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The Inconvenient Truth About Ethanol

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Comments

  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    Ahh, so in addition we have to give up salad (which I don't care about) and tequila (umm, different story). All of this while we have ready-made energy sources available to us like waste vegetable oil and compressed natural gas (not even counting coal...leave that for the electrical grid until we can get more and safer nuclear plants out there).

    Renewable energy is a good idea, mind you, but sacrificing our food supply for it is NOT.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    Solutions
    Replace Oil-fired power plants and heating systems with other alternatives like natgas, electricity and so on.
    Buy smaller vehicles that fits your need (a small Wagon has more cargo space than big Sedan)
    Buy Hybrid or Flexfuelled or Bifuelled vehicles.


    Electrically powered heating systems are much less efficient than other methods like propane and oil heat, and not really that popular outside of urban areas. This shouldn't be a problem: oil heat is very popular but the oil is so close to diesel as to make zero difference: you could fill your tank from a diesel pump and it would work. This is a great target for converting to biodiesel.

    Another popular heating product is propane, which is also used to fuel gas stoves. It's currently made when processing oil, but can ALSO be made from processing Natural Gas, so there's zero reason to even touch that infrastructure for now: just cut over to creating it from CNG until we can convert those systems to use CNG directly.

    Smaller vehicles, yeah. Me, I'm a hatchback convert: I think a lot of others are too, but they're used to calling them SUVs. Chevy had the Malibu Maxx a while back that was a moderate success: I wonder why they didn't continue it. More smaller vehicles are coming in a hatch format though (Yaris, Aveo, Fiesta, even the Corolla as the Matrix). Unfortunately, midsizers haven't followed the trend yet: have to see what happens, but a compact SUV is pretty close to a midsize sedan in space and price. It's just that for some reason the US is mentally allergic to a hatch unless it's jacked up off the ground; they'd rather have a trunk.

    Flex fuel = ethanol. Ethanol is currently bad: we're robbing Peter to pay Paul, in that we're sacrificing our food supply to fuel our vehicles. That's dumb for many reasons, including the next crop blight or food riots threatening our fuel supply. Hybrids seem to stretch our gas supply better, but they're only a stopgap. Biodiesel combined with CNG may be our best shot.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Biodiesel combined with CNG may be our best shot.

    I agree. I think the best option is to use Algae production for biodiesel. I don't believe it should be mandated as they have ethanol. And I agree with the poster that E10 is giving ethanol a bad name. There is no need for additives with modern engines. Sell E100 and build flexfuel vehicles that will run on either pure ethanol or regular unleaded. VW builds just such vehicles for Brazil. Remove the tariff from sugar cane ethanol and buy from Brazil. Cut back corn production by using less fossil fuel fertilizers. Go back to crop rotation to protect the environment. Share the crop land with Corn, so we do not cause shortages of wheat and soybeans. Common sense needs to prevail and Congress needs to Butt out. They do nothing but screw up the works.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,826
    "Another popular heating product is propane, which is also used to fuel gas stoves. It's currently made when processing oil, but can ALSO be made from processing Natural Gas, so there's zero reason to even touch that infrastructure for now: just cut over to creating it from CNG until we can convert those systems to use CNG directly"

    Well, propane is not 'made', it is extracted from oil and natural gas. You don't convert it from natural gas, not and have it make any economic sense. Conversion of methane to diesel is being done now, makes more sense.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Methane to diesel is just in its infancy. There are untold Trillions of cubic feet of methane frozen at both poles. Extracting that before it melts and escapes as GHG is an alternative that needs some research.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    You can extract Propane from CNG. That works until you get more heating and cooking systems out there that can use CNG directly (save the processing step). That's what I was trying to get at. There's no need to import oil from which to extract propane (though we do get some as a by-product of the distillation process anyway). I think you got what I meant, no need to get hyper-technical. :shades: The point is that we have other sources from which to obtain propane, and can cut over equipment that uses propane to using natural gas in the interim, until we no longer need very much propane if any.

    That just leaves oil heat. And you just mentioned another way of getting diesel fuel, which is just another way of describing heating oil (seriously, they're both referred to technically as "heavy fuel oil" and are pretty much interchangeable). So that's a way to get much of our heating systems (if not all) off of imported petroleum, yes?
  • pafromflpafromfl Posts: 47
    I don't think running out of oil and natural gas will happen for decades (if not centuries). By then we (or most of world) will probably use a combination of solar (more efficient by then) and nuclear (safer and more economical by then) power to generate electricity for transportation. It is likely that battery energy to weight ratios will radically improve so that most vehicles will be electric. If not, solar and nuclear power could be converted to liquid fuel (hydrogen storage may not ever be practical). At some point, our descendants will wonder how we put up with noisy, smelly, explosive fossil fuels, like we wonder how our ancestors put up with all that horse manure and wild horse nonsense.
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    Am I the only one out there testing gas for the ethanol %? You can buy ethanol testers in Briggs & Stratton packages (maybe called gasohol tester) or aviation sales (ethanol in fuel is not allowed in any plane - for all the obvious reasons) . They are basically calibrated test tubes in which you put exact volumes of water and gas and then read the new meniscus formed by the ethanol & water mixture against a scale.
    I've been checking different stations and at least I haven't found any gas over 10% ethanol. And the lowest I've found is one station at 6-7% ethanol.

    Anybody else do this? Care to compare/share results? Anybody find pure gas at a marina (I have yet to test)?
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I am going to get one. I thought it was some expensive device you were using. Several on the market for about $6. It will be worth it to find who is ripping us off with the most of that crap in our gas. The mandate is only about 3% ethanol. You can tell they are going for the 50 cent subsidy at the distributor level.
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    I've seen directions on the internet to make a homemade one, but to save just $10, it didn't seem worth the trouble. The opening on the B&S test tube I have is less than 1/2", so I generally spill a bit of gasoline on my hands while filling it. Its possible that the more expensive aviation fuel testers with the yellow caps are better. My usual practice now is to use an approved 1 gal red plastic gas can and pump a bit of gas in it after I fill my car. Then I mix the water & gas in the test tube at home - where its easier to wash off spilled gas.

    I have only tested regular 87 octane gas so far. The best has been a BP at Edgewater MD at 6-7%. There is a rumor among boaters that BP 93 has no ethanol - and I want to test it; unfortunately, the results won't help me if its ethanol-free, as my boat motor specifically advises against 93 octane.
  • pafromflpafromfl Posts: 47
    have only tested regular 87 octane gas so far. The best has been a BP at Edgewater MD at 6-7%.
    I've noticed my gas mileage decrease has recently varied between 3-10% rather than the usual constant 10%. Any ideas why they might be mixing in less ethanol?

    my boat motor specifically advises against 93 octane
    Any idea why?
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    my boat motor specifically advises against 93 octane
    Any idea why?

    Apparently it doesn't detonate at same compression as the 87 octane the motor was tuned for. I learned this the hard way in actual practice. I replaced a 2-stroke 130 hp Yamaha - in which I'd always used 93 octane, with a new 4-stroke 115 Yamaha. Without thinking, I used the same fuel. When I took it in for service, it had low compression due to carbon build-up & had to be de-carboned. I was advised to use only 87 octane and to run at high rpms for a few minutes at the end of the day.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,826
    "That just leaves oil heat. And you just mentioned another way of getting diesel fuel, which is just another way of describing heating oil (seriously, they're both referred to technically as "heavy fuel oil" and are pretty much interchangeable). So that's a way to get much of our heating systems (if not all) off of imported petroleum, yes? "

    Well, diesel's a lighter cut than the heavy fuel oil, you can't put fuel oil in your car/truck, but this would increase supplies, certainly. And sorry for getting technical on propane, just wanted to make sure folks understand how that works. That brings up another news item - seems that some domestic natural gas producers are worried about being swamped with LNG imports. Qatar may be able to bring in lots of their LNG on tankers, extract the propane, etc, and make money even if they sell the natural gas for a loss.
  • yerth10yerth10 Posts: 431
    30 years ago, 25 % of World's Electricity came from Oil, in 2006, it was just around 6%. Many of them were moved to Coal, Gas, Nuclear, Wind etc.

    Similarly many homes using Oil fired heaters were moved to other sources.
    Its not a big deal.

    A geothermal system can cut down oil consumption for heat by atleast 30 %.
    Also when we go to bed, we can reduce the thermostat in living room to 60 degrees and have portable heater for just the bedroom. This will cut down the consumption by another 20 - 30 %

    Where natgas is available, we can use that for heating, otherwise propane or biodiesel or wood or electricity can be used to replace fuel oil.

    With nearly 10 million vehicles hitting the world's roads every year, its high time that Oil is replaced wherever possible.

    BTW, US has become independent in natgas with the discovery of Shale-gas.
    We dont need Qatar gas, it can be shipped to Japan & Korea where there are too many Oil-fired power plants.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    We dont need Qatar gas, it can be shipped to Japan & Korea where there are too many Oil-fired power plants.

    It would be nice for Hawaii to get some Qatar LNG, as they produce most of their electricity with diesel generators. Qatar is also on the leading edge of GTL (gas to liquids). The diesel produced from natural gas is super clean and NO sulfur. Great fuel for all the diesel cars that are being sold.
  • avalon02whavalon02wh Posts: 785
    "BTW, US has become independent in natgas with the discovery of Shale-gas. "

    At the present time we are importing natural gas (Canada & Mexico), so we are really not independent nor will we be anytime soon.
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/data_publications/natural_gas_mon- - thly/current/pdf/figure_01.pdf

    Energy independence is a pipe dream. The only way the U.S. will be energy independent is if we cut our consumption by about 2/3.

    "With nearly 10 million vehicles hitting the world's roads every year, its high time that Oil is replaced wherever possible. "

    Actually I think the net increase in vehicles is higher than that. This site
    http://www.serendipity.li/fe/car_fact_sheet.htm
    suggests that the actual number is closer to 55 million new vehicles a year.

    And as to replacing oil wherever possible, every fuel has issues be it ethanol, natural gas, diesel, hydrogen or cooking grease. I do not see any one fuel taking over 99% of the market. We are likely to have a broad range of fuels available for decades to come.
  • yerth10yerth10 Posts: 431
    This website has got it wrong
    http://www.serendipity.li/fe/car_fact_sheet.htm

    70 million vehicles were sold every year. They mentioned that 15 million old vehicles were scrapped. In USA alone 14 million old vehicles were scrapped, if you include Europe, Japan and rest of the world the figure should be somewhere between 50-55 million old vehicles beind scrapped.

    That means some 10-15 million new vehicles are sold.

    gagrice : Yes, Qatar-gas can certainly go to Hawaii. Meanwhile Hawaii has 62 MW of wind energy, it can easily be increased and combined with natgas to replace the Diesel fired power generation.
    Yes, no fuel will be able to take 99 % of the market. If Biofuels can capture 10 % with CNG another 10 %, atleast 20 % of the Oil consumption can be reduced.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    And as to replacing oil wherever possible, every fuel has issues be it ethanol, natural gas, diesel, hydrogen or cooking grease. I do not see any one fuel taking over 99% of the market. We are likely to have a broad range of fuels available for decades to come.

    Of course we will....to be honest, that's the natural order of things. The oil producers don't want that, of course, they want the current oil-universal-cureall status-quo that they helped manufacture instead, and it's gotten people used to the idea of one energy source having to make a big splash and replace oil in all ways. Hence all the hot air about ethanol as a new cure-all.

    Real life isn't going to work that way. We'll see a lot more like the following instead:

    Electric: Wind, Solar, Nuclear. Hydroelectric where water flow is available.

    Heat: Geothermal (heat pump), natural gas, possibly direct solar. Biodiesel for the oil fired heaters until they can switch over to something else.

    Transportation: Natural gas, biodiesel, possibly combined with some hybrid tech. Maybe some ethanol, but it's going to be regional because of the problems transporting E100.

    Oh, and by the way:

    At the present time we are importing natural gas (Canada & Mexico), so we are really not independent nor will we be anytime soon.

    I'll settle for getting us independent of the regimes that hate us first, like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia (well, maybe not hate us but they don't really like us either), etc.
  • avalon02whavalon02wh Posts: 785
    I would agree that 55 million new vehicles a year is a bit high but only 10 to 15 new vehicles to the market is a bit low. If you just look at China, of their 10 million vehicles sold a year most are new to the market. If you add in India, Eastern European and the Middle East countries the total number of new cars to the market is probably 20 to 30 million depending on the years you look at.

    "...motor vehicle ownership will increase from about 800 million vehicles today to more than 2 billion in 2030."
    http://www.hart-isee.com/index.php?page=world-transport-growth

    2,000 million - 800 million = 1,200 million
    1,200 million/20 years = 60 million/year new to the market vehicles

    The above is just an estimate. I do not think the world has the resources (ethanol,oil,steel,rare earth metals) to maintain more than 1.5 billion vehicles.

    Vehicles are lasting longer. (Tables 3.9 & 3.10)
    http://www-cta.ornl.gov/data/tedb27/Edition27_Full_Doc.pdf
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    (CNN) -- At least one person is dead after a cargo train derailment and fire in Rockford, Illinois on Friday, officials said.

    Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia said the fatality was a woman. The cause of death had not been determined, because Fiduccia had not been able to get close enough to examine the body.

    Fiduccia said she did not know whether there were other fatalities.

    Crews were still fighting the blaze early Saturday from the derailment of the 114-car Canadian National Railway train.

    Officers were called to the scene at around 8:30 p.m., a city police spokeswoman said. The derailment involved automobiles, but it was unclear whether they were on the tracks, the spokeswoman said.

    Three motorists who were stopped at a train crossing were burned, one severely, said Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten.


    One victim who tried to run from the blaze suffered second-degree burns on his hand while trying to shield his neck from flames, Bergsten said.

    Seventy cars on the train were carrying ethanol, a colorless, highly flammable liquid, fire officials said.

    The derailment and subsequent fire forced the evacuation of about 600 nearby homes, authorities said.

    We don't want your ethanol on the West Coast. Keep it in the Midwest. We have enough fire problems without trainloads of ethanol burning down our towns.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    That is one of the problems of transporting ethanol, yes. There is of course the slight risk of accident and fire. That's why oil and natural gas get pipelined. And no, you can't pipeline ethanol..something about the chemical makeup, it absorbs too much water or something. Then you have drunks with drills going after the pipes and all... :shades:
  • pafromflpafromfl Posts: 47
    At least one person is dead after a cargo train derailment and fire in Rockford, Illinois on Friday, officials said.
    I wonder if the engineer was fueled by ethanol.
  • avalon02whavalon02wh Posts: 785
    " And no, you can't pipeline ethanol..something about the chemical makeup, it absorbs too much water or something. "

    Yes, ethanol is very corrosive, however they are working on the issue.

    http://www.autobloggreen.com/2009/03/16/u-s-ethanol-pipeline-idea-gets-push-from- -poet/

    "Then you have drunks with drills going after the pipes and all..."

    Really, do we have drunks running up to trucks carrying ethanol trying to get a swig????
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    Really, do we have drunks running up to trucks carrying ethanol trying to get a swig????

    Leave them unattended and it's possible. Ethanol = 200 proof vodka, pure and simple (in more ways than one, heh). What happens when its cheaper per gallon than hard liquor?
  • kipkkipk Posts: 1,576
    >"If the ONLY reason you see for using ethanol is getting a better mileage (that´s at least what´s being inferred from your post) then you did not understand a thing about the benefits of ethanol. "

    The reports I've read mostly claim a 5%-!0% reduction in mileage using 10 blend vs pure dino gas. . Lets use the 10% figure for now. And lets use a vehicle that averages 25 mpg on dino. It would get 10% less on ethanol blend, or 22.5 mpg.

    To drive 1000 miles the car would use 40 gallons of dino gas. To drive that same distance would require 44.4 gallons of "Blend". Of that "Blend" 90% is dino and 10% ethanol. So the 1000 miles still required 39.96 gallons of dino.

    Same amount of dino gas used for all practical purposes. Same dino carbon emissions, PLUS the emissions from the 4.4 gallons of ethanol.
    Can't see how that is any reduction of oil dependence.

    Actually when you figure the energy required to plant the crops, irrigate them, harvest them, haul them to the refinery to make the ethanol, make the ethanol, haul the ethanol to somewhere to be blended with the dino fuel, energy used to do the blending, and yada, yada, yada, there appears to be a great deal of energy used in the form of electricity, diesel fuel, coal, Natural gas, just to get the blend ready for us to purchase. Read somewhere that it takes about 100 gallons of water from the seed to the gas tank for each gallon of Ethanol produced.

    While it may be true that ethanol produces less emissions than dino fuels, how much less? And does it favorably compare when all else is considered, ie energy to produce and get it ready for a gas tank, and using more of it in our vehicles?

    Kip
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Another important aspect is the land itself. The article I read claims it takes 93 years to gain back what is lost in carbon sink value, when you cut the natural forest to grow crops. This would be true in Iowa and the rain forest. Iowa has cleared 97% of their hardwood forests to crop land. Corn is not that good of a carbon sink. I am still trying to find any positive aspects to Corn Ethanol, except subsidies for the giant ag companies.
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    The funny thing is seeing all this mathematics. :)

    Brazil´s been running half of all its cars on 100% ethanol for over 30 years and that has a proven perfecly viable solution.

    Yet america insists on doing mathematics to disprove that.

    Problem is they are all based on corn ethanol (over there is sugarcane), E85 (over there is E100), distance between plants and crop lands (there the plant is located in the sugarcane plantation), etc

    Of course with those differences the mathematics will indeed be as you show them.

    So the question remais: why reinvent the wheel?
  • jkinzeljkinzel Posts: 735
    If all the energy and effort that has gone into ethanol had gone into biodiesel, we would be far closer to energy independence, which is a goal we can never achieve at our present rate of consumption.

    I understand that biodiesel has its environmental drawbacks as does any form of fuel, but considering it gets about 45% better MPG over E10, would it not be a better choice?

    It really is a no brainer, but the money trail goes a different direction.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Brazil´s been running half of all its cars on 100% ethanol for over 30 years and that has a proven perfecly viable solution.


    You are making bold statements you cannot back up with facts. First Brazil depends on Sugar ethanol for about 20% of its vehicle fuel. They are independent because of huge oil reserves found over the last few years. There Ethanol production went to almost ZERO during the late 1980s. Brazil left many people with vehicles that would only run on ethanol stranded. The vehicles that will run on E100 will run on regular gas also.

    The government offered subsidies to sugar cane growers and forced service stations in every town of at least 1,500 people to install ethanol pumps. By the early 1980s, almost all new cars sold in Brazil ran on 100 percent ethanol.

    But as the decade progressed and the military government was replaced by democracy, oil prices plummeted and the subsidies granted to ethanol producers were eliminated. Sugar processing plants turned from ethanol to edible sugar, creating a shortage of supplies at service stations. The auto industry, which had dedicated itself to ethanol-only cars, stopped producing them almost entirely.

    "It was as if from one day to the next, the people who had ethanol cars had a problem on their hands, because no one wanted to buy them," said Henry Joseph Jr., head of the engineering program for Volkswagen of Brazil. "Ethanol cars went all the way from more than 90 percent of sales to less than 1 percent."


    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/19/AR2006081900842.- html
  • Ethanol and water up to 100 proof will run an engine better than pure ethanol. Then you get 2 gallons of fuel for the cost of one gallon of pure 99.9% ethanol. The added water makes up the other gallon. So you run on about 51% ethanol. About 1% below the saturation point.

    The other benefit of pre-mixing ethanol with water is, should it catch fire you can put the fire out with water. This makes the fuel safer to use also.

    You could ask any moonshiner about running on 100 proof.

    I think there are to many people that have oil stock that they are worried about, or maybe they have their head up their you know what.

    This is old technology that has been hidden under the smoke screen of burning oil.

    LESS TOXIC:
    I would rather smell the fumes of something that I could drink without it killing me. Though I personally feel it is safer to burn it than drink it.

    You do not need to believe me. Here is an old link to information about this. You will need to go down about 9 paragraphs to find the one about water injection. I will copy it for you and post it below the link. Because the rest of the information is common knowledge.

    http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/ethanol_manual/manual1-2.html

    WATER INJECTION

    During World War II, the military made extensive use of water injection in high performance piston aircraft engines. Later, water injection was used by both civilian and military jet aircraft to provide extra thrust, principally on takeoff. Even today, water injection systems are available that can be installed in automobiles. The fact is that, within certain limits, these systems actually do increase power. Referring back to Figure 2-2, note that the latent heat of vaporization for gasoline is about 140 Btu/lb and for ethanol about 361 Btu/lb. Water has a latent heat of about 700 Btu/lb! Therefore, if a little water is injected into the carburetor in the form of an ultra-fine mist, the latent heat of the water will cool the charge and increase volumetric efficiency. In addition, when the charge is fired in the cylinder, the water will turn to high-pressure steam and provide additional power due to the pressure exerted by the steam. There are definite limits, however, to the amount of water that can be injected. Too much will cause excessive cooling and misfiring.

    The use of water injection with a gasoline fueled engine requires a separate metering and injection system because water and gasoline do not mix. Ethanol and water, however, do mix and the benefits of water injection can be had simply by adding the desired amount of water to the alcohol in the fuel tank.

    Get with it people. I am sure that there are some of the 3rd world countries that will be glad to pick up on this oversight.

    WHY IS THERE NO RESEARCH INTO THIS PHENOMINA.

    2 gallons for the price of one. We will be back to 1.00 per gallon fuel.

    The fuel is safer when mixed with water. You can put out the fire with a garden hose.

    John EMM
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