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Eeyore
Should the United States expand the production of ethanol?

Is this a good energy policy or a bad fuel substitute?

Is this a political farm subsidy or a real energy policy?
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Victoria Silverwolf
I don't think that ethanol will ever be a major source of fuel. As a way to make use of vegetable matter that would otherwise just go to waste, fine. But it's certainly not a very efficient way to generate energy.

Link

QUOTE
Neither increases in government subsidies to corn-based ethanol fuel nor hikes in the price of petroleum can overcome what one Cornell University agricultural scientist calls a fundamental input-yield problem: It takes more energy to make ethanol from grain than the combustion of ethanol produces.

. . .


Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion to ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make 1 gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTU.


On the other side, here's an organization which promotes using a mixture of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol for fuel:

Link

This stuff does seem to have some genuine advantages:

QUOTE
E85 has the highest oxygen content of any transportation fuel available today, making it burn cleaner than gasoline. Fewer exhaust emissions result in reduced production of smog and a decline in respiratory illness associated with poor air quality. E85 also reduces greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide, the main contributor to global warming, as much as 39 to 46 percent compared to gasoline.


To answer your questions:

1. As I said, it's a good way to use up plant matter that would otherwise just go to waste. However, I don't think growing crops that have other important uses in order to produce ethanol makes a lot of sense, due to the energy consumed to produce it. If ethanol production became a lot more efficient, maybe I'd have to change my mind on that point.

2. I wouldn't go so far as to pick either choice. There's nothing wrong with ethanol as a fuel, but it shouldn't be a major part of national energy policy.

3. There is certainly an economic benefit to getting government money for producing ethanol. No doubt some of this is pure pork. I wouldn't mind giving a tax break to companies that make use of plant waste to produce ethanol, but the biggest motivation for such companies should be profit.






Artemise
Everything of use about Ethanol has already been said, in one short post by Victoria. The rest is Midwest politics about corn growers. Lies and more lies.
It just takes more fossil fuel to make it than its energy output.

However Eeyore, if you like check out my Biofuel link at the end of my sig.
Here we have real possibilities, not total possibilities but the input-yield problem which ethanol has is greatly reduced by Biofuel. (basically, recycled frier oil from fast food and chinese restaurants, or straight peanut or other vegetable oil)
I dont desire to throw your thread of topic, so if you want to discuss alternative energy sources as this one, just give the go ahead and Id love to discuss it since Im biting the bit to discuss it anyway. (Im on a learning curve about it)

I will say that Diesel invented his engine to run on peanut oil 100 years ago and cities are now using part Biofuel in many buses.

Ok sorry for the off topic response, but perhaps you are researching not just ethanol but other types of ALT energy.
Eeyore
Artemise, I bet your fuel is worthy of debate. We need more energy. If you haven't before, why don't you tailor a thread to your liking that discusses your fuel. If I can I'll chime in where I might. This is not my strong suit, but we need a good energy plan. this hasn't been part of a good national debate since the Carter years.

You could go to a general alternative energy thread. My Senator (Alexander) is presently at war against wind mill farms. Bush likes fuel cells.


But for this thread, I want to see what ethanol's advantages and disadvantages are. VS obviously has a well-informed opinion.
SWM28WDC
This is generally bad energy policy.

With the exception of local cogeneration plants, where high thermal efficiency can be used for residential heat and agricultural procesing, most crop 'wastes' should be returned to the soil so as to reduce or eliminate the need for petrochemical fertilizers.

In making corn into ethanol (or soy into biodiesel) the efficiencies just aren't there. There IS however, an opportunity to use corn ethanol to convert coal / natural gas into liquid fuel.

I have seen (but of course, can't find) studies that showed corn would have to be planted on 97% of US land to produce enough ethanol energy to replace our oil energy use. Not sure if it's completely accurate, but even if it's off by half, it's still ridiculous.

It seems to me to be another handout for corn growers (one of the most heavily subsidized agricultural products in the US).

still
Ethanol is a "cleaner" burning fuel, but it does have some problems. Transportation is difficult. Ethanol can't be pipelined easily, it must be mixed with gasoline at the source and then trucked to its destination. Any water or other impurities present in the pipe would mix with the ethanol more readily than it does with other fuels currently being pipelined, and would therefore 1) have to be treated at a destination treatment facility, adding to the cost, and/or 2) create the need for either cleaning existing pipes more often or building a dedicated ethanol-only system of pipelines, both adding to the cost through infrastructure re-investment for refieries and oil companeis.

There is also the problem of energy-to-weight.
QUOTE
One downside to ethanol is slightly less apparent - a mole of ethanol weighs about 46 g, while a mole of octane weighs about 130 g. So per gram, octane generates 42.0 kJ of energy, and ethanol only 30.6 kJ. This means that a much larger amount of ethanol needs to be produced and transported to achieve the same energy - and transporting 40% more fuel makes a big impact, both economically and environmentally.
-- The Future for Ethanol

This means lower mpg in the long run because more fuel is required to produce the same amount of energy. I think, but I'm not sure, that this could be solved by re-engineering engines to take specific advantage of ethanol-based fuels.

Ethanol subsidy policy encourages monocultures, which itself can be ecologically harmful. A monoculture not only pushes out other varieties of plants, it makes the grower dependent on the success of that one variety. I imagine we may see a genetically engineered grain or corn variety in the near future that would be developed especially for ethanol. I think biomass ethanol would solve this problem, but itself has other problems.
Juber3
Is this a good energy policy or a bad fuel substitute?





I personally believe that it is a good fuel substitute. I mean if it keeps the air a little bit cleaner then by the gods do it! Of course it does have it negitive side effects like mentioned by still
QUOTE
Transportation is difficult. Ethanol can't be pipelined easily, it must be mixed with gasoline at the source and then trucked to its destination
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A left Handed person
Should the United States expand the production of ethanol?

No. Ethanol is not a viable large scale energy producer, because it takes more energy to produce/extract, then it creates when utilized. That having been said, we should use the ethanol that we already extract instead of just throwing it away.

Is this a good energy policy or a bad fuel substitute?

There simply is not enough of it to significantly quench our societys thirsty for energy.

Is this a political farm subsidy or a real energy policy?

The first of the two.

Juber3
OK just got confromation for Jaime that i can post parts of my English Essay about this topic..

QUOTE
However, when used in hydrogen fuel cells, it burns with 60% efficiency. Ethanol is also cheap. Recently United States President George W Bush proposed,  “spending $1.7 billion over the next 5years to show how cheap ethanol is.” (<http://www.coafes.umn.edu/Ethanol_for_Cars_With_Fuel_Cells.html>). Also,  Democratic Senator Rom Harkin proposed spending $5 million over the next five years to demonstrate how cost effective ethanol is.


Gasoline is a very unhealthy source of fuel. According to (<http://www.drivecleanacrosstexas.org/air_facts/>) “Each year the average automobile with emit 730 pounds of regulated pollution”. Ethanol is much safer then gasoline and can be made by everyone. According to the Biofuels article “Both biodiesel and ethanol are clean, grow-your-own fuels that can be made on-site in small villages from renewable, locally available resources, using simple equipment that a village black smith can make and maintain.” (<http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel.html>). As you can see it is very cost effective. Usually, gasoline has to be imported, but that is not the case with ethanol.


There are a number of reasons to use ethanol. One major reason is that it reduces the need for oil. Currently we depend on foreign countries such as Iraq, Syria and Egypt to allow us to import their oil. These countries have a less-then-friendly stance toward America. If one of the above countries should happen to “restrict” our oil, then America could have serious problems on her hands. Also, the demand for corn is high. Iowa, one of the nation’s leading ethanol providers reports “an increase demand in corn which helps to stabilize prices” (<http://www.nwic.cc.ia.us/module1.htm>).

Iowa also reports that is produces 440 million gallons of ethanol. Just imagine if American cars could start to use ethanol as a major source of fuel, we could almost eliminate our use of oil from other countries and save America some big bucks.

Ethanol isn’t new to the world either. One of the largest uses of ethanol was in the 1990’s when the supply for oil ran short. During the 1900’s the EPA reported the “Emissions have been reduced…”(<http://www.nwic.cc.ia.us/module1.htm>), however once gas became the dominate source of fuel, emissions went back up.






**I have not checked all the links, some may be broken due to incorrect typing**
**BTW this essay was 12 pages long it was hard to sort through it**
CruisingRam
QUOTE(still @ Jul 2 2005, 08:37 AM)

There is also the problem of energy-to-weight.
QUOTE
One downside to ethanol is slightly less apparent - a mole of ethanol weighs about 46 g, while a mole of octane weighs about 130 g. So per gram, octane generates 42.0 kJ of energy, and ethanol only 30.6 kJ. This means that a much larger amount of ethanol needs to be produced and transported to achieve the same energy - and transporting 40% more fuel makes a big impact, both economically and environmentally.
-- The Future for Ethanol

This means lower mpg in the long run because more fuel is required to produce the same amount of energy. I think, but I'm not sure, that this could be solved by re-engineering engines to take specific advantage of ethanol-based fuels.

*



From the racer on the board- this is accurate on the specific gravity- however, you can make an ethanol motor more efficient than a gasoline motor, thus using a smaller motor for the same HP needs- so the amount used is a wash in the end.

Drag racers have been using methanol and ethanol for years, since WW2, and it is also used in conjuction with nitro methane. Drag racers use it calling it "fuelies" or "top fuel racing" - and it is so good for the hp production, it is illegal in some classes of racing.

It has been an expensive fuel, but , here is something to chew on, it is the same price as racing gasoline, niether of which have a road tax on it! Currently, for "Trick 114" that I use in my race car, it is 6.50 a gallon- the same price as ethanol. Trick 114 is a side line for, I think Unocal, and comes off thier regular refinery. I understand they don't make much, if any, profit on it- it is considered more of a PR campaign to them.

This leads me to believe we may have an economy of scale issue here- it is expensive because we don't have hundreds of refineries pumping the stuff out, and refining the industrial process to make the proccess cheaper.

If there were some sort of forced reason to make us switch to ethanol, or some other bio-mass type of renewable fuel, I think the price would drop very drastically.
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