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The Inconvenient Truth About Ethanol

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Comments

  • nascar57nascar57 Posts: 47
    Sugarbeets are a decent crop to look at for getting ethanol. They do yield considerably higher gal/ac. than corn does currently. The major drawback is that sugar beets are basically raised in 3 localized parts of the US, they are not grown all over this country like corn, so that really limits the number of plants that could be built. Add to the fact that sugar beet growers receive a fairly high price for their sugar currently, It would be interesting for me to see how the cost situation would be. Sugar beets are also a very input intensive crop to raise and require specialized harvesting equipment, that it would take grower commitments to get a plant built and would require alot of acres in those commitments. But yes, this would be quite more efficient. The major goal is cellulosic, if they can get the enzymes needed at a feasible price we could see gains from currently 450-500 gallons/acre jump up to 1500-1750 gallons per acre. Now that would be something cool, to produce that much right here in the US.
  • oldguy70oldguy70 Posts: 97
    More on the subject.
    I talked earlier about combined cycle ethanol plants. (Our host deleted it??)
    These are operations which integrate cogen electrical power, ethanol production, animal feed from byproduct, cattle feed lots, methane collection to fuel boilers or turbines---in other words highly efficient operations from start to finish.
    There are a few of these types of integrated operations(one in fact, in our area)which are quite impressive in how they work--and they do work, believe it or not.
    So there are innovative ways to make the stuff.
    Downsides, upsides---depends on who you talk to.
    Like I said, we need something right now to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.
    We also have to send the OPEC and Kyoto crowd a message--we're serious about alternative fuels.
    For the moment, ethanol beats what's in second place.
    A long term commitment?? I can't say--yet.
    The same applies to all the pro/con advocates.

    Nascar57
    Your sugar beet alternative sounds good to me--a viable alternative maybe in the future--too bad we stopped producing much of it 35 or 40 years ago. Cheap imports killed it.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    These are operations which integrate cogen electrical power, ethanol production, animal feed from byproduct, cattle feed lots, methane collection to fuel boilers or turbines---in other words highly efficient operations from start to finish.

    From my perspective "highly efficient" shouldn't require any subsidies.

    Here's my question. Do you live in a region that receives funding for ethanol production? If the answer is yes then my second question is, "why is this funding necessary when ethanol production is so efficient"?
  • oldguy70oldguy70 Posts: 97
    No, the region I live in doesn't receive funding for ethanol. The plant did though.
    Corn producers here also do--they always have (at least for the past 30 years) received subsidies to help them survive when prices were low, which was most of the time.
    Corn prices in the past have been really poor as you may know. One of the reasons for ethanol subsidies was to create a bigger market for corn.
    The ethanol plant here was subsidized--two ways. The first was a direct inflow of cash to build it. The second was a relief from federal excise taxes applied way back when only beverage alcohol was the norm. Every proof gallon of distilled spirits was (and still is) taxed federally--the ethanol guys are now relieved of this tax because their alcohol is being used industrially.
    As regards your question about "efficiency". Efficiency is relative in this instance.
    Cost to make a gallon of ethanol is still higher than a gallon of gasoline, even though a given plant may be "highly efficient".
    Ethanol producers are doing everything they can to bring the cost of production down to compare with gasoline--the improvements I mentioned are some techniques in the works today. They're getting closer all the time.
    Additionally, the OPEC gang is helping to solve the cost differential--unfortunately for us just now!
    The good news is that if the cost of oil keeps rising, the cost of ethanol may ultimately be lower than gasoline--all things being equal.
    "Why is funding necessary?" Well, you'll have to ask the legislators that question to get a complete answer--there is more than one reason I'm sure.
    I can only provide some. I already mentioned a few reasons. A few more might be as follows.
    Corn producers have been lobbying for subsidy increases for years. Ethanol sort of relieved the Govt. of having to do so--for obvious reasons.
    The oil dependency issue may have added some impetus to the subsidy decision--we needed an answer fast, because it'll be some time before alternative energy sources are developed.
    Hope the foregoing answers some of your questions.

    PS. Will somebody inform Gagrice that I really do know a little about this subject?? ;)
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I read all the posts. And found this one very balanced.
  • oldguy70oldguy70 Posts: 97
    Thanks. I sincerely hope you won't take it so personally if I challenge any of your posts in the future.
    Off the subject--a question. Somewhere you said you live in California or Hawaii (I think).
    What time do you get up in the morning--it's still awful early there right now?
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I'm not easily offended after all these years on Edmund's. I really try not to offend anyone. I do have strong feelings on some things. My opinions are subject to change.

    I live in San Diego and never get up later than 5 AM. I do most of my computer playing while my wife sleeps then we have 5 acres of tropical plants and citrus trees to maintain. I work harder being retired than I did working in Prudhoe.
    Our place in Hawaii is an anthurium farm. It is rented out to the people that sell the flowers. My farm in MN is leased out also.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Corn prices in the past have been really poor as you may know.

    Why do you think that is? Is it possible that these misguided government programs have resulted in over production? So now the government is in the position that they need to manipulate the market in an effort to offset the effects of their previous manipulations.
  • easym1easym1 Posts: 218
    http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2007/05/02/tech-sorghum.html

    There's an article at the above site that our friends might find useful. This is supposed to be better than corn.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    If these new, improved feedstocks for ethanol production are best grown in non-traditional farming regions it will be interesting to see how this impacts the view of the current corn based ethanol advocates. If you're in favor of ethanol production as a way to reduce oil dependency then how can you not be more in favor of a more efficient method of ethanol production? I can think of one reason.
  • oldguy70oldguy70 Posts: 97
    I am fully aware why corn prices have been poor in the past.
    The essence of my post was about ethanol, as opposed corn prices affected by ethanol.
    Government subsidies and their causes/effects is a whole 'nuther topic--and one which is worth being concerned about. However, this is an automotive forum.
    Suffice to say that government too often tries to solve a problem with politically advantagious solutions, and invariably creates several more problems as a result.
    Is it a question of hopeless attemps at problem solving, or an exercise in job security?
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Hmmm..., apparently our government feels that driving up the price of food is a more effective way of reducing our oil consumption. However, since we do have a problem with obesity in this country this might not be such a bad idea.

    http://money.cnn.com/2007/06/19/news/economy/commodity_prices/index.htm?postversion=2007061915

    There probably are people in congress that are starting to realize that the creation of these pro-ethanol policies have led to some unexpected and unwanted consequences. And have they produced any positive results? Unfortunately congress is a lot better at creating boondoggles than they are at eliminating them.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I listened to a Wisconsin Farmer on talk radio this morning. He felt that the mandate on ethanol that was driving the price of corn toward $5 per bushel was not good for the country. He has cut back on other crops to grow more corn like most of his neighbors. His point was the ethanol push is causing shortages in Soybeans, wheat and other crops. Not only is it pushing the price of food up. It is opening the door for more food to come in from other countries. His parting statement: "Would you rather buy your food or your fuel from other countries"? With the current pet food problem from Chinese food products, it makes me wonder what we are in for. I would rather put foreign produced fuel in my gas tank than questionable foreign food in my stomach.
  • nascar57nascar57 Posts: 47
    My lord, do you think $4 milk is as bad as $3 gas??? How many gallons of milk a week does a family go through. Id say 2 maybe 3, that increase is probably $4-6 extra. HOLY, I would say that the increase is gas is alot more hurtful to us than a 5-10% rise in food prices. Rewind your minds to 2001, we have experienced a 300% RISE in gas prices. Thats where the problem is, the high prices of corn and other crops have been brought about by us finally realizing that we need an alternative. This is not all time highs for corn, go back to 1996, corn topped around $5.50, factor in inflation, we should be close to $7. This isnt the end of the world, the extra money you spend on food this year is going straight back to the American farmer, whereas in the past the massive rise in gas prices have sent your money to our oil masters in Saudi Arabia. It just makes me laugh at crap like this, the oil companies will do anything to put a damper on an alternative to their overpriced petro. Its about time that food prices actually rise, we have gotten too spoiled, but remember a 10% rise or 300% THINK ABOUT IT!
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    What happens when we do not raise enough soybeans to satisfy the US market? We buy from another country that may use human waste as fertilizer. I do not think you are looking at the whole picture. There is a shortage of ethanol to meet the mandate of 2.9% in every gallon of gas. I know that is good for the farmer as he can charge more for the corn and it is passed to the consumer. What happens if all the land is in corn and it does not satisfy the mandate? This is a Congressional mandate with no hope of being met. I know you will try to sell enough seed to meet the demand. We do not have enough land to grow enough corn to make a difference in the big fuel picture. It is only going to cause disruptions in food and gas. I am not worried about the price of corn going to $7 as much as not having the crops we need to feed our country. You seem to be saying we can raise enough corn, wheat and soybeans to satisfy our hunger for food and enough ethanol to meet the mandate. I think you are wrong. I have not read one study that would back up that thinking.

    I have to question your percentages. I do remember when I was farming in the late 1970s that fuel oil for my tractor and heating oil went up to $1.56 per gallon. What would that be in todays dollars? I was only getting 90 bushels to the acre in a good year. I do worry about the little farmers that are being gobbled up by big ag corporations.

    I also have no sympathy for the mega farmers with thousands of acres that get subsidized when corn prices are low. I think that is the camp you are in, so this conversation has little to do with fairness to the farmers.
  • nascar57nascar57 Posts: 47
  • nascar57nascar57 Posts: 47
    You are so off the point here. I come from a 4000 acre farm. Here in my state we have rules against corporate farming. I am not for that one bit. I can tell you from personal experience this year as an AG loan officer that EVERY farmer, no matter the size, is benefitting from this biofuels boom. Currently no, we do not have enough capacity to put a major dent in our oil consumption, but my laying the ground work, the technology is being developed to greatly enhance the chance of us making a dent in the consumption. What you remember in the 1970's was the russian grain embargo, which like I have said before was a supply disruption. I have read that the historical high in 1981 for gasoline is equivalent to $3.29 today with inflation. Wow, we are pretty much there. I can remember up until 2001, the diesel fuel we were running our tractors off of was $.91/gallon (Red Diesel), today that same red diesel sells for $2.65 per gallon. Today's tractors hold 250-300 gallons, come on, tell me we dont need to get more for our commodities. And the comment that farmers charge for their commodities, I WISH, I would be making a killing if that were the case, a farmer is a price taker, the market determines price and it is up to farmer to manage that to his advantage. The mega farms you hear about are the ones in the southern US, up here in North and South Dakota, there isnt an mega corporate farms, we are states full of family run farms that ALL benefit directly from this revolution. Trust me Gagrice, I have seen first hand what the seed companies have coming in the future for high ethanol yield corn and corn that can survive and grow with half as much water, also corn that puts nitrogen into the ground as it is growing. I have seen this and there are even wilder things being developed to help commodities be both food and fuel.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I hope you are right.
  • nascar57nascar57 Posts: 47
    Hey Guys, this is not in the debate on biofuels, but there is a new fuel additive that is causing alot of excitement here in the heartland. This product is made in Minnesota and it is called CA40G. It is a fuel additive that works with any fuel(Gas, Diesel, E85) It has been consistently delivering a 10-15% increase in fuel economoy instantly. There is a web site to visit if you would like to learn more www.ca40g. com I have friends that have run this in their pickups and have instantly gone from 17 mpg to 18.5-19 mpg by simply adding this. My gallon is on order and on the way, but this would be pretty cool if we could instantly achieve even 10% better economy right now. Take a look, its very interesting.
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    Its about time that food prices actually rise, we have gotten too spoiled, but remember a 10% rise or 300% THINK ABOUT IT!

    We also got spoiled by extremely low gasoline prices that were available during certain periods in the last 20 years. We quickly assumed that they were here to stay and went out and bought big trucks/SUVs and adopted lifestyles that involved driving 20k miles per year. Oops, turned out not to be such a bright idea.

    Also, when you cite a 300% increase you are comparing a valley to a peak. Fuel prices have become volatile in the last 8 years and if you choose the right period you can come up with some pretty impressive inflation/deflation numbers. In 2007 dollars fuel prices went down about 65% from 1981 to 2001.

    Here's a historical chart of CA gasoline prices adjusted for inflation. I don't see anything all that alarming about the price we are currently paying. Also, when you take into consideration we have far more efficient vehicles than we did 40 years ago gasoline's impact on our budget becomes even less of a factor. Maybe this is why $3/gallon gasoline hasn't really caused us to cut back much on driving because the reality is that it's just not that expensive.

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/gasoline/statistics/nytimes_gasoline_price.jpg

    BTW, when is this increased ethanol production going to start impacting how much oil we import, or even slow the growth?
  • kyfdxkyfdx Everywhere, USAPosts: 126,124
    Maybe you put the whole gallon of additive in, but don't add it to the number of gallons?

    Maybe it is just fun with math.. :surprise: ;)

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  • texasestexases Posts: 8,889
    Some great quotes from the web site:

    "the calcium bonds to hydrocarbons within the fuel causing a more efficient burn of the fuel" Since when was calcium a part of combustion?

    "Usually only about half of the hydrocarbons in fuel are burned in an internal combustion engine." :surprise: If this doesn't set off your BS detector, I don't know what will!
  • tpetpe Posts: 2,342
    It's right to be skeptical about these claims for higher mileage but I have come across one that really seems legit. Unfortunately it only works for people that are currently using E85. The additive is widely available, it's called gasoline.
  • jkinzeljkinzel Posts: 735
    I have very serious doubts about anyone telling me the virtue of something that is taking the money out of my pocket. There is really nothing you can tell me that is going convince me that lower mileage and higher food prices are a good thing for Americans.
    If ethanol is going to be so good for the farmers then they will no longer need government subsidies and the tax payers can use the tax savings to help buy food.
  • jkinzeljkinzel Posts: 735
    "the calcium bonds to hydrocarbons within the fuel causing a more efficient burn of the fuel" Since when was calcium a part of combustion?

    Well texases, maybe our cars will have stronger bones :P
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 9,202
    If you can't disagree without trying to insult each other, we'll have to pursue other options to stop this behavior.

    Again, I'm removing posts where comments are directed at other users. This stops now.

    Edmunds Moderator

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  • nascar57nascar57 Posts: 47
    Come on guys, give it a chance. This stuff really does work. Various radio stations and tv channels have had specials about this all over the tri-state region up here. I just used it in my 07 Silverado today. I made the same trip I did yesterday to Grand Forks, ND. Yesterday without the CA40, I averaged 18.1, today WITH the additive I averaged 20.1. Alot of farmers up here have started using it in their tractors and multiple truck stops and gas stations are now selling this product. Its backed with a 2 million dollar insurance policy. The developers have stated on radio and tv that they will NOT be selling out to any oil companies. Apparently a few have already approached about acquiring this. Im sure it would never see the light of day again. But lets not just disregard something that currently WORKS to increase fuel economy.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 9,202
    The subject here is ethanol, not fuel additives.

    A better place to discuss additives would be over on the Automotive News & Views board in a discussion like What will you do when gas price rises above $4 a gallon?

    Edmunds Moderator

    Silver 2012 Nissan Versa Hatchback & White 2019 Nissan Rogue S

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  • texasestexases Posts: 8,889
    or "fuel and oil additives" in the maintenance section...
  • nascar57nascar57 Posts: 47
    Alright, the only reason I brought it up is because it works with ETHANOL. It makes it more efficient by simply adding this to it. Wont speak of it anymore
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