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Is ethanol really a good idea?

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posted on Jan, 23 2007 @ 02:52 PM
With Mr. Bush set to announce his call to cut gasoline usage by 20% tonight during the SOTU address, I thought it would be a good time to discuss the bio-fuels issue.

Stepping back and taking in the big picture, I don't like the idea of using food to produce fuel for vehicles. Saw a little triva fact on the news last night. The amount of corn required to produce 32 gallons of ethanol (enough to fill pick-up or SUV) will feed one person for one year.

Corn prices are already rising steeply.

To make the existing oil last a little longer, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we are going to move away from a resource (oil) that has only 2-3 major uses (fuel, lubrication, plastics) and move towards a resource (food) that we all need to survive?

When more and more farmers begin growing corn instead of wheat, barley, alfalfa, soy, hops, etc. because of the huge demand for corn and the high price it commands, what will happen to the market for these other grains? They will be in short supply and the prices will rise. I, for one, do not want to pay more for beer and Fritos so that my F-150 can burn E85!

Nonsense. Use the oil, when supplies run low, alternatives that make technical, economic, ecological sense will be devolped. Don't use food to run your car!

And I haven't even gotten into the issue of the energy requirement to produce, trasport, and distill the corn, or the energy required to produce the fertilizers that will be required, or the detrimental effects of over farming.

Read this article:

[edit on 1/23/2007 by darkbluesky]

posted on Jan, 23 2007 @ 03:05 PM
There are other crops that can be used to produce the alcohol needed for Ethanol besides corn. Switchgrass is the first that comes to mind. The problem with Ethanol isn't in how it is produced, it is in the energy difference between it and gasoline. Ethanol provides less energy by volume than an equal amount of gasoline. This means that you are going to use more Ethanol to do the same work than you would gasoline. How does this save energy. I'm not going to mention the energy needed to produce alcohol in the first place. It is like using Hydrogen to power a car. Sounds good in theory, turns out to be lousy in practice. The amount of electricity needed to seperate Hydrogen and Oxygen from water is more energy than burning the Hydrogen generates. The arguement that burning the Hydrogen reduces pollution won't fly either since most of the electricity is generated in coal or oil burning powerplants. One last thing. If the Global Warming crowd is correct (they aren't) wouldn't the added water vapor generated by burning Hydrogen just increase the effect?

posted on Jan, 23 2007 @ 03:13 PM
JIMC5499, I agree that there are other sources for ethanol production but I believe corn is the most efficient and will be the biggest contributor. Here in NY the state has recently granted funds to a university for an ethanol plant using some genetically modified fast growing tree (I forget the name). So yes, I concur there are numerous sources for ethanol product (any material with sufficient sugar content). But I think we'll see that corn takes the lead.

Your points regarding energy requirments for production and energy yield are also right on the mark.

posted on Jan, 23 2007 @ 04:28 PM
The trick to cost-efficient ethanol production is a really kick-ass set of engineered cellulases that can be produced at bargain basement prices. Then you could convert waste paper, crop biomass, grass clippings, weeds and poverty grasses into ethanol instead of using energy intensive food grains as a feedstock.

posted on Jan, 23 2007 @ 05:00 PM
Converting Corn to ethanol is not at all efficient. It takes a great deal of energy to turn corn into alcohol and much of the plant is not used. The idea of using corn is just another reason for the whole corn subsidy that the US government has been involved in for ages.

Brasil produces a significant amount of ethanol for their auto needs out of sugar cane. Sugar cane converts to alcohol very easy and pound for pound/acre for acre, is far more efficient than corn.

Bio-diesel makes even more sense than ethanol. Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the Diesel engine back in 1894, once said, "The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in course of time as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time."

posted on Jan, 23 2007 @ 05:02 PM

Originally posted by Terapin

Brasil produces a significant amount of ethanol for their auto needs out of sugar cane. Sugar cane converts to alcohol very easy and pound for pound/acre for acre, is far more efficient than corn.

Yep, and with the right cellulase, you could convert all the bagasse (I just love that word) into sugars for fermentation as well.

posted on Jan, 24 2007 @ 07:18 AM
What is needed is a genetically engineered bacteria that eats organic waste and pisses alcohol. Don't laugh. Two of my wife's classmates are working on developing it. Last week's Dirty Jobs show had a Dairy Farmer who was harvesting Methane from the manure produced by his cattle. He said that he obtained enough to heat his home and barn. I laughed then, but when I looked at my Natural Gas bill yesterday it wasn't so funny.

posted on Jan, 24 2007 @ 11:12 AM
Ur, you won't find this on the net, I don't think so, anyway, so take it as a shaggy dog story, if you will.

Not so long ago, in a lab not so far away, some bright young fellow engineered a variant on a soil bacterium that excreted ethanol. It ate various organic wastes in the soil and turned them into ethanol at an amazing rate. It was very efficient. It was very hardy. It liked to set up shop in plant roots in the lab.

When it did, it let fly with the alcohol. The plant died. It digested the remains and excreted more alcohol. The earthworms and other bacteria died. It ate their remains, made more alcohol, and having eaten all the easily obtained food, died.

This was deemed a great success.

One day not long after the celebration, they noticed a brown patch outside the unnamed lab where it was being tested. The groundskeeper that looked at it said "it smells like someone poured out beer".

I'm told everyone's eyes got really big, as the thought hit them of this particular soil bacterium getting out and doing the "no blade of grass" thing. So they burned the groundskeeper's tools and boots, dug up several dozen cubic yards of soil and had it burned. Then they sterilized the lab.

The moral of the story was, even if it's not human contagious, some experiments are better performed in a lab with a better BSL rating than "1".

posted on Jan, 24 2007 @ 11:15 AM
Would it not take massive amounts of water to produce just a few gallons of ethanol?

posted on Jan, 24 2007 @ 12:43 PM

Originally posted by Eden
Would it not take massive amounts of water to produce just a few gallons of ethanol?

It depends on what one considers to be a "massive amount". Between irrigation of the stock crop (for this discussion: corn) and the fermentation process, the balance is roughly 35 gallons of H2O to get 1 gallon of ethanol.

So were using up both food and water to replace oil to fuel our vehicles.

And to re-iterate what JIM stated fuel our vehicles less efficiently than with gasoline from oil, and as I stated earlier.... to make our oil last longer and reduce our reliance on foreign oil.

The environmental component of this issue isn't even worth discussing IMO.

posted on Jan, 24 2007 @ 05:49 PM
Also keep in mind that ethanol burns Much cleaner than petroleum. It actually smells sweet coming out of the exhaust.

posted on Jan, 27 2007 @ 12:14 PM
The cellulosic process does not require ANY food crop at all to be used. It also reduces the emmissions by as much as 80%, instead of the 30-40 of the distillation process. That means that fast growing, and more efficient plants than corn can be grow2non marginal land, that is land that is not even suitable land for food crops. That process not only actually uses less energy, the process itself has significantly reduced emissions.

I will have some sources up in a second, as soon as a I fidn that damned thread I had it on.

posted on Jan, 27 2007 @ 12:41 PM
Here is a good source of information on the cellulosic process of ectracting ethanol from biomass. Sugar cane is a great source as it is fast growing, and yeilds a great deal of sugar before cellulosic processing. Besides, it tastes good.
Cellulosic Ethanol

posted on Jan, 27 2007 @ 02:24 PM
The ratio to obtain a specific power level or travel distance on a street driven car is 1.7/1 ethanol vs gasoline.

In the world of race cars the ratio is 2.0/1 ethanol to gasoline.

Along with that, ethanol has corrosive properties and will attack the metals and sealing devces in some fuel systems.
Sealing devices being O-rings, fiber gaskets and the like.

Granted, newer engines and cars can be built to alleviate the effects of ethanol, but folks with older cars will be out of luck to an extent.

Storage is a problem as well.
Alcohol is hygroscopic which means it attracts water and that could create problems for a car that's not driven often.

posted on Jan, 27 2007 @ 02:37 PM
Brasil is doing quite well in it's Ethanol produtcion. They have been using Ethanol for about three decades. They currently use over 30,000 cubic meters daily. Henry Ford's first car was made to run on ethanol. So was the first spark-ignition car engine, developed by German Nicolas Otto.

Here is a great article from Yale University about Brasils use of Ethanol in its efforts to wean itself from oil. Countries around the world, including the US, are looking at Brasil as a model for future Ethanol plans.

As Brazil Fills Up on Ethanol, It Weans Off Energy Imports

posted on Jan, 27 2007 @ 03:54 PM
no its not a good idea....but its something that TPTB can manipulate for their profit...& e-85 is a idea us dumbed down can get a gasp on.

regular unleaded gasoline has 114,100 btu per gallon

e-85 has 81,800 btu per gallon, or 28% less energy

...we also know that diesel fuel has more btu than gasoline

(i can't recall the site, but search engine "E-85 vs. gasoline, energy values")
-> you can also evaluate the E85 vs Gasoline energy in Joules instead of BTUs, in your searches


also, a quick read:

i say we become more reliant on public transport, become less traveled in a less hurried environment....

[edit on 27-1-2007 by St Udio]

posted on Jan, 27 2007 @ 06:22 PM
I'm wondering how Brazil's cars do in cold weather as far as startup goes.

I used to help run an alcohol powered race car, 15/1 compression ratio, mechanical fuel injection, the whole ball of wax far as drag race cars go.

Startup on cold and foggy mornings was a bitch.
We finally learned to fire the car on the highest octane racing gas we could get and it still rattled and detonated.
After a little heat was in the heads, startup on alcohol was no longer a problem.

posted on Jan, 28 2007 @ 12:45 AM
Concerning Bush's State of the Union, it is quite obvious that he can care less about "alternative fuels". I don't blame him. Ethyl alcohol is blended with gasoline to replace MTBE, for exhaust control. Don't hold your breath.

posted on Jan, 28 2007 @ 09:25 PM
When a food crop becomes interesting substituting fuel, demands for that crop will rise. There's no bio-mass that can't be turned into fuel.

As the last oil runs out, prices on alternatives will soar.

When among those alternatives food stuff are found a lotta people won't be able to afford food.

When a desecreating idea like using food for fuel is brought up, it is as a tool to controll famine and a desired die off of a too numerous populace.

Call it NWO or what you like.

posted on Jan, 28 2007 @ 10:00 PM
IMHO ethanol is a good Idea, don't forget that the amount of co2 it produces being burned is offset by the amount of oxygen it produces during it's life as a plant. My mother owns a flex fuel ford taurus that has never seen a tank of ethanol due to the fact that it is not commonly available where we live. I do agree with Desert Dawg the turquoise prospector in the fact that the compression ratio in her engine is a bit higher than a strait gasoline engine, it is pretty picky about its gas and pings regularly if the gas is not good.

The main place I could see a improvement is the fact that we have a great deal of unused space in our highway system that has to be maintained by the highway dept. anyways how about planting sugarcane and corn or switchgrass along the highways, offramps ,onnramps, cloverleafs ect. and turn the highway dept into farmers. It would make it a source of revenue rather than a bottomless tax pit. I won't jump the gun to say the ethanol would be cheap if a govn. entity was making it but I can dream.

I think we can all agree it is better than having to buy oil, which seems to get us into a lot of pickles. I am all for funnycar racing. Going to a NHRA evnt puts a smile on my face like nothing else. Maybe the ticket prices would even drop if the fuel they burn goes down.

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