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The Inconvenient Truth About Ethanol



  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    You don´t even know what "cerrado" is or where is located, and yet you post something related. Isn´t that rather silly?

    And to your information Brazil just passed a law prohibiting sugar cane to be grown on any other part than where it is ALREADY grown, south of the state of Sao Paulo.

    But did you know that? No, I think not.

    Now go to google and grab more data that will be quickly disproven.
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    Everyone in Brazil like ethanol because it is 1/2 the price of gasoline and because they know VERY well that it is not being grown in the Amazon forest, as disinformed people like you know.

    In fact, it does NOT grow well there, for there´s a local fungus (Mycovellosiella Koepkei) that kills it.

    So EVEN IF people down there wanted to plant it in the amazon, it would not grow well.

    And yet another disinformed person who was enlightened...
  • Steve EliasSteve Elias Posts: 2,185
    edited April 2010
    Thanks galonga.
    Your ongoing points about Brazil's ethanol program are well-taken.

    I agree that it is not very helpful to slam Brazil's ethanol program using USA-centric logic.
    To me it's fairly obvious that Brazil is doing something right with regard to ethanol - that they have found a nice optimization.
    Maybe USA can leverage some aspects of the Brazil program with or without sugar-cane. I can see how ethanol could help local markets even if it doesn't result in lowering oil imports overall.
    Maybe ethanol can help "corn belt" markets after/if the national USA ethanol mandate is removed...

    Nothing's going to be perfect - surely there have to be some issues with the Brazil ethanol system. But if it survives without subsidies or other govt scams & mandates, it's a fine thing!
    (Brazil waxes probably aren't necessarily perfect either, but let's let them succeed or fail on their own merits!!)
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    Actually you hit the sweet spot when you said "optimization".

    Brazil´s ethanol program is the result of 36 years of polishing a model that started with serious weakness.

    For example, it was mentioned about the burning of fields. Well, the big growers (AKA "COSAN") are no longer doing it because they found out it acidifies the terrain and it makes it more expensive for them to compensate for it than to buy machines to harvest.

    So it today the model works to the point that there is no more pure 100% gasoline (even the super-duper-premium-whatever has 24% ethanol) is because measures were taken with time to make it work.

    Whenif people in America stop arguing and start to TAKE ACTION some solution will of course be found.

    Thank you for your words: you understood it perfectly.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,802
    You are absolutely right, I know little about Brazil. I do know quite a bit about Florida, the problems they're having because of over development and over farming, and I know that adding appreciable sugar cane acreage to an already over-taxed ecosystem is a recipe for disaster. That was my point, which you apparently missed.
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    I believe your claim you know about Florida and I´m sorry to hear about its environmental problems.

    I lived there 6 years and don´t remember that, but that was so long ago this of course changed.

    I know sugarcane requires a relatively warm climate to grow and unfortunately only a few states in the US fit the bill, but if you look at some maps available on the internet on the amount of land in Brazil that grows it you´ll be surprised to see it´s not that much.

    And that´s because the plant can grow quite close together and therefore does not occupy as much space as corn, for example.
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    If you were given the choice between arab gasoline or brazilian ethanol to fuel America (not just your car but the WHOLE COUNTRY, we are talking MACRO here!) in the future, which one would you prefer?

    Please CHOOSE one: answers like "none", "both", "depends", "electric", etc are just pointless here: if you can´t choose better just to stay out of this one.

    And if you could provide the reasons for that´d be even better.

  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    edited April 2010
    Saudi (oil) Gasoline as it has more energy per gallon. Saudi diesel is even better.

    It is a rhetorical question as Brazil could not come close to powering the USA with Ethanol if your whole country was planted in Sugar Cane. Brazil would have to expand their ethanol production by 25 times to just replace our gasoline consumption.

    I got a better idea. You sell US your oil that will soon be online, and you can keep your ethanol for your own vehicles.

    It would take a huge fleet of diesel powered tanker trucks and trains to haul it to the points of sale as it is too corrosive for our pipeline systems.
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    You make an interesting point and I agree: as of now the brazilian ethanol production would not cover even half of the US needs for energy.

    And yes, it may actually happen Brazil ends up selling a lot of its newly discovered oil to the US.

    However, even that oil will also end, so unless a solution is found (may be using the entire brazilian soil for sugarcane, electric cars, nuclear, atomic, whatever..) the US will find itself in a pretty bad spot.

    The problem is the average american is too used to wasting energy and changing that would need a herculean effort.

    So you see, it´s not really a matter of WHAT fuel to use, but HOW to use it.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    On all those points I fully agree.

    I have a question for you. I know that Brazil has a lot of smaller vehicles that will run on E100. Which one gets the best MPG using 100% ethanol?

    I am looking for a small CUV that can go at 600-700 highway miles between refills. I like the VW Tiguan size.
  • Steve EliasSteve Elias Posts: 2,185
    It's a nonsense/silly/straw-man choice unless you include all the cost information, including the cost of switching the USA infrastructure of cars/power-plans/etc from oil to ethanol.

    Also it's silly unless you show that Brazil could reasonably have the capacity to sustain all the US energy needs.

    Unfortunately it's just an absurd straw man argument - or a FALSE DICHOTOMY.
    It's a fantasy and as such is not worthy of serious discussion or consideration. :(
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    I don´t get it: if the question is like you say "not worthy of serious discussion or consideration" why do you even bother to answer?

    Wouldn´t you rather spend your obviously very important time and relevant words into more profitable ventures?
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    In order for you to TRULY experience the power of ethanol you need a car designed EXCLUSIVELY for ethanol.

    Those will NOT run on gasoline (they are NOT "flex"), as their compression ratio is too high in order to take advantage of the ethanol´s 104 octane rating and thus extract more power.

    As far as I know Brazil is the only place where those cars are made.

    And it´s a pity, for once you try one of those, especially on high speeds and with the engine already warm, I can ASSURE you will NOT want to go back to gasoline.

    That being said, you will not get a good MPG out of ANY flex fuel car, and I don´t know the models in the US, so I can´t help you on that. :(
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Will the E100 only vehicles give high MPG or are they just faster? I want a highway vehicle that gets good mileage. I seriously considered going with LNG or CNG. The problem is fuel storage takes too much room to get good range. At least 500 Miles on a tank of fuel. The only thing sold in this country that gives great mileage and range is diesel vehicles. Unless you want the complexity of a hybrid.

    Speaking of supply of ethanol. Suppose the US government drops their silly tariff on Brazilian Ethanol and your country says the US wants it all. What happens to the cars in your country that will only run on ethanol? You do know that happened when sugar prices went way up about 20+ years ago.
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    The E100 vehicles give both high MPG and accelerate faster, but they don´t run faster than a gas car (especially because remember their compression is higher so the piston has to go up more)

    CNG gives up a great mileage but the conversion is expensive and prepare yourself for losing your trunk (because of the tank) and for not getting any acceleration whatsoever (so don´t try to overtake that truck in front of you when you can see another coming the opposite way!)

    As for the export, Brazil just dropped an import tariff on ethanol in hopes the US would follow suit, but as expected it didn´t.

    Only 2,4% of brazilian land is used for ethanol: you can be sure there´s plenty of room to grow more should the US wanted to buy it all. But I do agree it´d take a huge toll on the brazilian E100 car fleet.

    The good thing sugarcane grows quick and in less than a year is already ripe for cutting, so the problem would be solved fast.
  • Steve EliasSteve Elias Posts: 2,185
    for me, obviously it's worth pointing out the absurdly oversimplified false-dichotomy/straw-man, and beyond that not worth my time to seriously analyze it .

    If anyone really thinks ethanol is profitable in USA, they can step up and start a business based on that!
    Or maybe just *buy* some ethanol for your vehicle and vote-with-wallet that way?

    by the way, some of the folks who race GTOs and camaros convert them to E85 or maybe E100 - in order to increase power output.

    the more percentage of ethanol is used to "dilute" the gasoline, the more mpg drops. there is no escaping that fact as far as I understand.
    although I have seen recent/unbelievable/unverified/nonrepeatable press reports to the contrary!
  • Steve EliasSteve Elias Posts: 2,185
    galonga, if a car makes more power across the power-band, then it can go/accelerate/top-end faster, all else being equal.
    so the E100 cars should go faster than the same car set up for gasoline-only or "E10". (And with E100 there will be worse MPG.)

    Also, as far as I know those who convert their gas cars to E85 or E100 do not change how much the piston moves up and down (the "stroke").
    They may swap in custom/hot cams however , maybe to adjust the valve timing to optimize for ethanol.

    btw, Seems like we would agree that all tariffs and subsidies be eliminated for ethanol! Let the free market decide what ethanol-in-fuel is worth (if anything).
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    edited April 2010
    Not only you have not chosen a clear answer as the question clearly pointed out, but you even went into unrelated issues.

    If you don´t value your time that´s too bad for you, but I value mine and thus I´m not going to lose track of the discussion I started with your totally unrelated arguments about camaros and what not.

    So I suggest you create a thread for them, and leave this discussion as you clearly can´t add anything to it.
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    Claiming power or speed solely on the basis on the type of fuel being used is a gross oversimplification, as you can get widely different measures with just some simple changes in gear ratios.

    However, any E100 driver will tell you that ethanol DOES deliver more power and even speed when hot.

    Actually I just read an interesting story about a presidential driver in Brazil that said that after the presidential car was transformed to ethanol it outran the other security cars. You are welcome to read it here (portuguese though)

    And yes, we do agree let the market decide and not subsidies and such.
  • Steve EliasSteve Elias Posts: 2,185
    in fact i have started different threads & subject lines - trying to have some discussions/threads which do not involve the false-dichotomy/straw-man/invalid/false-implicit-assumptions question you posed earlier. Folks can reply to whichever threads interest them.

    I mentioned "all else being equal" - to try to highlight yet another area where we may actually agree - that ethanol can be used to increase *performance* for racers. But hey, I'm sure we can find a reason to disagree on that if we keep digging. :shades: !
  • newdavidqnewdavidq Posts: 146
    Have enjoyed reading your spirited presentation of the case in favor of Ethanol as a fuel for autos. An inescapable fact though is that 1 gal of ethanol contains about 80,000 BTUs and 1 gallon of gasoline contains about 120,000 BTUs. This is an important fact to take into consideration when comparing and contrasting the two liquid fuels.

    When you say that E100 delivers more power and speed when hot, what exactly does that mean? More speed and power that a gasoline powered engine? There are so may variables involved that such a statement is virtually meaningless.

    Take two vehicles of the same weight, same aerodynamics, same tires, and similar engines, put a gallon of each type of fuel in each and drive them at the same speed until the fuel runs out; which one will perform more work (distance travelled)?

    All of this discussion is academic as long as it costs more to drive a mile with ethanol than is does with gasoline. It's just that simple. And today's gasoline engines are so efficient that their exhaust is cleaner than the air in Bejing on a warm summer day.

    Regards, DQ
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    The problem is the average american is too used to wasting energy and changing that would need a herculean effort.

    I would love to get 30 MPG instead of the 15 MPG I currently am allowed to get. There are powers in the US that block US from using our resources more efficiently. That gets me back to a question you have sidestepped. So I will be more precise. If I were in Brazil and bought a VW Jetta Sportwagen designed to run on E100. How many miles would I get per gallon of Ethanol (E100)? I am assuming that VW is still the largest automaker in Brazil. So there should be plenty of data on the subject.

    You can probably tell I am a big fan of diesel and especially biodiesel. I consider Corn ethanol a big waste of cropland.
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    Just like you can´t fuel a regular gasoline car with diesel, you can´t fuel a regular gasoline car with ethanol.

    That because it requires higher compression ratios to function properly.

    So all things being equal as you say is just nonsense and therefore not "just that simple".

    Now, if you want to find pure ethanol cars you have to go to Brazil: sorry but true.

    Now, if you want a flex car (a piece of garbage compared to an ethanol car) you are free to choose among the ones available in the US.

    But be prepared to be disappointed, as those cars are nothing more than patchworks meant to please everyone and no one when it comes to fuels and their performance, emissions, etc sucks when compared to pure ethanol cars.
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    As for the jetta, I´m not even going to answer that myself as of course I could say just about any cool number I could think of and I don´t think that car exists in Brazil anyways.

    So I´ll ask you to point to -numa-flex-enrolation.htm

    There you´ll find the text "Não compro carro zero hoje apesar de ter condições pois não existem carros puramente a álcool. O meu carrinho é um velho 1.6 AE alcool de 14 anos. No Manual .. Consumo 13 km/l e incrível faz. Além de tudo anda muito bem. Já cheguei a 170 km/h muitas vezes."

    which means

    "I do not buy a new car today even though I have the cash because I can´t find pure ethanol cars. My car is an old 14 year old 1.6 AE ethanol powered. In manual mode it makes up to 13 kms per liter. Besides, it runs quite well. I´ve reached 170 km/h several times"

    This proves all that I´ve been saying, for if you think 13 kms per liter is not enough savings you are truly a dreamer.

    And btw I´m also a big fan of biodiesel and I also think corn ethanol is a BAD idea. America should put aside its fear of sugarcane and grow it anywhere it sees fit.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    As for the jetta, I´m not even going to answer that myself as of course I could say just about any cool number I could think of and I don´t think that car exists in Brazil anyways.

    Sure they do. VW is the biggest automaker in Brazil. If I could read their site I could probably figure out what kind of mileage they get with E100.

    In manual mode it makes up to 13 kms per liter.

    You are right, that is pretty lousy mileage. About 30 MPG is not going to win over the US to Ethanol. Maybe you can grow more soybeans and sell US biodiesel. We can get 50+ MPG with many of the smaller diesel vehicles sold. And they do not have to be converted. Just dump biodiesel in the tank and away you go.

    America should put aside its fear of sugarcane and grow it anywhere it sees fit.

    No fear of growing Sugar Cane. Just very little land where it will grow. It is a tropical plant. We would be lucky to grow enough sugar cane to power 100 cars on E100.
  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America I70 & I75 Posts: 23,285
    >Now, if you want a flex car (a piece of garbage compared to an ethanol car) you are free to choose among the ones available in the US.

    How many of the FlexFuel cars have you driven in Brazil?

    2015 Cruze 2LT, 2014 Malibu 2LT, 2008 Cobalt 2LT

  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    "No fear of growing Sugar Cane. Just very little land where it will grow. It is a tropical plant. We would be lucky to grow enough sugar cane to power 100 cars on E100."

    Suppose it was NOT a tropical plant and it could be cultivated exactly where corn is grown today? Do you think the public and the environmentalists would allow the producers to switch crops?

    Not a chance! They´d claim that america would not be able to feed its own people, that they would not get tacos, cheetos, burritos, and what not.

    It is like an american woman told me once: "Face it! We are a CORN country!"

    So it´s a CULTURAL thing. It´s like asking the average american to eat chicken instead of turkey for thanksgiving.

    Actually, the WHOLE energy problem in the US is merely CULTURAL. People don´t want to change and they make up BS excuses to keep their status quo.

    So it´s not the fact it is a tropical plant. As a matter of fact, it is GREAT it is a tropical plant, for that means the US can get away with that argument to not changing for that crop.

    As for the ethanol mileage, may I remind you that the price of E100 is HALF of gasoline in Brazil, so it´s like you got 26 kms per liter of gasoline or maybe more since ethanol gives 77% of the gasoline power.

    So you are wrong: it is a GREAT mileage.

    As for the VW site, you can always try google translator.
  • galongagalonga Posts: 50
    I lived 20 years there and ONLY had ethanol and flex cars. Enough for you?
  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America I70 & I75 Posts: 23,285
    >I lived 20 years there and ONLY had ethanol and flex cars.

    Where is the "there" that you reference? In the US? Brazil?

    >Enough for you?

    Depends on clarification.

    2015 Cruze 2LT, 2014 Malibu 2LT, 2008 Cobalt 2LT

  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    edited April 2010
    Our friend in Brazil has some strange ideas about US citizens. He does not realize that we will raise any crop that will make US money. Has nothing to do with our culture. It has to do with money and more importantly climate. Sugar Cane will only grow well in certain climates. Brazil being one of the best for sugar cane. Most of our areas are not frost free or wet enough for Sugar cane to grow. Hawaii was good climate for Sugar, just not practical for machine farming. The steep cane fields required burning to harvest. That is more polluting than using fossil fuel to run our vehicles. If he is happy with whatever he drives and the cost of his fuel. That is great. Ethanol is not practical with our system of subsidies and tariffs. Our friend needs to read this primer on Sugar Cane.

    Sugarcane is grown in the world from altitude 36.7° N and 31.0° S, from sea level to 1000m of altitude or little more. It is considered as essentially a tropical plant. It is a long duration crop and thus it encounters all the seasons' viz., rainy, winter and summer during its life cycle.

    Those hoping for some miracle crop like switch grass to save US from buying foreign oil better do some more research.
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