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Old 02-19-2006, 10:57 AM
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Ethanol

I just saw an add for GM vehicles that will run on E85 ethanol. Doesn't ethanol take more energy to produce than gasoline? Sure it may emit less greenhouse gasses but if it puts out more to produce it, what's the point? It sounds like GM is putting a lot of stock in ethanol, claiming to have 1.something million vehicles that are ready to run on it. Is this another band-aid, like the hybrids, to the problem, not a solution?

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Old 02-19-2006, 11:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailor15015
I just saw an add for GM vehicles that will run on E85 ethanol. Doesn't ethanol take more energy to produce than gasoline? Sure it may emit less greenhouse gasses but if it puts out more to produce it, what's the point? It sounds like GM is putting a lot of stock in ethanol, claiming to have 1.something million vehicles that are ready to run on it. Is this another band-aid, like the hybrids, to the problem, not a solution?
The equipment for ethonol is very cheap, the basic changes are fuel lines a stronger fuel tank and a fuel injector. The basic idea is that it is cheaper, home grown and supports a local enonomy instead of building indoor ski resorts in the middle east desert.
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Old 02-19-2006, 11:08 AM
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The only greenhouse gasses produced by burning ethanol would be those produced by burning diesel fuel while growing the crops. All of the carbon which goes into the air by burning ethanol was taken out of the air by the plants last season. Note that the same is true of any oil be burn; that carbon was also removed from the atmosphere. The trouble is that it was removed many millions of years ago, during which time the atmosphere slowly changed, and life changed with it. The carbon from ethanol was likely removed last year.

There does seem to be some debate that ethanol takes more energy to produce than it gives. This view is advanced by the oil intrests, mainly. On the other side, farm intrests disagree. In each case, look at the source before you believe the results.

And yes, ethanol is a band-aid solution to a growing problem. But are you willing to get rid of your internal-combustion engines in the near future? If so, and if you can somehow get the rest of the rest of the country to agree, we will need no such band-aids.

Also note that flexible-fuel vehicles aren't that hard to build today. They run just as well on 100% gasoline, and don't cost much more to produce, so there is a very small loss for consumers who will never burn any ethanol. And while your fuel milage goes down when burning high-alcohol concentrations, your maximum power output can go up dramatically, if the car is engineered for it.
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Old 02-19-2006, 11:43 AM
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Tad Patzek from from UC-Berkeley, and some others are the ones that have done the reports about ethanol using more energy than makes. He is the Director of the UC Oil Consortium, so he is intertwined with the oil business pretty heavily. So it makes sense that he would say it takes more energy to make ethanol than it makes. Ethanol is currently made from corn. There are other sources that can yeild higher amounts of ethanol than corn. Cellulose is one. And there is some research going into ethanol production from waste products from other processes, such as sugar beet waste, I don't know what all is being research. I do know there is a grass called switch grass that yields more ethanol because it is higher in cellulose than corn.
There is some more indepth info on this on NPR's program Science Friday from a couple of weeks ago.
NPR Science Friday on Ethanol

There are some similar arguements about biodiesel. Currently most of the biodiesel made in this country is made from soy which yeilds ~45 gallons of biodiesel/acre/year. Oil from algae can be used to make biodiesel as well, and yields anywhere from 3500-20,000 gallons of biodiesel/acre/year. But there isn't much algae biodiesel production yet.
Point is, these alternative fuels are still in their youth, and will keep getting better.
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Old 02-19-2006, 11:50 AM
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Ford and other companies also have E85 vehicles on the road. They get lower mileage while running on the stuff, but the plan is to reduce the federal tax to make it competitive with gasoline. Large-scale fermentation plants will reduce the cost somewhat, but its still an energy-intensive process to convert sugars into alcohol. On the other hand, if it succeeds it could be a big break for South American countries that have huge sugar cane fields.
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Old 02-19-2006, 01:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt L
There does seem to be some debate that ethanol takes more energy to produce than it gives. This view is advanced by the oil intrests, mainly. On the other side, farm intrests disagree. In each case, look at the source before you believe the results.
Ah yes. That makes sense. I guess if more people started burning ethanol then, heaven forbid, it would cut into their record-setting proffits. I read the debate recently about how they're entitled to make money just like everyone else so don't jump on me because seeing $9,000,000,000+ in profit makes me go
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Old 02-19-2006, 01:31 PM
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Another thing to think about is the fact that ethanol and biodiesel crops are crops that can be used as food. So if the profit margine for selling the crops to fuel producers is higher than the food producers farmers are going to sell their crops to the fuel folks, thus cutting into food production. This could cause a big problem.
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Old 02-19-2006, 01:37 PM
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I see that GM E85 commercial all the time. And Bush was touting it during his State of the Union speech. But I'd like to hear more about biodiesel. Like I've said before, biodiesel is a lot more energy efficient than ethanol. Frankly, we need both so it doesn't make much sense to focus all of our attention on ethanol, but I wouldn't be surprised if biodiesel eventually becomes the more prevalant alternative fuel, though that will take time considering 99% of the passenger vehicles in the US are powered by gasoline and US gasoline consumption is about twice as high as that of diesel.
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Old 02-19-2006, 02:41 PM
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Yeah. I wished the American public was more open to diesels. I was brainwashed by my dad my whole entire life to think that they were big, noisy, and stinky, not something anyone but a truck-driver should mess with. I read somewhere that only about 40% of the gas stations in this country sell regular diesel. I don't even know of one in OK, save for one up north I found on that map that shows where all the stations are.
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Old 02-19-2006, 03:23 PM
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Old 02-19-2006, 03:45 PM
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My 2002 Suburban is also setup to run on E85 but I have yet to find some here in NC
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Old 02-19-2006, 05:29 PM
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Ethanol is probably fine until everyone decides they want to use it. A few months back we had a thread about growing your own rapeseed crop to supply biodiesel. All in all a more efficient thing to do as diesels are more efficient engines than are gasoline engines. However, in order to supply all the diesel vehicles on the road today with biodiesel which is homegrown you would have to plant all of the arable land in the country with rapeseed or soy and you'd still come up short. Not very practical.
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Old 02-19-2006, 05:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Biodiesel300TD
Another thing to think about is the fact that ethanol and biodiesel crops are crops that can be used as food. So if the profit margine for selling the crops to fuel producers is higher than the food producers farmers are going to sell their crops to the fuel folks, thus cutting into food production. This could cause a big problem.
That is why the cellulose process will make more sense. It uses inexpensive wood, plant fiber, grass, in other words cornstalks instead of corn. So the raw materials won't be competing in the market with food supply.
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Old 02-19-2006, 06:16 PM
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That is why the cellulose process will make more sense. It uses inexpensive wood, plant fiber, grass, in other words cornstalks instead of corn. So the raw materials won't be competing in the market with food supply.
That makes sense, but to tell you the truth the first I heard of doing this commercially was in Bush's state of the Union speech the other day. Are there areas where people are making a go of this? It seems like this kind of stuff gets thrown away otherwise.
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Old 02-19-2006, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by peragro
That makes sense, but to tell you the truth the first I heard of doing this commercially was in Bush's state of the Union speech the other day. Are there areas where people are making a go of this? It seems like this kind of stuff gets thrown away otherwise.
Look here:

http://www.state.mn.us/mn/externalDocs/E85_State_Fueling_Stations_Directory_110802111203_E-85.htm

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