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The Inconvenient Truth About Ethanol



  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    You did not do enough googling. I did not say they had abandoned the current ethanol program. They did so in the 1980s when the price of sugar made ethanol too expensive. Many people were left with ethanol only cars and no ethanol to buy.

    Brazilian ethanol history

    Brazil's military dictatorship launched the national ethanol program in 1975, when about 90 percent of its fuel consumption depended on foreign oil. 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."
  • easym1easym1 Posts: 218
    Brazil's ethanol program in the past is different than Brazil of today. They have addressed most of the problem in their past.

    Again, having another alternative is better than having none. If the terrorist starts attacking major oil producers, we will surely take whatever option available.

    Most of our new technology are still in it's infancy..but it's better to work on it now, address all the kinks and hope for the best. One way or another, some of these technologies and alternatives will be developed and will find its way to the average consumers.

    We are currently in the process of evolution regarding alternatives to fuel. Any good ideas out there is better than none.

    With new technology and great minds, we can improve on not only what Brazil has done as one, but on many new alternatives that are out there.
  • jkinzeljkinzel Posts: 735
    Explain to us why with diesel and Bio-diesels MPG superiority over gas and ethanol’s inferiority compared to gas the U. S. is taking the inferior route?

    Why is not the same enthusiasm and vigor being put into the development of bio-diesel as into ethanol as a mainstream alternative fuel?

    Why are the domestic auto makers so adamant about not introducing diesel passenger cars into the American market place and instead touting ethanol FFV?

    Let me give some hints;
    Conagra, ADM, and most of the big grain companies stand to make huge profits from ethanol.

    It’s a cheap way for the domestic and foreign auto makes to comply to the CAFÉ standards.

    Ethanol is not what’s good for the country or cutting back on imported oil. It’s not what’s right for the consumer or reducing pollution. It’s all about the money. Ethanol has been marketed to the consumer as a way to save fuel and the planet when in reality it’s about big profits for ADM, Conagra and the auto makers.

    Ethanol might work in Brazil, but frankly I can’t recall the time I drove past a sugar cane field.
  • bpizzutibpizzuti Posts: 2,743
    Also, the American automakers don't already have US-emissions-compliant small diesels for cars. Whereas they already have engines that burn E85. So the grain companies make a ton, the car companies don't have to spend any extra, so everyone's a winner, right?

    Well, the consumer loses, but we don't count.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,376
    by this idea that we need to try something - anything - approach. We do need to try something. We do NOT need to try every darn little thing that might come along. Had we taken the tax dollars that you and I invested in ethanol and instead applied it to further diesel technology, electric vehicle technology, nuclear fusion, solar electric... we would be that farther ahead.

    If there is an attack on the oil suppliers there will be zero relief from domestic ethanol because it barely produces the power used to create it. The more likely scenario is that in such a case the production of ethanol would be curtailed if not outright banned as a waste of precious fuel.

    As we've said earlier, ethanol is not some new, promising fuel. It predates the Model T which could and sometimes did run on ethanol. It wasn't used because it was too expensive. That still holds.

    Try biodiesel. Much better idea. GM and Ford are going to regret not having a diesel car program now.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,922
    In addition, some claim ethanol from corn is a 'stepping stone' to cellulosic ethanol (something that acutually makes sense, if it can be made to work economically). This is not true. The technology to make ethanol from corn has been around for decades, and building more plants does not help develop the technology needed for cellulosic ethanol.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I might add that the current technology to produce ethanol from switchgrass (the brightest star in ethanol's future) requires an entirely different process. So the billions we are spending to build ethanol plants for corn will be abandon when the newer technology emerges. Find one of the towns that was host to the last ethanol boom in the late 1970s. See what they think about the big pile of rust that was once an ethanol plant. Ethanol is very much a boom or bust operation. With the taxpayers footing the bill.
  • easym1easym1 Posts: 218
    Here's the last part of my post.

    'With new technology and great minds, we can improve on not only what Brazil has done as one, but on many new alternatives that are out there.'

    This includes your diesels, bio-diesels, electric, solar, hydrogen, hybrids etc...or a type of NANO technology could also be in the horizon.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,376
    I agree with that part. It's spending a plugged nickel on corn ethanol that is the problem.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • easym1easym1 Posts: 218
    I know and ethanol is just one of the many options out there. I believe that the best, practical, cheapest and cleanest alternative will be here earlier than we anticipate. Don't forget...availability!
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,376
    Maybe with global warming we'll be able to grow sugar cane in the northeast soon.....
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    That's good I like it.

    If we had kept our cane fields in Hawaii instead of moving sugar production to places with cheap labor, we would have a good supply of Sugar. Many of the cane fields are being sold in 20 acre plots for homesteads and ag lots. A lot of them are planted into mac nuts and hardwoods.
  • jkinzeljkinzel Posts: 735

    I did not intend to discredit or attack you in my post #64 as I may have implied, and for this I apologize. :blush:

    I do have a tendency to get a little passionate when it comes to Ethanol as it has so many negatives and yet it gets shoved down our throats and we can’t seem to do anything about it.

    I have to wonder out loud, “Does anyone from the auto industry, i.e. Ford, GM, and Chrysler read this web site and listen to what we talk about?”
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I imagine the low level managers that blog all day check us out from time to time.

    I don't think the folks in the Midwest can appreciate what has happened with the ethanol mandate on the coasts of our country. Ethanol has to have special trucks haul the stuff from the Midwest to the refineries. There it is blended when it is sent to the stations. That has added a quite a bit to our gas prices. It cannot be sent trough pipelines. It evaporates much faster than regular gas. And with the special handling it costs a lot of money. Then when you add on the fact that high corn prices is raising the cost of beef, chicken, pork, tortillas, cereal and now TEQUILA! They should see why we are not thrilled with their windfall handout from Uncle Sam.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,922
    Unfortunately, Ford/GM/Chrysler love ethanol, because it allows them to sell gas hog Tahoes/Rams etc and get CAFE credits for vehicles that will never see a drop of E85.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Sad but true.

    If the person was going to buy that vehicle anyway, and he can get E85 at a price that is low enough to make up for the loss in MPG, it may be OK. We are still subsidizing the stuff so a few big farmers and ADM can get rich.

    It is really not much different than selling gas hog Lexus hybrids so rich folks can feel they are doing something for the environment.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,376
    Doh! They are giving away (former) cane fields? Oy!

    I had heard that they were drastically cutting back pineapple cultivation for the same reason and we're getting most of it from the Caribbean. Is that true?

    The best pineapple I ever had in my life had been in a field in Hawaii hours before. My folks had brought it back with them back in 76.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Much of the pineapple is gone. Papaya, Flowers and Mac nuts are the major crops on the Big Island. Who knows they may start growing corn on the 1000s of acres of cane land that is going untended.

    Here is a piece of cane land you can own. There are hundreds of these available.

    Cane field
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,376
    Given a year or two I could see myself all over that one. 25 acres in Hawaii - what's not to like? MAybe I'll get the feds to pay me to grow corn on it.... Nah..
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Every time I go it is harder to leave. Some of that cane land has wonderful sweeping ocean views. That sight lists all the property for sale in Hawaii.

    You can make a lot more per acre with flowers. You would have to get 1200 bushels of corn to the acre to make as much as I get off of one acre of anthuriums. And I do not have to do anything. They pay that much for the flowers.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,376
    You can just set me up in the business and I know doubt will pay back your generosity.....

    You won't be the first person who doesn't want to underwrite my desired lifestyle. :P

    Sounds great. Leave enough space to grow SOME pineapples, if only for my own consumption.
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • easym1easym1 Posts: 218
    Not a problem my friend. You just prove to me that you're a good person and cares for feelings of others.
  • i have been reading this forum with some interest. i hope you won't mind if i post a few thoughts.

    as i see it, there is very little question that cheap oil is gone forever. google the term peak oil and read about it if you doubt this. frankly, it is probably a good thing that that is the case or we, the humans, would surely continue to burn it until we suffocated ourselves out of existence, along with the other animals that depend on oxidative phosphorylation for their survival.

    so now we ask, how will we continue to live as we do now and not destroy the planet while at the same time not destroying our economy with alternative sources of energy?

    the fact of the matter is that there is plenty of energy in the world. when one calculates the energy content of wind, hydro, solar, and the tides it becomes quite clear that there is more than enough energy in our environment to sustain us far beyond our current levels of demand. no, the problem is not a lack of an energy source at all. the sun and moon provide that and more.

    the problem is that we are not smart enough to figure out how to efficiently capture, store and redistribute all the energy that surrounds us.

    fossils have been a convenient source of stored energy to this point in history and have provided us with the ability develop the technology to reach this point in history. but like the child who can only live off his parents for so long before being forced to become independent, we now have to stand on our own technological feet and invent a way to use what surrounds us every day. further, we must use it in a way that does not alter the environment enough to make uninhabitable for us.

    to break it down to its simplest terms, battery technology has to be the next great frontier of advancement in this world if we hope to advance beyond where we currently stand today. wind alone holds more energy than we need, but we can't figure out how to get beyond fluctuations in wind speed and availability. this is a storage issue plain and simple.

    the distribution half of the equation is already solved, the electric grid is in place and fully operational. we only have to figure out how to store the energy that we want to feed into it.

    all the forms of energy discussed here, except tides and nuclear, ultimately come from the sun. if plants can figure out how to use sunlight to turn CO2 into corn, sugar, cellulosic or whatever other material we want to talk about, then surely we can figure out a way to store and retrieve that energy to suit our needs.

    at least now, with biodiesel and ethanol, and i believe that they are far from perfect, but at least they are CO2 neutral partial solutions. every carbon in those products that is spewed out as CO2 into the environment, was previously in the environment before being snagged out of the air by some green plant and fixed into a molecule of sugar or cellulose.

    nuclear, while certainly appealing from a CO2 perspective, has its own set of problems that are seemingly insurmountable.

    so how do we get there from here? i have no earthly idea. but i do know that we need to become much more serious about funding basic research into energy sciences. we need to stop letting the oil companies set the agenda for energy policy. we need to incentivize technologies that get us closer to these goals (like hybrids) and stop coming up with tax loopholes that encourage people to buy >6000 lb suvs that get 12 mpg. we need to get off our can once in a while and ride our bikes to work and walk to the grocery store.

    to anybody still reading this, i sincerely apologize for the sermonizing. i got on a heck of a rant there and i feel better now. i think we all want the same thing. we just gotta figure out the best way to get there.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Welcome to the forum Mr Peabody.
    One little item. I think you will find that the oil companies are at the forefront of solar cell developments. I think that is good as they probably know better than anyone when the oil will become scarce and be able to offer an alternative.

    I totally agree that we need some new break through in battery technology. I'm not impressed with the progress over the last 20 years. A lot of talk and very little evidence. I'm convinced that Li-ion is a dead monkey for vehicles. I could be wrong just a hunch.

    Now people are using lithium batteries to make illegal methamphetamines. What is the world coming to?
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,376
    As if we weren't having enough with people using sudafed to make meth. Buying it at a drug store is harder than getting a prescription filled.

    Welcome aboard, Mr. Peabody!
    2015 Mazda 6 Grand Touring, 2014 Mazda 3 Sport Hatchback, 1999 Mazda Miata 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    to break it down to its simplest terms, battery technology has to be the next great frontier of advancement in this world if we hope to advance beyond where we currently stand today

    When you say battery if you mean energy storage then I agree. I don't necessarily agree that batteries, as most people think of them, need to get any better in order to take full advantage of these abundant, yet intermittent alternative energy sources. For instance you can store the energy as hydrogen. Or you can utilize pumped storage hydroelectricity where you pump water to a higher elevation and release it to turn turbines when it is needed. Actually it doesn't even need to be water. Elevate any mass and you've got stored energy. The conversion efficiencies of these methods are actually fairly high ~70%. Much better than the 30% efficiency of an ICE turning the chemical energy in gasoline into mechanical energy.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    I totally agree that we need some new break through in battery technology. I'm not impressed with the progress over the last 20 years.

    You're not easily impressed. The best Li-ion cells can store 200 watt-hours per kilogram. 20 years ago you had lead-acid, which were around 30 watt-hours per kilogram. An improvement of almost 7x.

    The first EV1 had a lead-acid battery pack that weighed 1,600 lbs. and gave it a range of 80 miles. That was replaced by a NiMH pack that weighed 1,000 lbs. and extended the range to 100 miles. The 900 lb Li-ion battery pack on the Tesla Roadster provides in excess of 200 mile range.

    If you're not impressed with this level of progress what exactly would it take?
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I was referring to the NiMH battery that was first invented about 20 years ago by Matsushita. NiCads are still a good battery that are over 100 years old.

    Until the aging problem with Lithium Ion batteries is resolved I do not see it in a favorable light. 6-7 years before they die of old age will not be viable in automotive mainstream. We need something better or yours and my dream of an EV will not materialize.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Even the technologies that have been around awhile have improved considerably. Both NiMH and lead-acid batteries have improved their energy density by over 50% in the last 20 years. Today's Li-ion batteries hold more than twice as much energy as they did just 8 years ago.

    NiCads have a serious memory problem and are also toxic.

    Latest on Chevy Volt progress.
  • jkinzeljkinzel Posts: 735
    Another reason to endorse diesel/bio-diesel.{E2C47792-2693-48BF-8967-26B070F10EBF}

    Butter prices are up 31%
    Cheddar cheese prices, up 65%
    Nonfat dry milk prices, up 117%
    Broiler chickens, up 17.5%
    Beef, select, up 12.8%

    The reasons why
    The factors driving higher food prices are unlikely to go away any time soon:

    Ethanol. The ethanol boom has driven corn prices up 70% in a year. Now more land is planted in corn, and soybeans, wheat, oats, and barley are all up from 5% to 35%. Plus, higher corn prices mean higher prices for animals in the food chain that eat it - such as chickens, cows, and hogs. Corn is also a key ingredient in a long list of processed foods like breakfast cereal, and so far, producers have been able to pass these cost increases on - another sign of a fundamentally inflationary environment.
    Higher distribution costs. Energy hits on two fronts: It costs more to process food and it costs more to move it all to market.
    World demand. The "China effect" on energy prices has been well documented. But it also affects food. Food exports have grown as living standards in China, India and other growing economies have risen. That's good for the economy but not for prices.
    The good news is that for years food prices have declined as a percentage of income. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. families spent fully 43% of their incomes on food in 1901. By 1929 it had dropped to 24%, and by 2004 the figure was 14%.
    But as income growth slows and food prices increase, this happy long-term trend may be coming to an end.
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