August 2008


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Jim West <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 30 Aug 2008 10:11:33 -0400
text/plain (191 lines)
Corn as ethanol, in a broader economic sense, is a way of continuing the
current subsidization of U.S. corn agriculture.

To expand on your "divert corn production" theme, yes, corn is not a
preferable source of sugar/ethanol, yet corn is politically/economically
preferable for sugar/ethanol, because it has various other purposes, as food
--  and as an economic weapon, for example, forcing peasant farmers out of
business by dumping corn at below market cost.

Additionally, I just googled up this:  90% of algae mass is sequestered
carbon dioxide.  Convert to new clean diesel technology and ethanol is not
(technically) necessary.

-Jim West

On Fri, 29 Aug 2008 10:50:14 -0700, mart <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>i have seen this debate and concluded that pimental and padzyck were being
misleading, though the 1->1.3  gain isn't much.   but now i'm confused
again.   what is the relevant metric?
>    it would seem one asks how many barrels of oil does it take to produce
gasoline (or equivalent) directly, versus via ethanol.   the standard view
is you get a 30% gain via corn ethanol.   I guess this ignores the fact that
ethanol production may not involve just oil, but rather natural gas and coal
too (so then may be the gain is better, since all fuels don't have the same
use).    is it only by considering the various other fuel inputs that one
gets the .8 versus 1.3 comparison?
>also it would seem that if one produced corn fuel starting with oil,
eventually you could then use part of the corn fuel to run the operation, 
so then it would not use any oil (assuming no coal or natural gas is
required).   (or more simply people could just run their cars on wood, like
the old days.)  
>most corn i think is used for beef and sugar production; so if the corn
crop were diverted instead to fuel, this also seems to be a common sense
solution, though at odds with american consumerism.  
>the reason this idea may be worth considering is    simply as an excercize
in calculation, logical reasoning, critical thinking, and cost/benefit
analyses.     its possible many of today's current problems exist because
people don't know how to do these, or simply prefer not to do them because
of either current 'social programming'  (education, media, information
overload) or 'rational irrationality' (biologically based cognitive biases).   
>of course it may also be possible that the 'status quo' is optimal or
neccesary (voltaire's candide) and more rational rationality actuallly would
lead to stifling boredom and calcification.  (but then maybe future
generations could use that as fuel.) 
>--- On Thu, 8/28/08, Jim West <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>From: Jim West <[log in to unmask]>
>Subject: Re: Bio-Diesel, vastly better [BTU Efficiency]
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Date: Thursday, August 28, 2008, 2:21 PM
>I too was surprised by the claim the gasoline and alcohol are similarly
>inefficient in terms of BTU efficiency.  Yet the claim is not uncommon, as
>found here, for example, at
>Some say ethanol production is more efficient, others that gasoline is more
>efficient.  The differences are small compared to algae-oil, which is highly
>efficient, and much safer and sustenable.
>It seems to me that the simplest (i.e. ignoring infrastrcture cost, water
>use, soil damage, etc) relevant metric from a peak oil perspective is the
>ratio of fossil fuel inputs to useable energy outputs.
>gasoline: 1 BTU (petroleum) input -> 0.8 BTU output
>ethanol: 1 BTU (mix hydrocarbon) input -> 1.3 BTU output
>In this context, inputs are just inputs; they may be, but are not
>necessarily, consumed.  It seems inappropriate to ignore the "input"
>of oil
>that becomes gasoline, just because it isn't literally consumed (i.e.
>burned) in the process.  You still have to put it in the front end, in order
>to get product out the back end.
>Calculated this way, ethanol does beat gasoline.  Fine, so be it.  But it's
>a very simplified metric, and the net benefit, while positive, is small.
>I think that this entire arguement is really a distraction from the bigger
>question of appropriate energy policy.  The detractors of corn ethanol are
>wasting their time splitting hairs over the definition of efficiency or
>EROIE, at least in the context of public debate.  The points that need to be
>made, loudly and clearly to the public, are these:
>   1. If you're concerned about peak oil, ethanol is no solution.  It's
>positive, but it's not positive enough to offset rising demand coupled with
>declines in production.
>   2. If you're not concerned with peak oil, but just want to reduce oil
>(e.g. for national security reasons), then ethanol is still a waste of time.
> The externalities are very high, and the return on investment is low
>compared to energy efficiency measures.
>The pro-ethanol lobby has completely bollixed those who are interested in
>actual sane, sustainable energy policy by focusing excessive attention on
>the energy return question.  And the ethanol detractors have, for the most
>part, fallen for it.  We need to stop dancing to their tune, and talking
>from their frame.  Instead, accept their arguements as being "close
>to correct, and demonstrate why those arguements are not sufficient to
>support a national move towards ethanol.
>Disclaimer: all the above statements are specifically about corn ethanol.  
>On Wed, 27 Aug 2008 11:29:32 -0400, Eric Entemann <[log in to unmask]>
>>"Both gasoline and ethanol utilize nearly as much energy to
>manufacturer as
>they provide."
>>As regards gasoline, this statement is prima facie nonsense.
>> Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2008 11:12:31 -0400> From: [log in to unmask]>
>Bio-Diesel, vastly better than ethanol and gasoline> To:
>[log in to unmask]> > An impressive documentary
>"FIELDS OF FUEL" has won many awards.> > The film eloquently
>approximately 600 articles published in> major media to bash bio-diesel. It
>reviews petrochemical's political history.> > Don't confuse this
>Ethanol.> > Biodiesel certainly seems to be one of the best alternative
>power sources> available. Algae farms are now producing bio-oils from which
>fuel, food,> and plastic can be derived. Mere cold-pressing can extract oil
>which is a> main component of algae, by weight, 50%. It is now being offered
>at fuel> stations througout Europe.> > Bio-diesel oil tops the BTU
>efficiency studies. Both gasoline and ethanol> utilize nearly as much energy
>to manufacturer as they provide. Yet, bio-oil> produces a multiple of the
>energy required to create it.> > Bio-diesel exhaust is much less
>then petroleum fuel exhausts. It> smells like french fries, rather than
>carcinogenic hell. Newer diesel> engines are highly efficient and clean. The
>first diesel engine was> introduced to the world in the late 19th c. running
>on peanut oil. Not> surprisingly, the wealthy and successful Rudolf Diesel
>died an early death> under suspicious circumstances.> > Algae grows in
>seawater, and duplicates its mass every 24 hours. It can use> wastewater. It
>is a completely renewable resource. Algae farms extract> carbon dioxide from
>the air and produce oxygen, protein, fiber and oil.> > Oil can be
>from algae by cold-press, harmless CO2 process, or> conventional hexane
>solvent process. > > The process is completely independent of
>industry, though the> existing pipeline grid would be useful.> > Under
>pessimistic scenarios, bio-diesel shines brightly in terms of the>
>environment and economics.> > Here are optimistic scenarios that I've
>calculated. Please confirm and> critique.> > Using the optimistic
>claims of
>the algae farmers (see below), then if> biodiesel hybrids (generated or
>plug-in) replaced gasoline cars and if> engine efficiencies are doubled,
>then a city of 1 million people could> replace all of its gasoline usage
>with an algae farm of 3.65 square miles,> or 1.35 miles on each side of a
>square representing that farm.> > A village of 5,000 could replace its
>gasoline requirements, accordingly,> with an algae farm of 25,000 square
>feet (500 ft per side). > > For more info:> >
>> >
>> Here are
>statments from a company that is currently going into production.> >
>> a) "Microalgae... can produce 30-100 times the oil yield of soybeans
>marginal land and in brackish water. The biomass left-over from
>oil-pressing> can either be fed to cattle as a protein supplement, or
>fermented into> ethanol." > > b)"The current algae farm
>consists of 1,100
>acres of saltwater ponds that> the Company projects will produce a minimum
>of 4.4 million gallons of algal> oil and 110 million pounds of biomass on an
>annual basis." > > Jim West>
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