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Can the US Be Weaned Off Ethanol?

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the so-you-hate-farmers? dept.

Earth 330

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Matthew Wald reports in the NYT the the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed reducing the amount of ethanol that is required to be mixed with the gasoline supply, the first time it has taken steps to slow down the drive to replace fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy. The move drew bitter complaints from advocates of ethanol, including some environmentalists, who see the corn-based fuel blend as a weapon to fight climate change and was also unwelcome news to farmers, coming at a time when a record corn crop is expected, and the price of a bushel has fallen almost to the cost of production. "Boy, my goodness, are the oil companies going to benefit from this," says Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association. "We're all just sort of scratching our heads here wondering why this administration is telling us to produce less of a clean-burning American fuel." But the EPA says that a big part of the problem was that automobile fuel systems and service stations were not set up to absorb more than about 10 percent ethanol. Most cars on the road are limited to the current mixture, called E10, and there has been little demand by consumers for more. Reasons for the turnaround are many: The boom in domestic oil drilling has dimmed the urgency to find other alternatives to Mideast petroleum. Demand for gasoline has slumped. And criticism of the environmental impacts of corn ethanol has dimmed its luster nationally. The chill on ethanol will certainly affect the industry's powerhouse, corn ethanol. But the risk is far greater for smaller sectors of the industry still struggling to get out of the gate — those aimed at producing next-generation biofuels like "cellulosic" ethanol, made from ingredients like switchgrass and corn stalks. "I don't know if the EPA is aiming for uncertainty, but they may inadvertently create it," says Jan Koninckx, the global business director of biorefineries for DuPont. "The impact could be that another country will lead this rather than the U.S.""

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330 comments

Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (4, Insightful)

Snotnose (212196) | about 5 months ago | (#45443807)

Notice how consumers aren't given the choice of buying "pure" gas, as opposed to E10. I'm pretty sure that if we had the choice we'd be buying the good stuff, not the corn crap.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443917)

You can buy Aviation fuel. It's just about $6/gallon if you find the right place.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#45443947)

Isn't it also illegal to run on the street because it has lead?

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45444003)

Nope, because you haven't paid road taxes on it. Note, though, that the aviation taxes are higher (and should go up, as they aren't indexed to inflation) and the very small amount of lead (the LL means Low Lead) will poison your catalytic converter. It is, however, legal for the track.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (5, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | about 5 months ago | (#45443965)

Notice how consumers aren't given the choice of buying "pure" gas, as opposed to E10. I'm pretty sure that if we had the choice we'd be buying the good stuff, not the corn crap.

+1

I'd really like to find a place I could get pure gasoline. I don't care so much for my road vehicles (one of which is an EV anyway), but I really hate putting ethanol in my boat. The alcohol is terribly corrosive if it ends up sitting for an extended period of time. Cars and trucks generally get driven enough that's not a problem but recreational vehicles may go months -- or occasionally, years -- between uses. I had to spend $600 on a complete carburetor rebuild for my boat last year because it had sat unused for two years and the ethanol had really screwed up the carb.

The mechanic said that in the future if I'm going to use ethanol and might be leaving the boat to sit for more than about six months, that I should ensure that every drop of fuel is cleared out of the carburetor and fuel lines. Fuel stabilizer that keeps the gasoline from separating doesn't prevent the alcohol corrosion. His recommendation is not to use ethanol, but about the only places I can find pure gasoline are boat fuel stations on lakes (where the gas is $5+ per gallon).

I'm all for reducing petroleum consumption, but ethanol is the wrong way to do it, for all sorts of reasons.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 5 months ago | (#45444079)

If you have a marina or airport close by, you can get the real deal. Cheaper as well since you don't pay federal highway taxes.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 months ago | (#45444087)

Oops, didn't read you post completely. You're getting taken for a ride on your lakes. Not only are they charging you more, but you should get about a .25 / gallon break from Federal taxes. I guess you have to move somewhere more maritime.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (4, Informative)

sribe (304414) | about 4 months ago | (#45444111)

Fuel stabilizer that keeps the gasoline from separating doesn't prevent the alcohol corrosion.

There are however fuel stabilizers on the market which claim to inhibit the alcohol corrosion. I believe these may be relatively new, since I can't recall ever seeing them before last year. FYI, here [baileysonline.com] and maybe here [baileysonline.com].

His recommendation is not to use ethanol, but about the only places I can find pure gasoline are boat fuel stations on lakes (where the gas is $5+ per gallon).

Use whatever gas you want to all season. At the end of the season run it dry, put in a gallon of the good stuff, run it dry, repeat.

And in the process .... drop 10mpg (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444277)

100% of them will decrease the millage you get from the fuel.

E10 by itself will cause you to lose no less than 20% of your average MPG. This is why (contrary to ignorant believe) big oil companies LOVE ethanol. It causes you to buy more gas, not less. And in the end, that extra burn completely negates any environmental impact.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444189)

I had to spend $600 on a complete carburetor rebuild for my boat last year because it had sat unused for two years and the ethanol had really screwed up the carb.

Out of curiosity: at what point is it better to just sell something that you're not "really" using, and put they money towards something else?

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (1)

swillden (191260) | about 4 months ago | (#45444263)

I had to spend $600 on a complete carburetor rebuild for my boat last year because it had sat unused for two years and the ethanol had really screwed up the carb.

Out of curiosity: at what point is it better to just sell something that you're not "really" using, and put they money towards something else?

Oh, in general I use the boat plenty. But I changed jobs, relocated to another state and generally had a lot of life upheaval for a while which prevented me from using the boat.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (4, Informative)

caseih (160668) | about 4 months ago | (#45444247)

I understand what you're saying, but the pedant in me wants to point out that there's no such thing as "pure gasoline." Gasoline(tm) is a cocktail of many different hydrocarbon molecules, usually consisting of between 4 and 12 carbon atoms in their chains. And different companies' products contain differing ratios of the common components of petrol.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (2)

TEG24601 (1850816) | about 5 months ago | (#45443995)

One of the Gas Station owners in my area, has Ethanol Free fuel at every other station he owns along a stretch of highway. It is 89 Octane, and really helps older vehicles and boats.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45444011)

We are offered the choice here. Half the gas stations in town have big banners advertising "100% Real Gas". There's a difference in price per gallon, but I and several others I know have seen the hit to mileage when using ethanol gas and the small savings for ethanol gas is more than offset by the mileage hit.

There isn't an overwhelming majority either way though. At a given corner you'll have one station with "real gas" another with ethanol and both have plenty of customers.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (4, Informative)

sribe (304414) | about 5 months ago | (#45444065)

We are offered the choice here. Half the gas stations in town have big banners advertising "100% Real Gas". There's a difference in price per gallon, but I and several others I know have seen the hit to mileage when using ethanol gas and the small savings for ethanol gas is more than offset by the mileage hit.

Not everybody is so lucky. States have a certain amount of leeway to come up with their own ways of staying within EPA requirements regarding smog in their urban centers. The result is that in most states, 10% ethanol is an absolute requirement, with no gas station anywhere being allowed to sell 100% gasoline.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (2, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 5 months ago | (#45444031)

The cost of the ethanol exceeds the cost of gasoline, especially when you consider the 10% (minimum) milage hit you have to put up with.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#45444319)

Especially when you consider that ethanol reduces your gas mileage by a rather significant amount, thereby likely polluting more than if it was not there.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (5, Informative)

knarf (34928) | about 5 months ago | (#45444053)

'pure' gas... 'corn crap'... 'good stuff'...

Humbug.

Corn is not a good stock for producing fuel ethanol, that much is true. Not that there is something wrong with the ethanol itself, it is just a rather inefficient way to get there.

'pure' gas and 'good stuff' is just what you'd expect to hear from someone who read a flyer written by a stakeholder to incite the masses. The product coming from the refinery is neither 'pure' - and a good thing that is as your engine would not run that well on 'pure' petrol - nor 'good stuff'.

Ethanol can be a good fuel for internal combustion engines. It burns clean, tolerates high compression ratios without problems and - in contrast to what many sources state - stores well. Its energy content per litre is lower than that of petrol, which in turn has a lower energy content per litre than diesel. This in itself is not a problem but it does lead to higher specific fuel consumption rates and with that more fuel for the petrol lobby.

Modern cars - at least those from Europe and Japan - have no problems with higher ethanol ratios. The real limit is often the maximum capacity for the fuel injection system: as ethanol has a lower energy content per litre, more fuel is needed for the same load. Injection systems in engines tuned for petrol simply can not supply enough fuel per combustion stroke for higher ethanol ratios. This can be adjusted though, eg. by raising the injection pressure. The often-heard problem with ethanol dissolving seals and gaskets might apply to old vehicles but it is unlikely to be a problem when talking about more recent (say, made in the last 20 years) engines. If the car has been running on petrol for many years the ethanol will dissolve the crud left behind so you'll want to change the fuel filter more often in the beginning.

As to my personal experience with this I can state that, other than the ethanol dissolving some coating from the inside of the fuel tank on my soviet-era Ural motorbike - which runs on E85 (85% ethanol) - I have yet to see a single problem caused by ethanol while we use it in various ratios - from 45% to 85%, depending on the application - in many engines, from a '92 B&S lawn mower to a 2003 Skoda. I've used it in 2-strokes as well but this has been less of a success as it is hard to keep the fuel and oil mixed. As soon as I find a good (and inexpensive) lubricant which stays mixed I'll use in the chain saws as the exhaust gases are less noxious than those from petrol.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (4, Informative)

evandrofisico (933918) | about 4 months ago | (#45444117)

Here in Brazil, most new cars can run on anything from 15% ethanol (the default on mix around here is 85% gasoline, 15% ethanol) to 100% ethanol, usually through sensors in the fuel injection system, and in as much as I know, no changes related to corrosion being necessary.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (1)

billstewart (78916) | about 4 months ago | (#45444281)

They don't need any changes related to corrosion because they're made with those changes already included - it's mostly picking the right kinds of rubber for the seals and hoses. That doesn't mean an old motor boat engine will have been designed for that, and as the earlier poster said, there's also the problem that boat engines often sit unused for half a year, with the fuel evaporating away.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444141)

Call ahead or check the website for most small airport FBOs and see if they will let you buy 85 octane(some aircraft are rated for this fuel) as automotive, some smaller strips are even unmanned credit card self serve. The 100 octane low lead probably will hose your sensors though if you have an old 70's muscle car with shaved heads for high compression it is just what you need to avoid knocks from killing the motor under load.
Airplanes often sit for weeks or months and even though you test fuel during preflight nobody including the FAA and NTSB wants ethanol rotted airplanes falling out of the sky right after takeoff so guaranteed real gasoline.

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (2)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 4 months ago | (#45444159)

Oklahoma is the only state I've found that commonly has ethanol-free gas available (but good luck finding anything higher than 91 octane).

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (2)

snsh (968808) | about 4 months ago | (#45444233)

Pure E0 gasoline is available here and there. It's usually branded as "Amoco Silver" sold at one specific pump and costs maybe 5% more than 93-octane E10 depending on the station.

http://puregas.org/ [puregas.org]

Re:Ethanol is a crock nobody wants (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444335)

Corn Crap? Ethanol is 100+ octane, very turbo friendly, dissolves varnish and other gunk the dead dinosaurs leave behind, and burns much cleaner than a dead dinosaurs butt, doesn't carbon up the engine and oil, and will solubilize any errant moisture in the system. Given the choice, I'd much prefer pure ethanol

corn vs algae (4, Interesting)

DaphneDiane (72889) | about 5 months ago | (#45443813)

The real question to me is why corn is used for Ethanol instead of say algae?

Re:corn vs algae (5, Informative)

mcmonkey (96054) | about 5 months ago | (#45443839)

Ethanol requirements are corporate welfare for Big Corn.

It has nothing to do with renewable fuels or dependance on imported oil. The second the US has large scale ethanol production not using corn, any requirements for ethanol use will disappear.

Re:corn vs algae (4, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 5 months ago | (#45443987)

Ethanol requirements are corporate welfare for Big Corn.

The corn lobby is a big part of it. There is no algae lobby. But there is much more to it. I remember reading about "fuel from algae" back in the 1970s. There were some major hurdles back then. Four decades hence, we have the exact same hurdles. There are huge problems with "fuel from algae", and these problems are not being solved. It is easy to make ethanol from starch, and much harder to make it from cellulose. Algae contains no starch. Most "algae fuel" schemes focus instead on making bio-diesel from lipids, which some algae do contain in significant amounts. The problem is that when algae is bred to produce more lipids, it is out produced by invasive species, and feasted on by predators such as paramecium and rotifers. This problem can be solved by growing algae in enclosed containers rather than open ponds, but that vastly increases the cost. Even if you manage to grow algae with enough lipids, you still have to separate them from that water, break up the cell walls, and separate the fuel from the other cellular debris. We are not even close to doing this cost effectively.

Re:corn vs algae (2)

jfengel (409917) | about 4 months ago | (#45444245)

I'm far from an expert, but I would have thought that separating the lipids from the water was the easy part. Is there something about the way the algae store the lipids? Or are the algae too hard to crush to get them to release the oils?

Re:corn vs algae (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444095)

Absolutely this... there is a massive lobby by corn farmers and agriculture-conglomerates to promote corn products. The quoted parties in the article stand to possibly lose their bonuses and stock option leverage if the the US adopts a sane position on ethanol from corn.

Simple considerations:

1. land that is used to grow corn for ethanol is necessarily not used to grow other types of food for people and livestock.
2. The mass efficiency of ethanol production from corn is not good, it takes a lot of land to produce 100k barrels of ethanol and there is a lot of organic waste, waste which either decomposes is burned --> greenhouse gases. Biorefining uses a lot of power --> unless a biorefining plant is 100% energy sufficient or is buying all renewable energy... that is fossil fuel that is being burned.

Ethanol production from corn is environmentally worse for the planet that just burning an extra 10% straight gas and ethanol production from corn necessarily removes some land from food production.

Re:corn vs algae (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444345)

The summary reads like it was written by the corn lobby. Especially the last two sentences.

Re:corn vs algae (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 5 months ago | (#45443897)

corn fields are cheap to operate, due to cheap fossil fuels and ease of growth(as indicated by how cheap corn is), so if you have corn fields and a saturated market it's pretty useful if you can have the government mandate to other people to use your produce...

and nobody really has working algae production in the scale that would work, this use of ethanol has much more to do with surplus corn than anything else - it's a farming subsidy and a jobs program. the thing is, the ethanol isn't there to save the environment(if it were ecologically and economically sound plan you would be driving on just ethanol - which makes only sense in countries with cheap, cheap labor and which happens to be under a trade embargo)...

Re:corn vs algae (5, Insightful)

dskoll (99328) | about 5 months ago | (#45443991)

corn fields are cheap to operate

They also promote monoculture farming and depletion of soil, which in turn requires huge inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and also makes GMO attractive.

The US corn policy is exceedingly damaging to the economy, the environment, and public health.

Re:corn vs algae (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 4 months ago | (#45444209)

It can't be a 'jobs program' because it isn't a labour-intensive market. Corn farming itself uses only a few people for 100's of acre's.

Re:corn vs algae (2)

AftanGustur (7715) | about 4 months ago | (#45444249)

corn fields are cheap to operate, ..

Actually, without government subsidies, corn-based ethanol would not be economically feasible fuel.

Re:corn vs algae (5, Informative)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 4 months ago | (#45444299)

Corn is only cheap because it is subsidized by my tax dollars. No one ever bothered to make a distinction between food crops and fuel crops, neither did they bother to subsidize nutritionally beneficial crops. This is why manufactured food is cheaper than anything in the produce aisle and why everything has corn syrup or some other corn based derivative in it. Ditch the damn agriculture subsidies and incentivize the actual goals of the public facing message, clean energy consumption and production. Our food supply and thus our health will improve and engineers can work towards solutions with technical rather than artificial merits.

Ethanol is simply not good enough (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443817)

The current fuel economy standards are for fuel with the energy density of gasoline. Switch to ethanol and you suddenly find yourself getting much less mileage but still using the same amount of fuel. Manufacturers also argue that switching to ethanol overnight will require complete redesign of all gasoline internal combustion engines currently in use (the parts do not like running into a solvent as powerful as ethanol). Since farmers use things like fertilizer, pesticides and massive amounts of water and diesel to grow the feedstocks (primarily corn) for ethanol production, one might argue that simply using petroleum at this point is massively more efficient than going through all this effort to make a fuel that takes more energy to produce than the fuel produces in combustion.

Let's not forget that market manipulation due to federal subsidies for corn (which, for various reasons, is currently the cornerstone of all food production in the US), food prices have skyrocketed since the focus on ethanol production from corn began.

Re:Ethanol is simply not good enough (0)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 5 months ago | (#45443939)

Let's not forget that market manipulation due to federal subsidies for corn (which, for various reasons, is currently the cornerstone of all food production in the US), food prices have skyrocketed since the focus on ethanol production from corn began.

That's about as BS a statement as you can get, food is cheaper now than it has ever been.

http://www.aei-ideas.org/2012/10/think-food-is-more-expensive-today-than-in-the-past-its-not-its-now-cheaper-than-ever-before/ [aei-ideas.org]

Re:Ethanol is simply not good enough (3, Informative)

cdecoro (882384) | about 4 months ago | (#45444113)

True, but that doesn't mean that (certain) food isn't more expensive than it otherwise would be, but for so much corn going to ethanol production. For example, as to corn itself, while the commodity price has dropped dramatically over the last year, it's still twice as high as it was in the early 2000's.

http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=corn&months=240 [indexmundi.com]

Moreover, the cost of corn is the primary cattle feed in the U.S. As a result, the price of beef largely tracks that of corn, and has likewise more than doubled since 2000.

http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=beef&months=240 [indexmundi.com]

Re:Ethanol is simply not good enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444243)

Manufacturers also argue that switching to ethanol overnight will require complete redesign of all gasoline internal combustion engines currently in use

BS from manufacturers that don't want to change a thing. Perhaps the same american manufacturers that told us that "fuel injection is hard" in the 1980's? So hard that the japanese and the germans had been doing it for a decade already, talk about being behind.

Ethanol is not difficult to use by any measure. Some other countries runs high-ethanol setups already. Ethanol has been used in racing for a long time, because pure ethanol can take a compression ratio of 15 or so without knocking. So, a nice fuel if you want to go faster. You will need o-rings that survive ethanol - but those are invented already. "corrosion from ethanol" is more BS. Perhaps if cheaters are mixing water into the ethanol, water cause corrosion. Ethanol does not attack metal.

Environmentalists? (5, Informative)

smugfunt (8972) | about 5 months ago | (#45443831)

complaints from advocates of ethanol, including some environmentalists

There are environmentalists advocating ethanol fuel from corn?
If they are referring to the Renewable Fuels Association [wikipedia.org] they've made a mistake.

Re:Environmentalists? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443943)

Very few environmentalists I'd imagine, ethanol is 100% pork-barrel policy.

Re:Environmentalists? (2)

impossiblefork (978205) | about 4 months ago | (#45444297)

They're certainly not environmentalists and while they are clearly arguing for the wrong reasons there are excellent environmental reasons to mix in ethanol in automobile fuel.

Specifically, the efficiency of a heat engine increases with the hot temperature (which increases with compression ratio). In piston engines this is limited by knocking, which in can be prevented by mixing in various things, some of the horrible or hard to produce, and among these ethanol seems a fairly good choice, it being available in volume and being generally harmless.

Corn is FOOD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443833)

"the price of a bushel has fallen almost to the cost of production"
Are the price of corn products going to go down in stores? I doubt it.

Re:Corn is FOOD (1)

khallow (566160) | about 5 months ago | (#45443891)

Keep in mind that with higher prices, land which has higher cost of production is used. And oil is roughly four times as expensive now as it was in the 90s. Finally, they could be coming off of an unusually high price from supply not meeting demand (as more farmers grow corn).

So the original claim can be true and still have more expensive corn than in the past.

Re:Corn is FOOD (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about 5 months ago | (#45443905)

The price of the raw materials is really just a fraction of the cost that goes into producing most foods.
When corn prices dramatically shot up, there wasn't a corresponding spike in food either.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130921775 [npr.org]

Re:Corn is FOOD (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 4 months ago | (#45444333)

Because people can eat other things than corn. I do remember some farmers in the US feeding sweets instead of animal feed a couple of years back because it was cheaper though.

Re:Corn is FOOD (4, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#45443959)

Corn is solar power. The Republicans will subsidize solar, so long as the aristocracy gets its cut.

Corn ethanol subsidies are stupid. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443835)

Corn ethanol subsidies and use requirements raise the price of corn ethanol to the point where it is profitable to produce, even if more fuel went into production than is produced. When that is the case, using it is even worse than burning gas, since its worse for the environment, raises food prices, and wastes tax dollars.

If you want to help the situation, instead remove the government hand outs from the oil companies to level the playing field. Even when we were locked out of government lands during the shutdown, all the oil companies still had their free access to tons of areas which they use commercially. Remove this, and the government makes a lot more money, and alternative energy sources are much more competitive. Sure the prices on oil and gas will go up a bit, but taxes and/or debt will also lower accordingly (since it will lower government spending the same amount as the price increase).

Won't somebody think of the childern!!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443845)

If you support this reduction you want children to starve. How are farmers in Iowa (home of the first presidential primaries) supposed to feed their families if the price of corn isn't artificially inflated by this government mandate?

Corn and ethanol lobbies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443849)

They are just looking for more government handouts. If ethanol was so competitive, it should be cheaper than gasoline but it's not. Not without a subsidy.

The effect on food and land prices have been more dramatic however. Nope, it's clear that ethanol has little future other than as a fuel additive.

Re:Corn and ethanol lobbies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444107)

Gasoline subsidy are very expensive!

Couldn't we just buy the corn (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 5 months ago | (#45443863)

and use it to feed poor people? It's not like there's any shortage of them...

Re:Couldn't we just buy the corn (4, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 5 months ago | (#45443887)

Better yet Instead of corn, grow something actually nutritious to feed to people.

Re:Couldn't we just buy the corn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45444005)

Agreed, other things are also far more efficient for ethanol production as well as less harmful to the environment. Corn has become increasingly dangerous over the years and its high levels of usage and subsidies comes from Monsanto and other corporations being in bed with the governments not only of the US but other countries as well.

Re:Couldn't we just buy the corn (4, Informative)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about 5 months ago | (#45443921)

There is a lot of debate over weather or not its such a great thing to just give food away to poor countries. It lowers the price of domestic farmed goods, depressing the local economy. Its often argued that its a better idea to support the local farmers as much as possible and only giving away food in famine situations.

Re:Couldn't we just buy the corn (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 5 months ago | (#45443933)

well if their country is in the toilet they could usually use more booze though.

Re:Couldn't we just buy the corn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444261)

Not to mention most of the food given as aid never reaches the people who actually need it, and instead just goes to those in power, who are the reason their people are starving in the first place.

Isn't that a good thing? (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 4 months ago | (#45444317)

if a country's so poor their entire economy is farm based isn't the goal to get the price of food (and other necessities) low enough that people start having disposable income? The 'Big Mac Index' I think it's called.

Re:Couldn't we just buy the corn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443923)

and use it to feed poor people? It's not like there's any shortage of them...

I don't know what's worse for having ethanol destroy my car's fuel tank or feeding a bunch of hungry poor people corn meal???
Also, I don't see oxygenated fuel* doing much to clean up pollution on any car with catalytic converting and oxygen sensor. Pretty much anything made after the 80s.

*Oxygenated fuels have always been of dubious benefit at best, I believe they did lower pollution from cars with a rich fuel tune. Not by actually doing anything more then reducing the richness of the tune would have done. but since people where too cheap to tune the cars correctly or the car wouldn't run as well on a leaner mixture it could be of some benefit.

We're already using it to feed poor people. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45444017)

We're buying corn, turning into HFCS, and putting it in every cheaply made food on the market.

By eating this junk, poor people get diabetes/heart disease, don't live as long, and have to spent what little money they have on medicine. Everyone wins!

Re:Couldn't we just buy the corn (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#45444259)

We could produce ethanol from the corn and give that to the poor people. Lots of them around these parts are major consumers already.

I know people who live in the midwest (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443867)

I do sales in high end luxury industry type stuff. The people who are buying stuff are bigger corn farmers. They have money to spend. Food prices go up, gas goes up, they profit. We pay. Our cars get lower mpg with even 10% ethanol. The effect is big enough that if you could seperate the 90% gas from the ethanol, you'd be better off throwing the ethanol completely away.

Americans would do alright without ethanol but the special interests will cry, as always.

Clean Burning Vehicles (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443869)

Thanks to the fact that it is impossible to purchase gasoline that has not been polluted with ethanol; me and thousands of classic car owners now have to replace there rubber fuel lines every year or risk our beloved toys going up into flames... (or pay a fortune for custom made metal fuel lines)

Most people dont realize but since we started putting corn in our fuel, thousands and thousands of older cars have gone up into flames since it dissolves the OEM fuel lines after a relatively short time.

Lets up it to 25% so I have to do this every other month.... /sarcasm

Re:Clean Burning Vehicles (1)

steak (145650) | about 5 months ago | (#45443915)

find a marina, most of the ones around here sell uncut gas, or puro if you will.

Re:Clean Burning Vehicles (1)

bjwest (14070) | about 5 months ago | (#45443955)

It's not imposible to purchase ethanol free gasoliene, it's just not easy to find. There are two gas stations that sell "pure" gasoliene around here. I do live 10 miles from a recreational lake, however, so the demand is greater than most places.

Re:Clean Burning Vehicles (3, Informative)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#45444241)

replace there rubber fuel lines every year

How about replace them once with ethanol-resistant fuel lines. I can't even find rubber fuel lines anymore. Even the OEM parts (1970 Mercedes fuel hose, custom dimensions) aren't available in rubber anymore. I asked. The dealer parts guy said safety regs won't let them sell rubber parts.

The real cost... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443903)

Most people are unaware that they already pay for ethanol, in the form of subsidies, before it is even added to gasoline.

Everyone I've spoken to about ethanol did a 180-degree reversal of opinion when I mentioned to them that not only have they already paid for that ethanol, but that it is also genetically-modified corn developed by Monsanto that is used to produce that ethanol, as are the pesticides used on those crops.

Funny, how people change their opinions so quickly when provided factual information.

Rent seekers and graft (5, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | about 5 months ago | (#45443945)

The only reason we still have corn ethanol is because there's so much money involved. It's a great way to get paid a lot of money without actually going to the trouble to earn any of it.

- It's never really been about "the environment", but now they're not even pretending any more.
- "Energy independence" was always a cheap slogan to fool the rubes into paying more for an inferior product, but that's not working either now that the US is set to become the world's largest oil producer in 2015.

Like many government programs, graft is all that's left. The ethanol producers and the farmers feel entitled, and the politicians were bought off a long time ago.

badBIOS: Weapons-grade Malware (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443967)

badBIOS, Facts, speculations, and misunderstandings

First there was Stuxnet, then there was FLAME, the latest weapons grade malware is badBIOS accidentially discovered by Dragos Ruiu 3 years ago. More on the discovery in section 2

http://learning.criticalwatch.com/badbios/ [criticalwatch.com]

Ethanol Is a bad choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45443973)

Study after study shows that it takes as much or more energy to produce corn based ethanol as it provides. The leading research centers and universities all agree on this and are working other feed streams for biofuels. Any chance the EPA finally grew a brain? Ha Ha Ha

Re:Ethanol Is a bad choice (3)

32771 (906153) | about 5 months ago | (#45444049)

Given that the corn ethanol EROI is so bad, and most people seem to know, I'm kinda wondering who would be desperate enough to try it anyway. The problem is definitely not laughable however.

Re: Ethanol Is a bad choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444231)

Actually, those studies were flawed by bad math. They charged the energy cost of the whole field to the output of ethanol added to gasoline. Two flaws with that, the whole output of the field was not used as a fuel additive and it wasn't added for energy purposes anyway, but to reduce pollution.

Nice, but Flawed Idea (1)

TEG24601 (1850816) | about 5 months ago | (#45444021)

Ethanol is a great idea, but it doesn't contain the energy density that gasoline has, therefore, it requires much more to produce the same power. Most vehicles get about 1/2 to 2/3 of their fuel economy when running E-85 as opposed to E10 or E0. E0 is the most efficient use of the fuel we have, as it contains all the energy it needs and the vehicles can be better tuned to operate on a consistent product, whereas Ethanol is very inconsistent with energy it produces.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45444041)

Just stop diluting gasoline and no one will ever care. At least not people who drive cars.

How about making our own? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45444063)

We have untapped resources everywhere in this country and in Canada. But we can't drill for it because of environmentalists whining.

Simple waste management... (1)

Endimiao (471532) | about 5 months ago | (#45444073)

Ethanol is just a way to dump to excess produce, much like corn syrup instead of "true" sugar cane, or corn feeding livestock. It makes economic sense.

It would make environmental sense if all the wasted corn+vegetable matter were to be converted into full bio-fuels, not just blends - as long as one consider it a "waste", and not something that affects the price of foodstocks or arable land. Algae or hemp would probably be more efficient than corn, but they bring their own problems, such as water consumption in the case of hemp, or contamination in the case of algae...

It burns clean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444119)

Keep the 10% ethanol. It does burn cleaner than regular gas, and keeps everyone going. It also helps cars start more easily in cold weather. It doesn't quite have the bang of gasoline though (you lose a bit of power although most engines are designed to adjust timing so that you don't get 'knock' and the power comes out the same. There is also a lot of natural gas (a mix of ethane and methane) floating around. Instead of heating oil (for home heating), use natural gas: it burns cleaner, and would save that oil to be turned into gasoline. Gasoline can also be made from natural gas (there is a refinery about 75 miles from where I live that has been doing this for more than 40 years).

Bullshit propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444121)

"a record corn crop is expected, and the price of a bushel has fallen almost to the cost of production"

The article linked says nothing of the sort.

DuPont is such a sterling example (4, Interesting)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 4 months ago | (#45444155)

"I don't know if the EPA is aiming for uncertainty, but they may inadvertently create it," says Jan Koninckx, the global business director of biorefineries for DuPont. "The impact could be that another country will lead this rather than the U.S."

Oh boohoo. Cry me a river. Let's have a look at DuPont's financial statements, shall we?
In millions of USD

            2009 2010 2011 2012
Net Income
After Taxes: 1769 2745 3155 2493

If DuPont wants to lead in biofuels, DuPont should pay for the research to lead in biofuels. "Another country could lead this" is code for "give us free taxpayer money because $2 billion or $3 billion annual profit isn't enough for us."

How about do your fucking jobs and develop your own new markets. Start selling pure ethanol as fuel. Need to drive demand? How about Ellen Kullman goes and has a golf game with Alan Mulally. Ethanol-only F-150s should do the trick, especially if DuPont decides to sell mini-bioreactors suitable for farms.

But I forgot, Ellen Kullman has already had a golf game with Ryan Lance, so that isn't going to happen, is it.

Ethanol fuel is a boondoggle (2)

Animats (122034) | about 4 months ago | (#45444157)

Fuel from corn, and the subsidy for it, was a giveaway to Archer Daniels Midland. The subsidy expired a few years ago, but the requirement that corn be converted to fuel ethanol [motherjones.com] drove the price of corn up.

Ethanol from corn is probably a net energy lose. Ethanol refineries don't burn their own product for their own process heat. (Oil refineries do.)

Ethanol for cellulose, if it ever works commercially, has real promise. There's so much excess cellulose in the world produced as farming waste, from corn cobs to straw to wood chips. The first big ethanol from cellulose plants [japantimes.co.jp] are coming on line in 2014. But they need subsidies to survive.

That again ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444167)

Didn't RTFA, but didn't the US already try to get rid of in 20s or something and failed miserably?

Hugh Pickens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444181)

Really very good site. I read the article and that is great! I think it is exceptional and informative. Thanks for that.

The Silly Math of Ethanol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444203)

Let's take a typical gasoline market that sells E0, E10, and E85. The price structure is something like this:

E0 -> $3.50
E10 -> $3.00
E85 -> $2.60

If 1 gallon of E0 costs $3.50, than 0.9 gallons of it costs $3.15, and the 0.1 gallon of ethanol must cost -$0.15 to make the price of E10 $3.

But, in the case of E85, 0.15 gallons of E0 costs $0.525 and 0.85 gallons of Ethanol costs $2.075.

So, they PAY YOU 1.50/gallon to burn Ethanol in E10, but it costs you $2.44/gallon to buy it in E85. All I need to do now is buy massive amounts of E10, cheaply re-refine it into E85, keep the leftover E0 for myself so my cars won't run like shit, and make a huge profit making $3.94/gallon gross profit on Ethanol.

absolutely not! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45444347)

Americans are drunken morons.

Defeat the Terrists! Buy Victory Gin today!

fun trivia (1)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | about 4 months ago | (#45444353)

The ethanol used for fuel is made from industrial grade corn syrup. Because the corn syrup used is not food-grade, it is usually made using a process which uses mercury. So, the combustion of fuel with ethanol is actually putting mercury into the environment.. Mercury is considered a worse toxin than lead but it's arguably at much smaller quantities.

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