. #19
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Corn-only ethanol is already old news.

  20. #20
    pox
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    It's a mistake, IMO, to conflate ethanol and biodiesel, but it's one the corporate media loves to make. The former is a corporate handout, but the latter has a lot of potential. People are making diesel from algae, and even feeding it waste CO2 from coal plants, allowing us to burn some of that carbon twice.

    For a while the corporate media was cheering for "biofuel", meaning ethanol, and now they're telling us "biofuels" are bad, including diesel. I think we're supposed to conclude that there's really no choice but to buy oil from Exxon and subsidize Archer Daniels Midland, leaving no money for research into alternatives. "Well, we tried biofuels, but they didn't work."

  21. #21
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Most people (courtesy of the media) equate biodiesel with soybeans (ADM/Cargil) which is a shortsighted as the corn for ethanol. It is a bit better in gallons per acre department and it is in many ways a better product than the dino diesel that it replaces. But any fuel supplement/replacement that require arable land for production is not a good choice. And there is no way that I can see that we can produce enough fuel to replace the massive amounts of crude and finished oil products that we import.

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  22. #22
    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    Energy Victory. Check out this book; http://www.energyvictory.net/. It explains exactly how the USA and the world can destroy the OPEC nations grip on the world economies.

    If the USA government would mandate that all cars sold in the USA were Flexfuel vehicles capable of running on 100% alcohol (ethanol or methanol) or any combination of gasoline and alcohol, the price of oil would drop to $40-$50 per barrel. Such cars are already manufactured by all auto companies including the ones in the USA. They are sold in Brazil. No new research and development is needed. The technology is already used in millions of cars.

    Creating fuel from corn does not raise the price of rice or wheat. It only makes corn more expensive. Sugar cane is a better fuel source. Switch grass and other bio waste products will be fuel sources as soon as scientists improve the energy conversion process.

    The amount of unused farm land in the USA is tremendous. With the money incentive created by the Flexfuel mandate those unused lands will be profit sources for more farmers.

    This plan will also free poor nations from the high price of oil for fuel because the technology will trickle down to the remainder of the world. It will create a market for fuel production in even the poorest countries. It will give poor farmers a way to earn more money by supplying their own nations needs. Creating alcohol as a fuel will actually help the poorest people on Earth to make their countries stronger and remove the stranglehold oil has over their countries

    The mandate will create a boom in auto sales because people will want to purchase cars capable of using cheaper fuel.

    Fueling stations will begin switching over to different blends of fuel and eventually have 100% alcohol available. The government already has a tax incentive plan available to gas station owners who want to convert pumps to alcohol.

    The Flexfuel mandate is actually an ingenious solution that could be implemented with just a simple regulation signed into law. I have already contacted my representatives about it. I hope they read the book, but I can't make them read it.

    There is a video link to a C-span talk by Robert Zubrin about his book Energy Victory at the bottom of the page on http://www.energyvictory.net/.
    He goes into detail about why this plan works and why it is in our best strategic interest to mandate all cars sold in the USA have Flexfuel motors.

    He says to let the marketplace decide which fuel is wanted by the consumers. Until people worldwide have a choice other than oil there will never be energy freedom. Until cars can run on alternate fuels there won't be a choice. By mandating that cars have Flexfuel capability the world will finally have a choice.

    All new cars sold in Brazil must be Flexfuel capable from 2008 onward.

    Robert Zubrin also shows that conservation of energy will not bring down the price of oil. In his video he shows a graph of exactly why that is.

    He addresses the claim by only one scientist that it takes more energy to produce alcohol fuels than they put out. He shows that most other scientists disagree with that claim.

    All of the arguments I've read here and elsewhere that are against alcohol as a fuel are addressed satisfactorily in the video at the C-span site. It has information that you might not know which makes you against alcohol as a fuel source. Please watch it. It is more than an hour long.
    Smallwheels

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  23. #23
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrimsonEclipse View Post
    Don't discard all biofuels yet.
    There are several programs using algae with power plant exhaust (likely coal)
    to produce bio-diesel. The output per acre is 50-200x that of corn.

    CE
    That's exactly the kind of biofuel I can support. Maybe some of us should start writing letters to moveon.org or our representatives in congress? (Not that I have a whole lot of faith in members of congress of either party. Well, maybe that's not true. My impression is that Republicans are greedy, immoral, liars, hypocritical and stupid, whereas Democrats are merely hypocritical and utterly ********.)
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  24. #24
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smallwheels View Post
    Energy Victory. Check out this book; http://www.energyvictory.net/.

    The amount of unused farm land in the USA is tremendous. With the money incentive created by the Flexfuel mandate those unused lands will be profit sources for more farmers.

    This plan will also free poor nations from the high price of oil for fuel because the technology will trickle down to the remainder of the world. It will create a market for fuel production in even the poorest countries. It will give poor farmers a way to earn more money by supplying their own nations needs. Creating alcohol as a fuel will actually help the poorest people on Earth to make their countries stronger and remove the stranglehold oil has over their countries

    The mandate will create a boom in auto sales because people will want to purchase cars capable of using cheaper fuel.
    I'm not sure you've been watching the news lately. There are food riots in more than a few places, partly because of droughts in grain-growing regions, party because Indians and Chinese (nearly 1/3 of the total population of the Earth) now have the means to demand better food, but also because land that once was devoted to food production has been diverted to making fuel. Using food crops like corn to fill gas tanks is incredibly stupid, not to mention morally wrong.

    The energy input-output ratio for gasoline is 1:80-200, depending on the source of oil. That means for every calorie of energy you put into producing the gasoline, you get up to 200 calories back. The ratio for corn-based ethanol is 1:1.4. Without the subsidy, no one would be stupid enough to do this. (Biodiesel is a bit better,1:4 or so)

    The amount of arable land currently available on this planet is pretty much all there is. (Let's not even get into topsoil losses here.) We have a population that will top out at about 10-11 billion by mid-century, at about the same time that global warming really gets rolling, and oil production starts to actually decline markedly. There's no way in hell that any crop-based biofuels, let alone corn-based ones, are going to save our collective ass*s. We need to re-instate the renewable energy tax credit in a big way, switch to algae-based biofuels, or at least ones made from non-food plants, and embark on a massive energy diet. If we don't do these things, we're pretty much f*cked.
    Last edited by bragi; 05-12-08 at 11:51 PM.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  25. #25
    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=bragi;6676526] Given the high price of food and the growing number of starving people in the world, QUOTE]

    Now I don't carer for the corn fuel mess, but "the growing number of starving people in the world" are not our problem. Those people need to eother grow their own or buy their own. Otherwise the can starve. Are we supposed to keep feeding these people forever?
    Not too much to say here

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