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ethanol again

vie reddit, this rolling stone article:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/15635751/ethanol_scam_ethanol_hurts_the_environment_and_is_one_of_americas_biggest_political_boondoggles

(Holy fucking batshit, I love their url system.)

Excerpt:

> Midwest farmers will get rich, the air will be cleaner, the planet will be cooler, and, best of all, we can tell those greedy sheiks to fuck off. As the king of ethanol hype, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, put it recently, "Everything about ethanol is good, good, good."

> This is not just hype -- it's dangerous, delusional bullshit. Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper.



I assume we all are on board with this, that corn ethanol is the road to destruction, but just in case anyone isn't aware this is all a farm welfare scam, the article covers most the bases.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 31st, 2007 12:52am
You can pass and break any laws you want, but you can't break the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

Our electoral college is so fucked up.
Permalink LeftWingPharisee 
July 31st, 2007 5:37am
*sigh*

1) Cars optimized to run on E85 make more power than petrol versions with the same engine. If E85 or full-ethanol fuel becomes mainstream, new designs can achieve higher efficiency at the same levels of performance.

2) It's not the CO2 that's evil, despite what Tony Blair tells you, it's nitrogen oxides, which come from additives to the petrol. Ethanol being a pure, short-chain hydrocarbon, will be far better in this regard.

3) It's the wrong question anyway, because the "clean" aspect of ethanol is in the fact that the plant matter absorbs CO2 when it grows. Yes, the fuel still burns dirty, but the cycle itself is cleaner.

4) It's highly disingenuous to dismiss biofuel altogether because it won't work well as a bolt-on to the current farm economy. You don't grow biomass in the same way as food grain. You can use whatever fucking pesticides and fertilizers you want, it's all going to combust anyway - and you don't need Midwest farmland to do it. You can get biomass out of invincible grass growing like fuck in deserts. Doesn't matter, as long as it's carbon-based.
Permalink Send private email Flasher T 
July 31st, 2007 7:05am
It's really annoying to me because there is a limited amount of natural gas in the world:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/international/reserves.html

Wasting it to make fertilizer to grow corn to make ethanol is crazy when they could just run LPG cars instead and have more left over at the end.

Also natural gas is pretty necessary to maintain current world food production. Hastening the day when we run out for ethanol is just a poor use. Who wants to drive their car when they are emaciated.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 31st, 2007 7:20am
Flash, a gallon of ethanol has 2/3 the energy storage as a gallon of gas. Mixing it with 15% gas doesn't change this much. You need more than a gallon of ethanol to drive the distance you would with a gallon of gas.

"the plant matter absorbs CO2 when it grows"

And then when it decays?
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 31st, 2007 7:23am
"rising food prices caused by the demand for ethanol and other biofuels could cause as many as 600 million more people to go hungry worldwide."

actually I think that is total crap.

Im sure I remember reading an article that said that one of the biggest causes of the failed economies in a lot of the third world countries was the fact that the global price of agricultural staples was kept artificially low in the global market by subsidised farmers in the US and the EU.

the american political system is in the process of fixing that problem in a way that allows the politicians involved to stay wildly popular wit htheir constitutents.

I dont know if it is deliberate, but this could be some of the best news for third world economies for a long time....just so long as it continues for long enough to allow their production to ramp up...
Permalink pondBacterium 
July 31st, 2007 7:31am
"It's really annoying to me because there is a limited amount of natural gas in the world"

Natural gas, unlike crude oil, can be harvested from either renewable natural sources (swamps), or human structures (landfills). Not at such rates, of course.

"And then when it decays?"

When organic matter decays without the presence of air, it produces methane and other basic hydrocarbon gases, usable as fuel. Whatever's left is still combustible. So when plant matter decays, it decays into gaseous fuel and solid fuel.
Permalink Send private email Flasher T 
July 31st, 2007 8:23am
"Natural gas, unlike crude oil, can be harvested from either renewable natural sources (swamps), or human structures (landfills). Not at such rates, of course."

This is kind of an outlandish argument since the methane from these sources is not even a minute fraction of use, and certainly not enough to create the fertilizer needed to grow all the ethanol. Then there is the issue of capture. It works ok when you have a giant hog farm to build a methane composter. I have done it. Have you? It's a lot of work to shovel all that shit into the composter every single day and you have basically 2000 head of cattle just to run a modest gas turbine that can run a small household and power a single modified tractor equipped with a weather balloon to hold the gas. Certainly nothing that can run a neighborhood off of. How you are going to capture the gas from the okefenokee swamp, well it would be just as easy to import methane from Titan, so why not do that instead.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 31st, 2007 8:48am
sorry, PE is right in almost every dimension.

> that said that one of the biggest causes of the failed economies in a lot of the third world countries was the fact that the global price of agricultural staples was kept artificially low in the global market by subsidised farmers in the US and the EU.

um, tariffs. tariffs are what have locked developing countries out of western markets. higher prices for commodities would make western farmers richer but still lock out developing farmers (tariffs would just go up to keep pace).

eg: the US still won't buy Brazilian ethanol because of extra market factors though importing Brazilian ethanol is for the time being at least, economical. You know, Brazil is closer to the original power source.

what do you all make of the Castro line that growing plants for transportation rather than food for people is satanic in principle?
Permalink heartsheep 
July 31st, 2007 9:17am
"what do you all make of the Castro line that growing plants for transportation rather than food for people is satanic in principle?"

That's a very noble thing to say, as long as you live withing walking distance of the corn field.
Permalink Send private email Flasher T 
July 31st, 2007 10:18am
>what do you all make of the Castro line that growing plants for transportation rather than food for people is satanic in principle?

I think it's weird, personally. Isn't Castro supposed to be an atheist, since he's already a Communist? So if he doesn't believe in God, why should he believe Satan exists?

But in all seriousness, no, I don't make much of any line from Castro, in general. While I do give him props for standing up to American politicians and for improving health care in his country, I have little concern for what he thinks of how we Americans address our energy needs.
Permalink Full name 
July 31st, 2007 1:47pm
"That's a very noble thing to say, as long as you live withing walking distance of the corn field."

LOL

++
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 31st, 2007 2:26pm
exactly. which is why Big Ole Sugar Daddy could say it. love me my sweet sugar cane-squeezed ethanol crude.
Permalink heartsheep 
July 31st, 2007 2:33pm
It's a welfare scam. It might possibly be useful if you were just using bracken to gasify, but using a food plant for fuel is crazy.
Permalink Send private email Stephen Jones 
August 1st, 2007 7:46am
----"It's highly disingenuous to dismiss biofuel altogether because it won't work well as a bolt-on to the current farm economy. You don't grow biomass in the same way as food grain. You can use whatever fucking pesticides and fertilizers you want, it's all going to combust anyway - and you don't need Midwest farmland to do it. You can get biomass out of invincible grass growing like fuck in deserts. Doesn't matter, as long as it's carbon-based."-----

Naive. There is no commercial plant in production that can produce cellulose ethanol in commercial quantities. And the logistics of getting the stuff to the refinery are horrendous.
Permalink Send private email Stephen Jones 
August 1st, 2007 10:56am

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