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The Inconvenient Truth About Ethanol

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Comments

  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    You have to remember that the guys on this forum including the hosts have tested many additives over the years. Most are tied in with some sort of pyramid and end up costing more than the gas saved. Many are just snakeoil salesmen that think they have a captive market here on Edmund's. You have to ask yourself. Can you buy this stuff at Napa or Walmart? If not it is probably a scam.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Here is a Bio-Ethanol car I would buy TODAY if it were available in the USA. But only Europe for now I'm afraid !!!

    Coolness !!!!

    image
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,826
    My brother works in the ethanol industry. When I asked him about this news item, here's his response: "Gasification is a known technology and probably the best way to convert lignocellusosics like wood waste. To get a government grant to reprove this is ludicrous!" So don't get too excited about it, looks more like a government grant grab.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    As soon as I read the $76 million dollar grant it started to make more sense. Our government will never learn to let the private sector solve the problems facing us. I guess it is better than grants to study the sex life of 4 toed frogs.
  • fezofezo Manahawkin, NJPosts: 10,357
    Well, if they throw grant money on the sex life of 4 toed frogs at least you know they aren't funding work the private sector would do otherwise....
    2013 Mazda 5 Grand Touring, 2010 Toyota Prius IV. 2007 Toyota Camry XLE, 2004 Toyota Camry LE, 1999 Mazda Miata
  • Lets do our homework folks. Crop growers (corn espeacially) are getting rich by buying politicians to pass legislation allowing this "miracle" fuel additive to eek it's way into the market. Passing a basic chemistry class will allow one to see that anything taking 6 units of energy to produce and only putting out one unit of energy is not efficient. When mixed with gasoline (octane levels 87 to 93) it creates a 60 to 70 percent energy loss (65 is a good median)when energy to produce factors are measured and weighed. Brazil enjoys knocking down the jungle to harvest anything vegetative to produce ethanol, and yeilds the same BTU results. Their farmers and government have the same ideas as ours, getting rich at the ignorance of it's citizens. It's funny how the same politicians that love ethanol levy embargos that would double the cost of the consumer in America to purchase it from Brazil. And our farmers are getting rich. See a pattern anybody. Maybe the fact I'm and accounting major (who understands numbers and a financial screwjob when I see one)who's father is an energy conservation engineer is what allows me to see the finacial circus as well as the energy juggling act. Or maybe I just have common sense and know when a bunch of propaganda is slapping me in the face. Ethanol is chemical that simply costs more to make than it produces (energy) and will never be anything but a temporary way for farmers and politicians to get rich. It's a simple matter of numbers and linear time. As long as it takes 6 times to produce than what it puts out, we as a nation will consume what is used to make it faster than it can be reproduced (don't need a botany class to know that)and will continue to lose crops and vegetation faster than it can be reproduced (another loss) while a few get richer. It wont be a dramatic rate, but take in all the variables and it's trouble. But by all means, lets not use our thinking caps. Don't let a few extra miles per gallon fool us. You may see the benefit in your travels or wallet, but it's meant to enrich a few by fooling the many. Fossil fuels will for the forseeable future be the only means of energy use that takes less to produce than it puts out. THINK MCFLY, THINK!
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    You are preaching to one of the folks that is getting rich off the ethanol boondoggle. Hard to argue with someone that only sees the green backs rolling in.

    We have a lot of "inconvenient truths" in our society today. Most are get rich quick schemes that are sold by politicians.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,826
    Did you see "Mallard Fillmore" this morning?

    Ethanol Comic
  • jd10013jd10013 Posts: 779
    Wow, amazing when food goes up 8%, the complaining starts right away

    as it should. Do you have any idea how many (especially poor) countries rely on corn exports from the US to feed their people?
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Grain is one of the few things we export besides jobs. Now we are using our crops for fuel and still importing as much foreign oil. Not too bright.
  • nascar57nascar57 Posts: 47
  • nascar57nascar57 Posts: 47
    I would really urge you to do more research into this. It is no longer the case with the newer ethanol plants. The energy yield is upwards of 1.3-1.4:1 in the newer plants. Im geussin that with your calculation, you probably include sunlight and all the other absurb "energy" sources that anti ethanol people include. This bio-fuel deal is here to stay, sorry to burst your bubble. It IS good for American farmers and it DOES provide an alternative fuel supply to people such as myself that run flexible fuel vehicles. Gagrice has said this before, but it is doing wonders for the heartland and yes I agree with him that the availability out in california is a huge issue and this needs to be addressed. But the issue of 6:1 is absolutely ridiculous and proven false. And by using some more of these commodities actually allows the price to go out to a level that farmers need it to be at to make a decent living. Before ethanol, the world had such large carry-outs in grain inventories that it forced prices lower and stayed low, which is not what farmers need. The key to sustaining high prices is new markets and uses for commodities and that is just what this is doing. My 2 cents, you all know where I stand and I know where you stand, but that comment of 6 to 1 was so ridiculous I had to comment. Take it EZ, Buy American!
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I would prefer to buy American. Especially the food I eat. More and more it is coming from other countries because we are planting all our crop land in Corn for fuel. BIG MISTAKE.

    I would like to see any data that proves you get 1.3 units of ethanol energy for one unit of fossil fuel. The most pro ethanol study I have read was 1.2 gallons of ethanol to each gallon equivelant. of fossil fuel. Does that include all the heavy use of fossil fertilizer? It also does not address the 3 gallons of water used for each gallon of ethanol produced.

    Around here I pay more for water than gasoline. My water bill for last month $109. We don't have enough fresh water to waste it on ethanol production.
  • jd10013jd10013 Posts: 779
    This bio-fuel deal is here to stay, sorry to burst your bubble. It IS good for American farmers and it DOES provide an alternative fuel supply to people such as myself that run flexible fuel vehicles.

    now you do realize that if the entire corn crop of the US were turned into ethanol, it would only replace about 15% of the gasoline being used? and we would have no corn to eat, feed to livestock, or export. and, I think I read somewhere that it takes 5 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of ethanol.

    its a pipe dream. will never be a replacement for fossile fuels, and its time to stop wasting money on it, and direct that money to realistic alternatives
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I might add the 15% we replace will be lost on lower mileage and the fact that a few benefit by us all paying more for gas is also a big negative in my mind.

    I would hate to see our country denuded to plant corn as is happening in Brazil with the rain forest. Iowa is already something like 93% planted in crops that was once a huge hardwood forest. When all things are taken into consideration I believe corn ethanol will be scrapped as it was in the 1980s. A few companies will pocket billions and we will pay the bill AGAIN.
  • jd10013jd10013 Posts: 779
    and this stupid ethanol craze is actually causing the price of gasoline to go up. All the major oil companies are now delaying or canceling plans to increase production/refining capabilities. Why? Because Bush and the congress have set these ridiculous goals of reducing oil consumption by 10% in 2020. It cost billions to build or expand a refinery, and if the governments official policy is to REDUCE use, then no oil CEO in his right mind would spend billions to build facilities that won't be needed.
  • jd10013jd10013 Posts: 779
    would hate to see our country denuded to plant corn as is happening in Brazil with the rain forest. Iowa is already something like 93% planted in crops that was once a huge hardwood

    thats part of the problem too. there isn't a whole lot of farmable land in the US that isn't being used. on top of that, you can't plant more than once a year, and you can't keep planting the same crop on the same field. If either of those are done, the farmers will burn out the soil, and we'll have another dust bowl out west.

    corn yields could be increased some, but nowhere near what it would take to replace gasoline.
  • actualsizeactualsize Santa Ana, CaliforniaPosts: 451
    After a quick read of all of the posts on this thread, I'm surprised that Edmunds' own June 6th E85 vs. Gasoline performance test hasn't made an appearance.

    Twitter: @Edmunds_Test

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I'm very disappointed that on E85 is actually ran half a second slower to 60mph.

    I've driven several alhocol powered cars in Brazil and I swear they felt more powerful than similar gas ones.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,826
    Are the Brazil cars ethanol-only? If so, they could raise the compression ratio (ethanol can handle higher compression), yielding more power. Can't do that on flex-fuels, though. C/D had an article describing the use of ethanol in a high-compression turbo. Regular gas until the tubo kicks in, then ethanol added, with supposed higher overall efficiency, but requires 2 tanks. Wasn't ethanol injection used in WW2 to increase engine output for some turbocharged/supercharged fighters (Me-109, IIRC)?

    Edit-it was the Me-109, it was a 50:50 methanol-water mix on some of the supercharged ones.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Back then they were, yes. Both my brothers and my mom owned such cars in the late 80s and early 90s.

    They switched to gas powered cars, but now the trend is back towards Flex-Fuel. Haven't driven those.
  • actualsizeactualsize Santa Ana, CaliforniaPosts: 451
    Was that Brazilian car a flex-fuel model, or one designed to run on ethanol exclusively?

    Because of the lack of E85 infrastructure, our flex-fuel Tahoe must be capable of running on 87-octane gasoline most of the time. As a result, the compression ratio and other fixed engine design parameters cannot be optimized to 103-octane E85.

    But things wouldn't change much. According to spread sheets developed to score the upcoming Automotive X-Prize competition, gasoline contains 116,090 Btu/gallon while E85 contains just 82,295 Btu/gallon - 29% less. Equivalent performance will always require more E85 to be burned.

    Twitter: @Edmunds_Test

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Ethanol only, I believe. They did mix in gas during warm-up, though. I remember seeing my brother fill up a small reservoir with gas.

    The surprise is that with E85 it's slower. Not the same, but slower.
  • texasestexases Posts: 8,826
    Well, it's not a big difference, maybe the engine control's not quite optimized for E85. You would think they could be made to be equal (performance, not economy).
  • actualsizeactualsize Santa Ana, CaliforniaPosts: 451
    Yes. The reality is that 99% of the time (a nationwide basis guess-timate), gasoline will be burned. The MPG window sticker ratings are based on gasoline. So it behooves GM to favor gasoline when making any calibration decisions.

    Twitter: @Edmunds_Test

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Well, given the big deal GM makes out of it, plus the heavy Live Green Go Yellow advertising, you'd think they would optimize it for E85. At least to get equivalent performance, if not better.
  • actualsizeactualsize Santa Ana, CaliforniaPosts: 451
    Yeah, but that's the unspoken rap about ehtanol - it has less BTU per gallon, period. Oval track racers have known about it for years. Sure they can make more power, but they have to burn more fuel to do it.

    They can't put the compression ratio in the Flex-Fuel Tahoe that 103-octane E85 could take advantage of because then the engine couldn't run on regular gas (or even premium). It is impossible for them to optimize (read dedicate) an engine for E85 until the fuel is available at at least as many pumps as diesel is found today. How many years has it taken Brazil to get to that point?

    Twitter: @Edmunds_Test

  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I think if you check into Brazil ethanol supplies about 20% of their fuel needs and 80% oil. The reason they are oil independent is a huge new find of petroleum. They have destroyed a lot of the rainforest to get where they are with ethanol.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 8,995
    Biofuel Boom Driving Up Pasta Prices
    In the latest biofuels-related hike, a poor wheat harvest amid rising demand from fuel makers is expected to boost pasta prices 20%
    http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/jul2007/gb20070711_634563.htm

    Now it does go on to save that biofuels aren't the only factor in the price increases, but this rush towards biofuels is certainly affecting commodity pricing already.

    Just my two cents, but we really kind of need food. Just because we can make a fuel out of what we would otherwise eat doesn't mean we should.

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