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Ethanol: Feed a Person for a Year or Fill Up an SUV?

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posted on Mar, 5 2007 @ 12:06 PM
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By Robert Bryce, CounterPunch. Posted March 5, 2007.

While politicians and Big Agriculture insist on casting the need for ethanol in terms of national security, the larger issue is a moral one: are we going to use our precious farmland to grow food, or use it to make motor fuel?

The ethanol scam just keeps getting more and more absurd. In January, three U.S. senators -- two Democrats, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Barack Obama of Illinois, along with Indiana Republican Richard Lugar -- introduced a bill that would promote the use of ethanol. It also mandates the use of more biodiesel and creates tax credits for the production of cellulosic ethanol. They called their bill the "American Fuels Act of 2007."

The most amazing part of the press release trumpeting the legislation is its fourth paragraph, in which Lugar declares that "U.S. policies should be targeted to replace hydrocarbons with carbohydrates."

Let's consider that for a moment. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the U.S. economy was primarily based on carbohydrates. For most people, horses were the main mode of transportation. They were also a primary work source for plowing and planting. Aside from coal, which was used by the railroads and in some factories, the U.S. economy depended largely on the ability of draft animals to turn grass and forage into usable toil. America's farmers were solely focused on producing food and fiber. And while the U.S. was moderately prosperous, it was not a world leader.

Oil changed all that. After the discovery of vast quantities of oil in Texas, Oklahoma, and other locales, America was able to create a modern transportation system, with cars, buses, and airplanes. That oil helped the U.S. become a dominant military power. Humans were freed from the limitations of the carbohydrate economy, which was constrained by the amount of arable land.

Thus while Lugar and his ilk promote ethanol, they are ignoring a pivotal question: should our farms produce food or fuel?

Last September, Lester Brown, the president of the Earth Policy Institute (a group that promotes "an environmentally sustainable economy") wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece that the amount of grain needed to make enough ethanol to fill a 25-gallon SUV tank "would feed one person for a full year. If the United States converted its entire grain harvest into ethanol, it would satisfy less than 16 percent of its automotive needs." Brown said the ongoing ethanol boom in the U.S. was "setting the stage for an epic competition. In a narrow sense, it is one between the world's supermarkets and its service stations." More broadly, "it is a battle between the world's 800 million automobile owners, who want to maintain their mobility, and the world's two billion poorest people, who simply want to survive."

Using food to make fuel bothers many analysts, and whether their affiliation is liberal or conservative doesn't seem to matter. Dennis Avery, director of global food issues at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington, D.C., has concerns that are remarkably similar to Brown's. A few days after Brown's piece appeared in the Post, Avery published a paper showing that ethanol simply cannot provide enough motor fuel to make a significant difference in America's fuel consumption. And like Brown, he laid bare the essential question: food or fuel? Isn't it obvious?



MBF

posted on Mar, 5 2007 @ 09:04 PM
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For some reason, everybody assumes that ALL of the grain turns to ethanol, it DOES NOT. One of the by products of ethanol production is distillers grain which is used for animal feed.

LINK

The world will NOT go hungry if we start producing ethanol.



posted on Mar, 6 2007 @ 12:13 AM
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When some wants the grain for power they are willing to pay higher prizes, which will hoover the prize of food grain ass well.

Look at the Mexican tortilla crises. Tripled within a year!

This is the tool introduced to control World Famine.



posted on Mar, 6 2007 @ 02:31 AM
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I'm not exactly bought on E85 just yet, though I will admit i'm not terribly familiar with it. Although it supposedly reduces our "foreign need" for oil (isn't alot of the ethanol made in Brazil?), take a look at the fuel economy ratings for gasoline engines vs E85 vehicles at fueleconomy.gov .

2007 Chevrolet Suburban
E85 Gasoline
mpg city 11 15
mpg highway 15 20

2007 Chevy Impala
E85 Gasoline
mpg city 16 21
mpg highway 23 31

EPA fuel ratings are quite a bit worse for E85 vehicles. It is noteworthy, however, that the site also says that the E85 suburban, at 2400 dollars a year in the fuel, will burn 8 barrels of petrol per year, whereas a gasoline Suburban, at 2000 dollars a year, will burn 20 barrels of petrol. While it certainly does not benefit the consumer, it benefits oil usage.

However, does anyone know how many cars, factories, boats, ATVs, and millions of other oil using vehicles and machines would have to be converted to E85 in order to actually put a dent in oil consumption? Quite a few. I read a statistic somewhere that if even a quarter of our cars ran on E85, it would reduce oil usage by a small fraction.

IMO, ethanol is just a way for the American auto companies to get tax breaks. Their vehicles seem more fuel efficient in the eyes of the EPA, since they technically do use less petrol, but do they truly benefit the consumer at all?

Hybrids, diesel gas, and E85 fuel are nice stop gaps that may reduce needs for oil, but look at what's going on. Americans are still chosing full size trucks and SUVs and not using them to tow, haul, or offroad. I drive into suburban neighborhoods and see that soccer moms are transporting their kids in 6000 lb Ford Excursions that aren't even rated for gas mileage. I see that GM still doesn't really try to build a good small car (they import some from South Korea? nice try), and still focus mainly on their full size trucks and SUVs - yet people complain that Toyota is taking over, who has made 40 mpg cars for years. Aside from all this, it is projected that in the coming decades, India and China will drive more cars than America does. Wonder what that will do to overall oil consumption?

Oil companies don't want us to find new technologies. Oil will run out someday, but this can be debated all day in the peak oil forum. No idea when, but it will eventually, and gas prices continue to rise, and wars continue to be waged in the Middle East. Can you imagine how many problems an alternative energy source, IE Hydrogen, could answer? Now yeah yeah hydrogen has its drawbacks - requiring energy to harvest it, riding around in cars w/ 15,000 psi fuel tanks, etc. But come on. The big companies need to focus more on alternative sources. At least Honda has a working car, though it is darned expensive, and who knows what an accident would do to it.

As bad as it sounds, some day oil in the US will be like it has been in Europe. Aside from the horrible inflation it would cause, I'd be curious to see what kind of innovation this country could really produce when gasoline prices reach 5, 7,10,etc, dollars per gallon at the pump. Maybe then we could really see new technologies come out faster.

On a sidenote; before I get some of the expected "tree loving hippie" bs- despite my opinions, I myself drive a full size SUV when I need to; and before I get called a hypocrite, I actually use it to tow boats and cargo around. Just my opinion that these stopgap hybrids, E85, etc, while nice, won't solve the real problem of oil usage in the long run.

Peace.



posted on Mar, 8 2007 @ 01:47 PM
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Originally posted by el_madmaster
(isn't alot of the ethanol made in Brazil

they use SUGER CANE, which is much more efficiant and doesnt take up all the corn. We could plant tons of suger cane,but no..we decide to burn up our food supplies. Stupid as hell.



posted on Mar, 8 2007 @ 06:45 PM
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Burning surplus grain is called domestic market control.

Look right now Dubaya is touring South America. What is sure to come out of it --I predict-- is agreements with Brazil about suplying sugarcane. Vast areas of Amazones will be cleared for the purpose of that.

It's called development.



posted on Mar, 8 2007 @ 09:10 PM
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Ethanol from Corn is a foolish waste and is promoted by those seeking farm subsidies. Ethanol from Sugar Cane has helped make Brasil energy independent, is a proven technology, and is a clean renewable power source. Ethanol is not the problem; it is a solution. The problem lies in how politicians choose to spin the issue. Biodiesel is another positive direction, if it is done properly. Otto Diesel, who invented the diesel engine, intended it to be fueled with peanut oil and other bio sources. Clearly, there is a need for alternative power sources that are clean and renewable. If scientists were given proper support and politicians were taken out of the equation, solutions would be imminent. Sadly, the current US administration has done all it can to suppress scientific thinking.


Personaly, I'd ban SUVs ( Stupid Urban Vehicles) Mandate a minimum of 30MPG for all personal vehicles and an end to oversized behemoths.

Besides... sugar cane ethanol fueled cars smell sweet.


[edit on 8-3-2007 by Terapin]



posted on Mar, 8 2007 @ 09:34 PM
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Indeed bio diesel is an interesting prospect. Hearing more and more nowadays that the newer engines can use them. Don't know too much about that either, but is it true you can buy certain forms of grease or used cooking oil from restaurants and convert it to fuel somehow?

What I would really like to see, now that we have the ultra low sulphur diesel fuel here, is some 50-60 mpg Honda and Toyotas that are popular overseas.



posted on Mar, 8 2007 @ 09:40 PM
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ANY diesel engine can burn used cooking oil with no modification. What you do need to modify is the fuel tank. Cooking oil congeals easily and cars that have been converted to use cooking oil have a second fuel tank that has a heater coil inside. The car is started on standard diesel fuel and then the second tank containing cooking oil is heated. When the cooking oil is sufficiently heated to flow properly, a switch changes the fuel pump over to the cooking oil tank and the car then runs on the cooking oil with no noticeable difference. Cooking oil is also better for the engine in the long run as there are non of the sooty buildups and problems with sulfur. Check out GREASE CAR on the web for more info. A better version is made by FRYBIRD.

[edit on 8-3-2007 by Terapin]



posted on Mar, 8 2007 @ 10:19 PM
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Here is a link to an article relating to the Brazilian ethanol industry
and its affects on the environment and society.

globalresearch.ca...



posted on Mar, 9 2007 @ 09:48 AM
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Originally posted by Terapin
Ethanol from Corn is a foolish waste and is promoted by those seeking farm subsidies. Ethanol from Sugar Cane has helped make Brasil energy independent, is a proven technology, and is a clean renewable power source. Ethanol is not the problem; it is a solution. The problem lies in how politicians choose to spin the issue. Biodiesel is another positive direction, if it is done properly. Otto Diesel, who invented the diesel engine, intended it to be fueled with peanut oil and other bio sources. Clearly, there is a need for alternative power sources that are clean and renewable. If scientists were given proper support and politicians were taken out of the equation, solutions would be imminent. Sadly, the current US administration has done all it can to suppress scientific thinking.


Personaly, I'd ban SUVs ( Stupid Urban Vehicles) Mandate a minimum of 30MPG for all personal vehicles and an end to oversized behemoths.

Besides... sugar cane ethanol fueled cars smell sweet.


[edit on 8-3-2007 by Terapin]

Some very good points here,
, although I'd argue that suppression of alternate energy started long before this admin. But that's neither here nor there.

Also, remember that it is not necessary to supply a solution to 100% of our energy needs in one fell swoop (although that would be nice). If by using ethanol and bio-diesel we could cut our dependence on fossil fuels by 25%, that would be a huge first step.



posted on Mar, 9 2007 @ 10:18 AM
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Originally posted by jsobecky

Also, remember that it is not necessary to supply a solution to 100% of our energy needs in one fell swoop (although that would be nice).

If by using ethanol and bio-diesel we could cut our dependence on fossil fuels by 25%, that would be a huge first step.



yessir, i hear that's called a 'transition',
the communists used to have a central planning committee and they imposed a rigid change or standard....i perfer the US model, where
several types of fuel changes are tried.

Corn is one E-85 supply, so is sugar cane, but it may develop that beets and/or sorghum might prove to be a better source...even Kudzu could be a future fuel source.

mandating the exclusive use of diesel motors for passenger cars & trucks
and 5 hp 'trikes' & golf carts & 'segways' for personal coveyances would solve some of the logistic - infrastructure problems (while fostering others)
might work in places like China, but not in the present USA

glad you pointed out the difference; Fossil Fuel vs. Foreign (OPEC) oil



posted on Mar, 9 2007 @ 10:22 AM
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It's not a scam..it's less efficient, but it's not a scam. The government pays farmers not to grow crops in order to prevent a surplus and to preven the US from going into a depression due to cuthroat competition. Now, the US will actually benefit by paying farmers to grow corn in order to produce ethanol. The question we should ask ourselves is...why don't we create genetically altered corn that contains more energy per volume than the corn we have now. This way it will be more efficient and less coslty!



posted on Mar, 9 2007 @ 10:28 AM
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The bigger question is WHY do we need any type of fuel for cars why not battery operated cars?

en.wikipedia.org...

A big reason is because people will eventually figure out how to power their cars up at home and also mod their cars with bigger batteries so they last much longer per charge.

They NEED ENERGY you can't produce in your own backyard.

Here another innovative idea: Cars that run on water.

www.greencarcongress.com...

Can't have that now can we. Wouldn't want to put the corps out of business. lol

THINK OF THE BENFITS:

No land needed to grow fuel
No pollution
We could actually use resources found in our home to power the cars.

What a world that would be eh?

[edit on 9-3-2007 by leafer]

[edit on 9-3-2007 by leafer]



posted on Mar, 9 2007 @ 10:28 AM
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Here is a page with actually electric cars that you can buy.

www.treehugger.com...

Wanna bet this technology isn't the one that is used.




The Tesla Roadster: Electric Sports Car

www.treehugger.com...

[edit on 9-3-2007 by leafer]



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