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Urging Congress to Cancel the Ethanol Tariff

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the falling-on-deaf-ears dept.

569

reporter writes "The Wall Street Journal is urging Washington to discard the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol. This tariff is effectively a subsidy for corn-based ethanol produced in the USA. Yet, producing ethanol from corn is highly inefficient and consumes 1 unit of energy for each 1.3 units of energy that burning ethanol provides. By contrast, ethanol derived from sugarcane (which is the sole source of ethanol in Brazil) yields 8.3 units of energy. Sugercane is about 7 times more efficient than corn. Some studies even show that corn yields only 0.8 unit of energy, resulting in a net loss of energy."

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Energy efficiency (5, Interesting)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291710)

I'm not too impressed by arguments that say that energy efficiency is the only reason that ethanol or biodiesel can't work. Even if they consume more energy to produce than they make, they are still very useful for one major reason: they are easily transportable. If I can make electricity at $0.07 per KWh at a coal or nuclear plant and make it into a much more valuable transportable energy source via the ethanol or biodiesel route, then I may come out ahead even after the energy losses. Coal and nuclear power are cheap. Gasoline isn't.

Of course, I should mention, you probably shouldn't be running your tractors and other equipment that you use to harvest the corn or other agricultural product with oil or ethanol. That doesn't work. It only works if you have a mostly electrical system. I wonder if there are any major piece of agricultural equipment that can be set up to "run from the grid" in a sense. Like big batteries on tractors that recharge every day?

Re:Energy efficiency (2, Interesting)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291783)

I have heard the statistic many times here, that it is not effective to grow bio fuels. Here on Slashdot biofuels = knee-jerk reaction = nice green thought but the math doesn't work. It is often posted that these fuels do not produce more energy than they require to grow. I assume this calculation come from the energy required to produce the fertilizer along with the petrol consumed by the Tractors. Where does this statistic come from? If the farmers didn't fertilize (fertilizers are very energy intensive to produce ) would the energy required still be more than produced? This statistic seems old, as I remember hearing them at least 7 years ago. Perhaps the conditions are no longer valid. SHOW ME THE MATH!!! Or chemistry as it may well be.

Re:Energy efficiency (4, Informative)

Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291840)

Re:Energy efficiency (1)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291861)

Thank you. I will read this thoroughly later but on reading the abstract it seems that the camparisons were made using a basis of whole plant ethanol production. If only the corn of the plant is used there would be a higher concentration of sugar and it could be more effiecient than stated in this study.

Re:Energy efficiency (4, Insightful)

pfdietz (33112) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291889)

The 1.3x number comes from Pimentel and coworkers. They make unnecessarily pessimistic assumptions. Properly done, most studies have shown the fossil energy input is less than the energy in the ethanol. (The energy input including the sunlight is of course greater than the energy in the ethanol, but that is irrelevant.)

Even Pimental et al.'s numbers are only for corn-derived ethanol. Ethanol from cellulose, sugar cane, or gasified biomass (via a modified Fischer-Tropsch process) produce many times the energy content of the fossil fuels used to grow, harvest, and process the biomass. For sugarcane, the energy returned is eight times the energy spent.

Re:Energy efficiency (3, Insightful)

Yooden_Vranx (758878) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291798)

Very good point on the transportability. Beyond that, the "energy deficit" argument is flawed in that we could generate more energy for free that could offset or completely account for the energy cost of producing ethanol. Corn and wind are two things the midwest has in abundance. But beyond that, here's what the Iowa Farm Bureau says: http://www.iowafarmbureau.com/programs/commodity/i nformation/pdf/Trade%20Matters%20column%20050714%2 0Brazilian%20ethanol.pdf [iowafarmbureau.com] (for those not familiar with the geography of the USA, Iowa is famous as a huge corn-producing state, and, according to the link here, produces one quarter of the ethanol produced in the US). They don't specifically advocate repealing the tariff, but they also acknowledge that competition is good and that we use more ethanol than we produce, so we must turn to outside sources.

Re:Energy efficiency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15291859)

I'd be curious to know how many years of protection Brazil's ethanol industry had while they developed their ethanol technology while all the pundits were saying is wasn't viable. Throw in some cellulose with that corn and all of a sudden there's an additional savings in landfill costs, to say nothing of how much is around us.

How about they go fuck themselves. Energy independance is in the strategic interests of the United States and since we bear the burden of providing essential government services for free to coutries the world over, for free, perhaps they should just shut the fuck up. It's not like the US is demanding tribute. Although, really since the opinion of the world is that we are, one wonders why we don't.

Re:Energy efficiency (2, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291908)

Real fuel economy hasn't gone down in 2 decades, once you factor in the shift from cars to SUVs in the US.

There's no excuse to produce non-commercial vehicles that get 9mpg in the city in "real life", or even 14mpg "rated".

If you REALLY wanted energy independence, step 1 is to get rid of the mini-vans, Jeeps, the "cross-over" vehicles, and the "look I've got SO MUCH horsepower" crap. If it can't do at least 20mpg city/30mpg highway, just melt it down for scrap.

Re:Energy efficiency (4, Insightful)

genrader (563784) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292104)

The thing is, this is what consumers should demand. This isn't something the governments of states or the Federal government of the United States has ANY business in.

Re:Energy efficiency (5, Insightful)

IAmTheDave (746256) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292338)

The thing is, this is what consumers should demand. This isn't something the governments of states or the Federal government of the United States has ANY business in.

Yeah, unfortunately, it does. I'm pretty libretarian in my views, but the American people as a whole care not for things like the environment. They want their SUVs. So, in order to get better fuel economy, one of two things must happen.

  1. Govn't raises gas prices (tax?) to the level of true pain - $5, maybe $6/gallon where consumers are FORCED to demand better fuel economy or
  2. Govn't raises MPG standards for all vehicles produced moving forward. Closing the SUV hole is a good start.
Consumers only care for themselves in general, and will hardly ever demand something that will inevitably cost them more money for the sake of another - like the environment, or people in third world contries (or any other household for that matter).

So unfortunately, in this case, the govn't does need to step up. I shudder to say it, but I do believe it.

Re:Energy efficiency (0, Offtopic)

tbannist (230135) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292551)

Indeed, SUVs were generally sold to insecure and stupid people. That's what Ford's own customer profile on SUV buyers indicated. They tend to be shorter than average, dumber than average, and generally insecure. They buy SUVs because they think a bigger vehicle makes them safer, and being higher up makes them feel powerful. In short, the majority of SUV buyers were either compensating. The SUV manufacturers know this, charge outrageous prices for SUVs and they used to get them. Of course, then the price of gas went up, the federal subsidies for SUVs were cut.

The other group who owned SUVs were small business owners who could get a $75,000 subsidy for the SUVs. Yes, that's right businesses could get a $75,000 per vehicle subsidy for SUVs because they were classified as "small trucks". This also why SUVs are less safe than normal cars, the safety standard for trucks are much looser than they are for cars. I'm not sure if this has been corrected in the States yet or not.

Re:Energy efficiency (1)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292561)

Part of the problem is the line between wants and needs. Excluding businesses such as shipping companies, delivery companies, et al. that need bigger engines and more horsepower, what about individuals who need them? My brother is an electrical worker. He needs his Silverado. Not want, need. It gets bad mileage, but he hauls stuff around and it is not a company vehicle. What about large families that need large vehicles? Or should they take two cars everywhere, which is probably less fuel efficient? How about someone who owns a boat and needs to tow it to a lake, so he needs a big V-8 or V-10? Should these people "feel the pain" when despite owning gas guzzlers, are driving vehicles they need?

I like the solution of requiring better fuel economy, but that still hurts a subset of consumers (again, not talking businesses here) that truly do need larger vehicles. Ideally, people would buy more sensible vehicles, but that is not our culture. That is not the American way. Like it or not, it's the popular sentiment among 290 million people. Bigger is better.

Re:Energy efficiency (1)

HeroreV (869368) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292445)

Nobdy cares about capitalism anymore. I blame it on the schools. They spend too much time teaching about George Washington and black rights, and not enough time teaching about economics.

Re:Energy efficiency (1, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292459)

And if the public demands unregulated home fission generators, the government has no business saying otherwise? Sorry, but libertarian/mercantilist dogma doesn't hold up in the face of common sense. The government damn well does have a legitimate interest in helping to get rid of stuff that's just bad for the whole planet and which doesn't have enough real benefit to compensate for that. Gas guzzlers are on that list.

Re:Energy efficiency (1)

Peter La Casse (3992) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292274)

If you REALLY wanted energy independence, step 1 is to get rid of the mini-vans, Jeeps, the "cross-over" vehicles, and the "look I've got SO MUCH horsepower" crap. If it can't do at least 20mpg city/30mpg highway, just melt it down for scrap.

No, that's step 2. Step 1 is getting gas prices high enough for the average American to want to take action.

Re:Energy efficiency (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292414)

I stand corrected. How does $5/gallon sound?

... or will people just go "oh, well" and organize more prayer meetings for lower gas prices?

(Gas guzzler's prayer: "Oh Lord, I asked you last week to help me out by giving me the winning lottery numbers. I promised to tithe back, not just 10%, but 20% ... but you didn't listen. So how about you make it up to me by lowering gas prices so I can keep on driving my 12mpg SUV, because I SO love that truck, and if I don't drive it, nobody can see the Honk If You Love Jesus bumper sticker when I cut them off in traffic, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Terr'rists will have won.")

Re:Energy efficiency (1)

j0nkatz (315168) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292344)

I love the horsepower my 2005 Mustang GT gets me. It gives me 278 HP at the REAR WHEELS while also getting me a pretty decent, 18 city and 21 mpg Hwy (real world numbers), gas millege. Oh yeah, it gets me something else...
IT GET'S ME LAID!

Go fuck yourself you acne face open source tree hugging fag.

Re:Energy efficiency (1)

PhineusJWhoopee (926130) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292431)

I love the horsepower my 2005 Mustang GT gets me. It gives me 278 HP at the REAR WHEELS while also getting me a pretty decent, 18 city and 21 mpg Hwy (real world numbers), gas millege. Oh yeah, it gets me something else... IT GET'S ME LAID!

Well, I'm not interested in getting laid by anyone who is shallow enough to give me some action because of the car I drive....but my 2005 Lotus Elise can out accelerate *and* drive circles around your Mustang, and gets 26/32 city/hwy mpg to boot.

On a more serious note: the way to fuel efficiency is light weight.

ed

Re:Energy efficiency (2, Insightful)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292511)

Real fuel economy hasn't gone down in 2 decades, once you factor in the shift from cars to SUVs in the US.

There's no excuse to produce non-commercial vehicles that get 9mpg in the city in "real life", or even 14mpg "rated".

If you REALLY wanted energy independence, step 1 is to get rid of the mini-vans, Jeeps, the "cross-over" vehicles, and the "look I've got SO MUCH horsepower" crap. If it can't do at least 20mpg city/30mpg highway, just melt it down for scrap.

That's awfully ignorant. So we should all be driving compacts, motorcycles, and bicycles? Minivans tend to get good gas mileage for their size, certainly better than SUVs but not quite as good as cars. My next vehicle will be a minivan so I can fit my whole family in the car *and* my groceries and other junk. I'll still get 20+ mpg. I own a Ranger pickup truck. It's fairly efficient for a truck, in that range between "car" and "gas guzzler." I don't use it for a business, so should I melt it down for scrap? Considering that I use it for its intended purpose on average once a week, hell no. I move furniture and other large items for myself and for friends, so I own a truck. Not a pile of scrap metal.

What you are getting at is that our automobile industry needs to start producing more efficient vehicles, and their customers need to evaluate their needs and purchase vehicles that they need, not that they want. For example, a single person or small family in a Suburban or Excursion. That's retarded. A car or minivan is more efficient, more safe, and cheaper. If they want to waste extra money on the big SUV both on purchase price and fuel, let them. I'll stick with my Taurus that gets around 25 mpg and is around a gajillion times safer.

This is a free market. If people want SUVs, Detroit will produce SUVs. Enough of us sane people choose to purchase sedans and light trucks that are cheaper, more fuel efficient, safer, and more reliable that they will continue to make them. I am happy spending half as much to fill my tanks as other people. This gas "crisis" really doesn't affect me much.

Re:Energy efficiency (1)

fabu10u$ (839423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291989)

I wonder if there are any major piece of agricultural equipment that can be set up to "run from the grid" in a sense. Like big batteries on tractors that recharge every day?
You've never slogged through the mud on a farm, have ya? Farm implements don't glide on smooth roads; they dig through dirt and slash their way through tall crops during the harvest. Electric cars struggle after they've been stripped of all remotely extraneous weight, so I don't think an electric tractor is going to be workable.

Re:Energy efficiency (1)

jthayden (811997) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292134)

Add to that fact that at least around harvest and planting time when I was a kid farmers were running their equipment 24/7. We used to run in shifts and the tractor only stopped a few mintues to refuel or breakdown. Maybe the rest of the year you would have time to charge. But when it really matters, you need a diesel engine and nobody has multiple tractors/combines unless they are a corporation farm.

Re:Energy efficiency (2, Insightful)

diablomonic (754193) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292354)

I assume you say this because of the relatively small (power wise) electric motors and crippled battery supplies used in many mainstream electric/hyrid vehicles. Try putting one of these

500 hp 420 ft lb torque symetron electric motor [65.66.244.26] (weighs only 70kg if another website I read is to be trusted)

onto the tractor. Overkill I guess but ought to do the trick. only issue is battery power, but since tractors are normally working on a farm, not driving cross country, you could set up easy to swap battery packs and a charging station in a shed/barn(eg lead acid if you wanna go cheap) which you swap out for a charged one whenever the ones on it get low.

now I have no idea how much that electric motor costs, but id imagine with mass production it should cost less than a new diesel engine, given the size and relative simplicity, and cant see the batteries being a show stopper (especially since we dont need to accelerate much or get to high speeds, so most of the energy goes into mushing up the fields or pulling whatever implement, weight shouldnt be too much of an issue, unlike in a car where the less weight, the better the acceleration or the less power we need to get same accel)

in other words: Do-able (and yet I doubt Ill see one mass marketed for a while). Interestingly I heard about this 500 HP motor because there was talk of putting it in a motorbike!!, and considering when racing, to get equivalent performance (i.e. lap times, not top speed I guess) from an electric bike to a petrol one, you only need rouhgly 1/3 the power, that would be one FAST bike!!! :) (equiv to a 1000 - 1500 hp motorbike) checkout gizmag.com.au in the vehicle section somewhere, where they talk about different electric bikes (that website is also the ULTIMATE geek toy website: robots, exoskeletons, electric vehcles, flying cars, cool giant boats, planes, gadgets, guns, millitary gear, etc etc. of course half the stuff talked about is millions of dollars or prototype stuff, but still fun to dream)

Re:Energy efficiency (1)

PhineusJWhoopee (926130) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292381)

You've never slogged through the mud on a farm, have ya? Farm implements don't glide on smooth roads; they dig through dirt and slash their way through tall crops during the harvest. Electric cars struggle after they've been stripped of all remotely extraneous weight, so I don't think an electric tractor is going to be workable.

I've got it! Nuclear powered tractors (Patent Pending (tm))!

ed

Re:Energy efficiency of Sugar Beets? (5, Interesting)

HighOrbit (631451) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292324)

Why does it have to be corn versus cane? Has anybody done a study of the engery density of sugar beets? They grow an a northern clime (like Wisconsin or Idaho or Germany), the tubar yields high surgar content, and the waste (both foilage and mash) can be used for compost or animal fodder. What kind of engery density can you get from that? They would be socially responsible because they are grown in developed countries, produce only reusable waste, and would not be produced by peasants toiling in slave labor. They also would most likely be grown on existing agricultural land instead of slashed-and-burned rain forrest. As part of the US's screwed up agricultural price support system, we pay farmers *not to grow* extra corn and soy. Perhaps we can take all that fallow agricultural land and have them grow sugar beets instead.

American market protectionism fails capitalism (1, Troll)

spineboy (22918) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291727)

Wow - the tiny American alcohol producing industry has a choke hold on keeping pump prices inflated. I'm sure this protectionism tax is left over from trying to protect American DRINKING alcohol interests. Maybe if the alcohol was denatured (i.e. poisoned with a bit of methanol, making it unsafe to drink), could the foreign produced alcohol be imported without the tariff. Hell, I don't see why American sugarcane producers can't produce the alcohol for a cheaper price.

Damn wiould I like to see pump prices drop - I'm paying $3.70 out here in Los Angeles for premium 91 octane (we don't get the good 93 oct out here due to smog :-( ). While this is cheap compared to the rest of the world, I'm sure that we pay for the low gas prices by other means...

I'm sure once the American dependence on foreign oil abated, then the middle east situation (Iragi civil war) wouldn't "require" the American presence anymore......

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (1)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291759)

(i.e. poisoned with a bit of methanol, making it unsafe to drink)

You underestimate the tenacity of students. *nod*

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (3, Insightful)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291781)

I'm paying $3.70 out here in Los Angeles

So that's approximatly $1 a litre - which is still almost half of what I (in London) have to pay.

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (4, Insightful)

nagora (177841) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291835)

I'm paying $3.70 out here in Los Angeles for premium 91 octane (we don't get the good 93 oct out here due to smog

Yes, quite. You don't think that ridiculously low prices like that might be part of the reason you have a smog problem?

TWW

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (1)

thing12 (45050) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292068)

ridiculously low prices

I don't think that the >100% tax that European countries place on fuel is the answer. But adding 25 or 50 cents to the existing 18.4 cent gas tax, or better, setting it at a fixed percentage of the pump price, would be a good revenue booster. Dropping the tariff on ethanol is a good idea. In fact dropping all taxes on ethanol would be a good idea. If the US govt taxed gasoline at a high rate and ethanol at zero, they could keep subsidizing the corn growers and eventually come to a market value for fuel that would be substantially lower than it is today.

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15291865)

91.. 93? Geez, here in the Netherlands you can't get lower then 95.. in Germany they even sell 100 octane fuel. Of course do we pay almost $6.50 for a gallon :)

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (1)

Random832 (694525) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291949)

Octane ratings shown on the pump are different in the US - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octane_rating [wikipedia.org]

93 octane in the US is about 97-98 in europe.

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (3, Insightful)

torpor (458) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291912)

While this is cheap compared to the rest of the world, I'm sure that we pay for the low gas prices by other means...

of course, if your city was designed by the same entity/deity that is selling you new pollution-machines every year, i can't imagine this will be easy or feasible advice for you, but another solution might be to cure your own dependence on oil first.

i gave up owning a pollution-machine years ago .. its money i don't have to make and spend, and i feel a lot healthier for not having to live in a wheely box for a major portion of my life.

i conveniently moved closer to work (its a 3-minute walk in this well-designed 700 year old city) and i rarely ever get involved in any situation that requires me to drive anywhere i can't get with a bicycle. its simple. its not so easy for a lot of the consumers out there, but the point is: stop being such a consumer, and watch how much easier life gets.

okay .. i'm not fully cured: i still take the train to places i want to go, a taxi if i really need to (though i dislike doing so), and i use the local bus system (which is excellent) when necessary, and .. yes .. i'm sure there is a lot of oil-abusing infrastructure behind the machines i do maintain (synthesizers) but i sure as hell don't maintain a personal portable pollution-machine just for the apparent advantage it seems to give me.

the majority of the world walks to work: as do i. got no problems with it.

(PS - i also spent 15 years in LA without a car before i moved to europe, and i know for a fact it can be done there too .. its just a matter of social discipline..)

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15291997)

  • if your city was designed by the same entity/deity that is selling you new pollution-machines every year,
  • another solution might be to cure your own dependence on oil first
  • i feel a lot healthier for not having to live in a wheely box for a major portion of my life

Yeah, you might have reduced your SMOG contributions, but how about your SMUG contribution?

Use of fossil fuels is a complicated issue. It is not just about drivers in SUVs. Vehicles are common in the US because is has a very diffuse population. The US has less than 1/2 the population density of Europe, and less than 1/6 the population density of western Europe. People do not live clustered together (except in some cities). What may be a 5 mile walk in Europe might be a 20 mile walk in the US. Not a brilliant setup, I agree, but not something that can be fixed in the short term.

Probably the best solution is to switch to biodiesel and ethanol. Economically, oil imports cost about $300 billion a year (though this year will be higher). For a GDP of $12 trillion, this isn't a deadly value. If we changed to biodiesel or ethanol our costs would probably go up $100 to $200 billion. But this would probably be made up by growths in the economy due to hydrocarbon security.

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292544)

If we changed to biodiesel or ethanol our costs would probably go up $100 to $200 billion. But this would probably be made up by growths in the economy due to hydrocarbon security.

But imagine... if the US switched to biodiesel or ethanol, what would become of all those jobs in aerospace and munitions industries? Without the necessity to go to war every couple of years to protect oil interests, the US would lose all interest in the Middle East, and all the war industries would collapse!

Surely you can see how this would be a Bad Thing.

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (1)

thing12 (45050) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292003)

I'm paying $3.70 out here in Los Angeles for premium 91 octane (we don't get the good 93 oct out here due to smog :-(

Then buy regular unleaded. 93 isn't better than 91, and 91 isn't better than 87 -- they're just different. It's fixed at ~15 cents above the price of regular because the additives used to get an octane rating of 91 or 93 cost the same regardless of the price of oil. And if your engine isn't specifically tuned to use higher compression ratios when running on 93, you'll get absolutely no benefit from using it. The energy level in 93 is the same as 87 -- unless the gas has been cut with ethanol as the octane booster, and then the energy level is actually lower. So, spending that extra money is foolish (unless your car uses a knock sensor or dedicated programming for higher octane fuel).

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (1)

Heywood J. Blaume (858386) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292080)

Then buy regular unleaded. 93 isn't better than 91, and 91 isn't better than 87 -- they're just different.
Uhh, wrong. High-compression engines designed for midgrade or premium gas can be damaged under certain circumstances by running on a lower-octane fuel. My car's owner manual specifies 91+ octane. It runs fine on 89, but it pings on 87.

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (1)

thing12 (45050) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292240)

Yes, but if you had read my whole post you'd see that I wasn't advocating putting 87 into an engine that's designed for premium.

Re:American market protectionism fails capitalism (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292089)

This has less to do with potential drinking and more to do with Presidential politics and the original organization of the country (specifically the senate). The midwestern farm lobby wields hugely disproportionate power relative to almost all measures (and they grow most of the country's corn. They don't want competition from Brazilian sugarcane, so they don't have it.

The reasons they hold so much power are first each state has 2 senators and representatives based on population. There is a large bloc of states that grow grains and have a near stranglehold on farm bills. Interestingly (some might say cynically) it the party of each state's elected officials matters little. Democrats like Daschle and Baccas or Republicans like Dole both protect their state's interest.

This area's influence on Presidential politics is twofold, first the President is elected by winning the electoral college, technically the popular vote is for electors and almost all states are majority rules. Because electors are assigned to states by adding their senators and representatives the less populated farm states have a larger voice in this vote. More importantly both parties know that all it really takes to win in the farm states is promise (and deliver) a fat farm bill.

The second reason is more psycological, but just as real. In the primary system, the parties choose their candidates in a series of state votes. These votes occur at various points in time. The nature of American culture worships winning so a candidate who can string together a few early wins has a large advantage in later primary races. Iowa's vote is one of the first two (with New Hampshire being the other early vote). Because Iowa's primary system is not a popular vote, campaign promises are easier to make there (you only need a majority of the politically active rather than all voters). So you have even more pressure to deliver generous farm subsidies.

Ending the tariff is a good start. (5, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291745)

Ending the tariff is a good start, but it's pretty hard for corn farmer's to compete with sugar as an ethanol base material.

The obvious solution is to allow farmers to grow hemp - it's one of the easiest crops on the planet to grow (no spraying for pests, low irrigation, etc). Oil from the seeds can be used to run (unmodified) diesel vehicles, and the leftover material can be made into ethanol has four times the energy density of corn (about 2/3 that of sugar).

Oh - but this is in the land of the free - and we can't let the corn farmers compete, lest they plant a few thc bearing hemp plants in the middle of their crop. After all, a few stoners will mean the end of society as we know it.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291811)

Four times the ethanol density of corn?(2/3 of sugar?) I find that hard to believe. The property of vegitable matter that determines how much ethanol will be produced is the sugar content of said vegitable matter. Hemp doesn't have that much sugar in it. This is why sugar caen is so much better for producing ethanol than corn. No matter how sweet the corn sugar cane will have more.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291875)

Four times the ethanol density of corn?(2/3 of sugar?) I find that hard to believe. The property of vegitable matter that determines how much ethanol will be produced is the sugar content of said vegitable matter. Hemp doesn't have that much sugar in it. This is why sugar caen is so much better for producing ethanol than corn. No matter how sweet the corn sugar cane will have more.

Hmmmmn, I can't find the story I was reading that had those figures - and they do seem a little too good to be true.

However IIRC it was gallons per acre per year IIRC - hemp was high as you could get more crops per year & had a higher energy unit as you could burn part of the plant to extract ethanol from the rest.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292101)

I think that citation includes the hempseed oil. It was my understanding that soybeans and canola were more energy efficient than corn as well.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292255)

It was my understanding that soybeans and canola were more energy efficient than corn as well.

Per bushel or per acre? In Iowa, we get at least three times the number of bushels of corn per acre than soybeans.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292527)

Per gallon of input fuel used. If oil is the limiting factor you'd want to make darn sure you were getting more out than you put in. Algae grown in big ponds in the desert would be the most effective of all (it was not far from oil sands extraction).

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291824)

Hmm... I wonder if it is possible to create a GM hemp plant without the THC. Would research on that be banned?

I hear a lot of people discuss the benefits of hemp in one way or another. It seems to me that if that is the case, then removing the THC (if possible) would be a good solution. I think the US government would more easily legalize hemp if you could prove that it couldn't produce THC.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (2, Insightful)

I(rispee_I(reme (310391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291851)

Don't know if this is a troll or not, but commercial hemp has no THC and has been that way since at least 1999. The politicians kill attempts to introduce it with fearmongering over the possibility of people growing marijuana in the fields alongside the commercial hemp, as the two plants appear identical.

I think the real solution is to throw the current, holier-than-thou administration out on its ass and follow Mexico's lead regarding controlled substances.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291986)

It was not a troll. He was saying the same thing as you.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (2, Insightful)

ChildeRoland (949144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292019)

Do you really think that the current administration is the only reason that marijuana is illegal?

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (3, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291854)

It seems to me that if that is the case, then removing the THC (if possible) would be a good solution.

How about allowing farmers to sell THC rich varieties as well. That way, you can get money from taxes, lower your dependance on foreign weed, reduce funding to criminals and still get the crop benefits listed above.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (2)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291913)

How about allowing farmers to sell THC rich varieties as well. That way, you can ... lower your dependance on foreign weed

I must say that I like your logic!

But that wasn't my point. I'm a realist. There isn't going to be an illegal drug revolution in the US in the next 20 years (even with hemp). I'm just trying to focus on the issue of useful things you can do with hemp, other than smoke it. But as other posters have mentioned (and I wasn't completely aware), THC-free hemp has been available since 1999 and is still not legal. What it will take to change that, I don't know. Realistically, it might be better to import hemp-derived hydrocarbons from a country that doesn't ban hemp. Yeah, I know it is sort of idiotic.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291955)

But that wasn't my point. I'm a realist. There isn't going to be an illegal drug revolution in the US in the next 20 years (even with hemp). I'm just trying to focus on the issue of useful things you can do with hemp, other than smoke it.

It's good to be realistic - but the most realistic point of view is that it's impossible to stop the cultivation of high-thc-content-hemp if you allow the cultivation of thc-free hemp.

THC-free hemp has been available since 1999 and is still not legal.

Yup, its still illegal as it's almost intistinguishable from high-thc-content-hemp unless you actually smoke it. It wouldn't be particularly hard to grow a few hunded kilos of nice high quality weed in the middle of your legal hemp field without anyone notiving (and in fact, this has rumoured to have happenned in countries where thc-free hemp crops have been trialled).

Actually, growing pot in a hemp field is hard... (1)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292233)

Because the high-THC plants would be fertilized by all the pollen released by the hemp plants they were surrounded by.

The resulting plants would be seedy and have vastly reduced potency. In order to produce good marijuana, you want unfertilized female plants, to channel all the energy that would normally go into seed production into resin production.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292241)

It's good to be realistic - but the most realistic point of view is that it's impossible to stop the cultivation of high-thc-content-hemp if you allow the cultivation of thc-free hemp.


History indicates that it is impossible to stop the cultivation of high-thc-content hemp if you disallow the cultivation of thc-free hemp as well.

I'm of the opinion that we are doomed as a people if we can't get out government out of the business of trying to protect us from ourselves. The governments job is to protect us from outsiders and each other.

-Peter

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

Unski (821437) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291933)

You clearly haven't seen the authoritative 1936 anti-drug movie 'Reefer Madness [imdb.com] ', also released under the following aliases;

Dope Addict (USA) (reissue title)
Doped Youth (USA) (reissue title)
Love Madness (USA) (reissue title)
Tell Your Children (USA) (reissue title)
The Burning Question (USA) (reissue title)

If you saw this movie you would know the evils of driving whilst high, and that it will make you kill people. And if you're killing us, you're with them.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291987)

You clearly haven't seen the authoritative 1936 anti-drug movie 'Reefer Madness', also released under the following aliases;

You link to the IMDB summary? Dear God man - that classic educational film was made in 1938, has fallen into the public domain and can be legally downloaded [archive.org] from archive.org.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

Unski (821437) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292177)

Dear Whiney Mac Fanboy,

I apologise for my lackadaisical, mindless insertion of an IMDB link. I did not stop to consider that someone else might have seen it elsewhere on the Internet. The link you give has been most provident, for I seek re-orientation on this matter and will be watching this seminal treatise once more. I think only of the children, a matter upon which I am sure we are agreed upon, and will be showing it to them in order to prepare them for when other children offer them cannabis reefers in the playground at Infant's School. I have already briefed them extensively on the pertinent issues surrounding Crack Whores, and I feel this will round off their social development, enabling them to actuate effective pre-teen habits.

Best wishes,
Concerned of America *


* I'm not from the USA.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (3, Informative)

/ASCII (86998) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291855)

No GM needed, hemp plants without THC have always existed. It's illegal to grow hemp because it is hard to tell 'stoner hemp' and 'non-stoner hemp' apart. And by hard, I mean it's not enough to glance at the shape of the leaves from a distance.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291901)

It's illegal to grow hemp
Only in the Land Of The Free (tm).

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (4, Informative)

hankwang (413283) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292026)

it is hard to tell 'stoner hemp' and 'non-stoner hemp' apart.

Fiber hemp is cultivated to make long unbranched stems (like 3 meters high). THC Hemp is cultivated to be strongly branched, and lower, since it is the ends of the stems where the THC-rich flowers are.

Moreover, the THC comes from unpollinated female flowers. Putting the hemp in the middle of a field containing pollen-rich male plants is a surefire way to destroy the 'stoner hemp' harvest, as well as any illegal cannabis farm in a radius of several kilometers. :-)

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (5, Informative)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292424)

Would research on that be banned?
It might as well be. When I was in school (87-91), my horticulture prof had a grant from some asian country (S. Korea or Tiawan[sp?]) to do research into getting longer fibers in the hemp plant. In order to grow the hemp, she had 4 bankers boxes of paperwork sitting in her office, and an armed guard at the greenhouse 24/7.
Know what you needed to do to get radioactive material out of the physics storage lab? Say Prof. X needs the canister of ....
By the way, one of the major reasons hemp is illegal in the US is William Randolf Hurst - the newpaper guy. Hemp makes higher quality paper and has 10-20 times the per acre yeald of trees (2 harvests a year vs 1 every 5-10). Mr. Hurst owned vast tracts of forrest in the Pacific NW & felt threatened by that. So money and legality are not new aquaintences.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291882)

The obvious solution is to allow farmers to grow hemp

Obviously. But maybe start off more slowly so as not to upset the voters in the red states?

My idea would be first to start with buying cheap sugar from Cuba. That'll ease the ethanol transition, lower the price of soft drinks and snack foods, and resurrecting the popularity of smoking by making good cigars more fashionable. From there we can move to growing hemp.

Just think, one day we'll all be able to stay home and drink rum, smoke cigars or get stoned while watching I Love Lucy reruns, or fill up the tank with no worries.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292186)

You think giving the voters in the Red States a newly legal cash crop to grow (guess who the big farm states voted for in the last election) is going to piss them off more than sending money to the Evil Communists Who Want To Kill Us All in Cuba? Your political savvy is astounding.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15292012)

but it's pretty hard for corn farmer's to compete

LOL, all that land and they can't figure out how to plant anything but corn? I have as much empathy for them as I have for programmers who get their jobs outsourced and can't figure out how to do anything else.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292072)

With a quick Googling, it looks like switchgrass has about 4-4.5 the energy density of corn, without the politics surrounding hemp.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292152)

With a quick Googling, it looks like switchgrass has about 4-4.5 the energy density of corn, without the politics surrounding hemp.

True - and I guess from a pure energy-production standpoint switchgrass is most certainly the crop of choice for Northern America.

However - hemp is a far more versatile crop. Itcan be used for paper, rope, & oil-based products, hence is a more attractive cash crop to farmers.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15292437)

Ok, then start growing some. Please let us know where so that we can see your crop.

Re:Ending the tariff is a good start. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15292337)

Cane sorghum is the answer, butthe grain industry isn't having anything that isn't grain. Sorghum is drought resistant and has a lower demand on the land. Also, if we use cane sorghum, we can damn near copy the brazilian ethanol plants that burn the stalks to fire the boilers. We still won't come out nearly as well, as we can only get 1 crop a year in most of the U.S., while the sugar cane growing areas of brazil get 2 crops a year.

Who cares? (2, Interesting)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291749)

Seriously; is anybody thinking that the US will consider any other aspect but "protectionism"?

Re: Who cares? (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291852)

> Seriously; is anybody thinking that the US will consider any other aspect but "protectionism"?

Depends on whether the alcohol importers' lobbyists have more money than the domestic alcohol producers' lobbists.

Re: Who cares? (1)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292202)

It's not just about money; no politician with Presidential aspirations (which, although most of them won't admit it, is all of them) is going to risk pissing off Iowa.

Sugarbeet? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15291762)

If the sugary sugarcane is more efficient than using corn, why not try to convert sugarbeets into ethanol? Granted I don't know all the complexities of generating ethanol from biomass products, but just following the seeming link between high sugar content of the cane and applying it to our beets.

Lower MPG? (0)

opkool (231966) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291766)

Reading in the TDI Club [tdiclub.com] I was surprised to read that Ethanol provides worst MPG than pure gasoline.

Does anyone have information on this topic?

Because if Ethanol provides worst milleage, and it is not energy-efficient to prodce Ethanol... this might be just a marketing campaign, not a fuel product.

Peace

Re:Lower MPG? (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291805)

I don't think it's the MPG that's the point of ethanol, it's that you're not putting excess carbon into the atmosphere. If you grow plants to make ethanol then they will soak up the carbon that was put into atmosphere from the last lot of ethanol produced from plants. With fossil fuels, you just keep puting carbon into the atmosphere and it's not getting taken back out.

Re:Lower MPG? (3, Informative)

value_added (719364) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291809)

Reading in the TDI Club I was surprised to read that Ethanol provides worst MPG than pure gasoline.

Does anyone have information on this topic?


Sure.

worst: (adjective) most bad, severe, or serious.

worse: (adjective) less good, satisfactory, or pleasing. 2 more serious or severe. 3 more ill or unhappy.

wurst: (noun) German or Austrian sausage.

Re:Lower MPG? (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291815)

Miles per gallon isn't the critical thing its cost per mile that matters.

For example here LPG gets around 10% less miles per litre than petrol however the cost of LPG means its less than half the cost of running on petrol.

Re:Lower MPG? (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291836)

For example here LPG gets around 10% less miles per litre than petrol

I read somwhere that it was 50% less - which always made me wonder what the point was, as if it's roughly half the price of petrol but needs twice as much, then there's no net benefit (excluding the congestion charge). If it is only 10% less than there is a point to it.

1 gallon petrol != 1 gallon LPG (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291898)

I don't think cost is the main benefit, it's the enironmental cost. LPG is still in its infancy and so I wouldn't expect it to be a money-saver other than via subsidy or tax breaks. A gallon is a unit of volume; evaporate a gallon of water and you have many, many gallons of water vapor. I'm not really up on the details of LPG and the chemistry involved but I don't think gallons of LPG are directly 1:1 comparable with gallons of petrol.

Re:1 gallon petrol != 1 gallon LPG (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292232)

Evaporation has nothing to do with this. The L in LPG means Liquid. It's stored as a liquid, and in newer systems, it's injected into the cylinders as a liquid as well (LPi).
One litre of LPG weighs about 0,5 kg. Its energy density is a bit lower than that of petrol.

LPG is attractive for two reasons:
1. It is a waste product from refining oil. You basically get it for free.
2. It's a mix of butane and propane, with very few impurities. This means it burns cleanly.

Re:Lower MPG? (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291909)

It's somewhere between 10 and 20 %. IDK where you got the 50 % figure, but it's way off.
In the Netherlands, I currently pay E 0,50/l for LPG, versus E 1 for diesel and E 1,50 for petrol.
(Yes, my car runs on LPG)

Re:Lower MPG? (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292073)

IDK where you got the 50 % figure

IIRC, it was from a leaflet from a company that carries out LPG conversions. Maybe they didn't want the work :-)

I often see LPG sold at about 50% of the price of petrol/diesel - usually around 45-50p a litre (last time I looked), with petrol at around 95-98 and diesel now over a pound.

Duh. (3, Interesting)

hummassa (157160) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291838)

Except that, with oil at current prices, it's Waay cheaper to fill your tank with ethanol than to fill it with gas.

But, seriously, though: the same car, on ethanol, makes 10-20% worse mileage than with gas. Down here we have "flex-power" (ethanol/gasoline flexible fuel system) cars, and if a car gets 12km/l(30mpg, 8l/100km) on gas, it usually will get 10+ km/l (25mpg, 10l/100km) on ethanol. Currently, in my town, the pump price for alcohol is about R$ 2,10/l (US$ 3.85/gallon) and the pump price for gas, R$ 2,50/l (US$ 4.59/gallon), which is a 19% difference.

IOW: renewable and non-renewable fuels break even (with a slight advantage for ethanol) on mileage per dollar.

On the performance side, on ethanol cars tend to have a higher final speed than on gas, but they have some 5-10% less torque.

Re:Lower MPG? (1)

AsbestosRush (111196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291839)

IIRC, it's because of the power output of ethanol is signifigantly lower than diesel and gasoline, therefore to make the same amount of power with ethanol, you have to burn a bunch more of it. Measured in joules, I think the output of burning ethanol is roughly half that of gasoline, so to generate the same power, you have to burn twice as much of it.

Re:Lower MPG? (1)

pfdietz (33112) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291904)

If that (power output is lower) is the case, it's only because of improper engine design. The vehicle should be able to inject more ethanol without making the mixture too fuel-rich. This should actually cause there to be more mass in the cylinder at a given temperature, so power should be higher. Modern engines with oxygen sensors should be able to tell the difference and adjust the fuel injection accordingly.

Re:Lower MPG? (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292010)

Modern engines with oxygen sensors should be able to tell the difference and adjust the fuel injection accordingly.


They do, and that's why cars made in Brazil today come with so-called "flex" engines, which can burn any proportion of ethanol to gasoline, from 0% to 100%. The driver can adjust his own proportion according to relative price, availability, and fuel economy. Today this usually means they fill with 100% ethanol, but they could change this if there is some scarcity in ethanol for some reason (think higher prices for sugar, which would make manufacturers more reluctant to produce ethanol).

Re:Lower MPG? (4, Interesting)

Sique (173459) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292306)

First: Ethanol is less dense than Gasoline. If you compare volumes instead of weight, Ethanol is at a disadvantage. Second, Ethanol already contains some oxygene in the molecules, thus the energy density is lower anyway. Ethanol produces about 29,7 Megajoule per kg if burned, Gasoline about 47 Megajoule per kg. Pure Hydrogene would produce 143 Megajoule per kg, while pure Carbon (Anthracit) gets about 33 Megajoule per kg.
In the end it's always a compromise between ease of transportation (pure Carbon wins), energy density (Hydrogene wins), ease of combustion (again Hydrogene), safety of storage and transportation (Carbon), handling of fuel (any liquid fuel like Ethanol or Gasoline) and other aspects of operation.
Ethanol has the big advantage that it's energy source is free (as in beer) and will be for the next 5 billion years. That might help Ethanol to overcome the other obstacles, as the big area necessary to grow the plants, the complicated processes to refine the plants to Ethanol and the low energy density, which makes the transportation of Ethanol more expensive.

same in the uk (4, Insightful)

celardore (844933) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291810)

In the UK there are heavy taxes on ethanol too. It's a shame, because those duties are pretty much restricting alternative fuel uses.

For example: It's pretty much cheaper to use a diesel engine than to use biodiesel that you make yourself. (if you're a 'good' citizen and pay all taxes due)

Reeks of inhibiting progress to me.

Corn vs Sugar yet again. (5, Interesting)

node 3 (115640) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291828)

While this is an important issue, I'd like to see corn lose its protection as a sweetener as well. High fructose corn syrup has replaced sugar as the primary sweetener in our (American) diet, and the studies suggest that HFCS is really quite bad for us. Not only is it a sugar (with all the inherent health issues), but your body doesn't seem to count it when it comes to curbing hunger, so HFCS calories don't replace, but add to, the rest of our diet.

Not to mention cane sugar tastes better. If you'd like to compare, next time you see an old-fashioned bottle of soda, check and see if it's from Mexico. They still use sugar (check the label to be sure), and compare it with the flavor of a domestic bottle of the same brand. You might be surprised at how different sugar and corn syrup taste as a sweetener.

Just imagine, there's an action our lawmakers could take that would help curb obesity, diabetes, fuel prices, and pollution!

Re:Corn vs Sugar yet again. (1)

Garrett Fox (970174) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291843)

I thought we were mostly using sugar beets these days.

Re:Corn vs Sugar yet again. (1)

plover (150551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292034)

Sugar beets are more popular in the midwest, where they are commercially grown. And I don't like the taste of sugar-beet derived sugar nearly as much as the taste of cane sugar -- I specifically only buy cane sugar in the grocery store for the table and for cooking.

As far as soda goes, I only drink diet and I also notice widely varying tastes of that across the country. Since I figure it's probably the same batch of aspartame used everywhere, I've always blamed the taste differences on the taste of the water at the local bottling plant.

Re:Corn vs Sugar yet again. (2, Interesting)

shut_up_man (450725) | more than 8 years ago | (#15291938)

Interesting side note though - an American friend of mine came to Australia and couldn't stand the locally-produced versions of Coke, Pepsi, etc. He would bring back cases of corn syruped soda when he visited the states, because he greatly preferred that flavour to the Australian can sugar version.

Funny thing is, it seemed to work the exact opposite way for me. In the US, I'd try soda and go "Ewwwww so much sweetness!" and pine for good old cane sugar soda from back home.

Australia pizza, on the other hand, is complete crap.

Re:Corn vs Sugar yet again. (1)

Pray_4_Mojo (13485) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292520)

Just imagine, there's an action our lawmakers could take that would help curb obesity, diabetes, fuel prices, and pollution!

Yes, and at the same time, alienate healthcare lobbyists, energy/oil lobbyists, and the automotive industry. Do you think its an accident that we're unhealthy and drive the average lowest mpg cars in the world?


I'm not fat! I'm.....American.

Re:Corn vs Sugar yet again. (1)

ChristTrekker (91442) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292533)

Yeah...Mexican Coca-Cola actually tastes good. I merely tolerate the US variety when faced with the absence of Pepsi.

sugarcane may be better... (1, Insightful)

phlegmofdiscontent (459470) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292005)

But where do you think the Brazilians get the land to produce that sugarcane? The same place they get the land to produce the beef that goes into McDonalds hamburgers. I'm surprised the "save the rainforest" people aren't up in arms yet. I'm against protectionism and tariffs, but Brazilian farmers do need to change the way they do agriculture. I'm not sure increasing demand for sugarcane is going to encourage them to change anything.

Re:sugarcane may be better... (4, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292118)

where do you think the Brazilians get the land to produce that sugarcane? The same place they get the land to produce the beef that goes into McDonalds hamburgers.


Not really. The Amazon forest is being destroyed for growing cattle, that's true, but land in the Amazon region is not suitable for growing sugarcane. Slash and burn agriculture is very unproductive and not profitable enough to justify the rather complex production of sugar and ethanol.


Cattle eats a large variety of grasses and blades, in a tropical climate whatever grows in the land after the forest is cut will do for low-productivity cattle growing. Beef has a high enough price per kilogram to be profitable under such circumstances.


Sugar and ethanol are a different matter. Their price is not high enough to justify transporting the sugarcane long distances. Therefore, it's usually grown in a far more intensive way than cattle is in tropical regions. Check your local supermarket and gas station if you have any doubt, the price per weight of fuel is much lower than the cheapest beef you can buy.

Re:sugarcane may be better... (1)

TerminaMorte (729622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292130)

Why do they need to change the way they do agriculture?

I know 'save the rainforest' is a nice and trendy cause to get behind, but the truth is there are MORE trees on the planet today than there were 10 years ago. Probably in part to people in 'save the rainforest' groups, but certainly we shouldn't stop people from farming land just because we like the pretty flowers.

Sounds good in theory (2, Insightful)

BoredWolf (965951) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292088)

but I'm not sure that ethanol is the solution. It is a short-term fix for a long-term problem. Removing the tariff on ethanol made with sugar is sensible, because it produces more energy per unit during combustion. Gasoline is corrosive, as is ethanol. Therefore, by putting it in a car engine, we are shortening the life-span of the car's engine. It would make a great deal of sense to have a more energy-efficient fuel in that car so that you get more 'bang for your buck'. I think what really needs to be addressed in the government, though, is the future of transportation/fuel sources in america. This isn't a battle over obscene profits for oil companies or getting a tariff removed, it's the realization that our fuel source for the past 100 years or so is not unlimited, and that the countries that hold large reserves of oil can (and will) leverage their position against us. Political grand-standing has focused most americans on ineffective issues, and it will likely be left to the states [bloomberg.com] . Recognize that this problem will not ultimately be solved by saving 53 cents-per-gallon on ethanol, but by finding efficient alternative fuel sources and having the public embrace the change.

Iowa caucus and Louisiana sugar farmers (5, Insightful)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292194)

First, anyone who wants to be president (pretty much every senator) doesn't want to mess around with Iowa farmers since they have an early caucus. Reducing tarriffs almost always makes sense, economically. Not politically. For example, steel tarriffs make the steel workers happy. But they increase the price of domestic toasters, cars, etc.

Someone mentioned tarriffs on sugar. The National Review (a conservative magazine) did a front cover article on this a few months ago. Similar political situation but with La. farmers. It costs America a lot of jobs in food industries which require sugar. That's why they use corn syrup. It's cheaper relative to sugar, but only because of the tarriffs.

The last thing we need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15292227)

is to trade the current Mid-east manipulators of US economy for ones in South America!

Yes, currently Brazil can produce ethanol much cheaper than the US but they have had many years head start. The US must develop this technology for themselves to achieve energy self-sufficiency.

Now, as for the arguments about the corn lobby; where does the assumption that whatever etahnol we produce must come from corn? Corn is not a very good etahnol producer. The farmland devoted to corn might be better utilized with other crops if the goal is etahnol production. The concentration on ethanol production only from corn is due to powerful lobbying and this attitude should be curtailed rather than canceling tariffs!

Corn for Fuel vs. Food (0, Offtopic)

north.coaster (136450) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292351)

Does it really make sense to use corn to make fuel instead of food? Is there a surplus of corn that ethanol production can use? Will ethanol production cause the price of corn based food products to rise? Doesn't the US government currently subsidize farmers for growing corn?

It seems like this is a much more complicated topic than the media, industry, and agriculture interests are willing to acknowledge.

No source for 7x number (5, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 8 years ago | (#15292469)

I have not been able to find a single peer reviewed source to back up that 7 times as efficient number. I see many references to the widely excepted 1.34 return, but I have found nothing that says 8.1 units returned. I did find one study that claimed SugarCane could hit 3.7 in production in Brazil, but that can't be directly compared to the US.

1) In Brazil manual labor can be had for $3-5/day. At that cost it can be cheaper to use a fleet of farm labor instead of a tractor. the fuel consumption requred by the work force is not included.
2) Brazil has a much larger land mass that is appropriate for growing sugar cane.
3) Ethanol has to be shipped in sealed tanks. Due to its propencity to attract water, piping it with fuel through the exist infrastructure would result in water contaminated fuel at the pump. The extra expences and fuel needed for the new delivery systems really kill the return. This is also the reason why E10 has been a pretty standard fuel in the Mid-West for years, but not on the costs. Brazil uses a much more localized distribution system (many 20k gallon plants as opposed to a centralized 10m gallon plants).
4) Ethanol has less power per volume then gas. That means those flex fuel vehicles are going to lose mileage AND power on E85. A proper E85+ designed engine could improve the power issue (Ethanol's higher octane rating allows for higher compression, which leads to more power and better efficiency).

I'm not saying Ethanol is bad, just that it isn't as great as GM wants you to believe.

Biodiesel is better (IMO) in that it can be added to the US's fuel infrastructure with no modication to the system or vehicles, it's performance is on par with petrol-diesel (ie: better than gas and ethanol).

-Rick

-Rick
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