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Dept. of Energy Rejects Corn Fuel Future

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the gas-on-the-cob dept.

Power 596

eldavojohn writes "The United States' Department of Energy is stating that corn based fuel is not the future. From the article, "I'm not going to predict what the price of corn is going to do, but I will tell you the future of biofuels is not based on corn," U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell said in an interview. Output of U.S. ethanol, which is mostly made from corn, is expected to jump in 2007 from 5.6 billion gallons per year to 8 billion gpy, as nearly 80 bio-refineries sprout up. In related news, Fidel Castro is blasting the production of corn fuel as a blatant waste of food that would otherwise feed 3 billion people who will die of hunger."

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zombie castro said what? (2, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538023)

In related news, Fidel Castro is blasting the production of corn fuel as a blatant waste of food that would otherwise feed 3 billion people who will die of hunger.

He only wants to keep them alive so he can have a fresh supply of warm brains.

Re:zombie castro said what? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538049)

It's made out of people.... PEOPLEeeEeEe

Re:zombie castro said what? (3, Insightful)

kenf (75431) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538071)

Actually, Castro wants us to use sugar cane to make the ethanol, as they do in Brazil. Guess what is a major crop in Cuba?

Re:zombie castro said what? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538521)

Refugees?

Cuba a potential major sugar producer (0)

amightywind (691887) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538081)

Castro is making a self-serving statement because he knows Cuba is a significant producer of sugarcane and potentially of ethanol, just like Brazil. It could be the cash cow he's been seeking since the fall of the USSR. Perhaps he dreams of selling it to the US. But ethanol is such a poor fuel compared to biodiesel I am amazed it gets the attention it does.

Welcome to Presidential politics (4, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538479)

It's called "Iowa". Eliminate the Iowa caucuses as the "first in the nation" that every Presidential candidate must suck up to (and convince his party to suck up to) and you'll never hear about corn-based ethanol ever again.

Re:Cuba a potential major sugar producer (2, Insightful)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538493)

> But ethanol is such a poor fuel compared to biodiesel I am amazed it gets the attention it does.

Why on earth would a multi-billion dollar corporate welfare payout to ADM surprise or amaze you? You don't think it actually has anything to do with whether ethanol is any good or not, do you?

Re:Cuba a potential major sugar producer (1)

birge (866103) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538507)

yeah, it's amazing the debate around alternative fuels isn't more levelheaded and scientifically based. i know all the corn-belt politicians and hippies hyping ethanol have advanced degrees in chemistry, so they certainly know better. it's almost like politics and political agendas are getting in the way of this important issue. we should check into this, because if so, al gore will certainly want to hear about it.

Re:Cuba a potential major sugar producer (1)

JohnnyGTO (102952) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538527)

And diesels sound soooooo cool. Thump Thmp Thump Thump :-) nothin like stump pulling power !! they sell B99 here in Arcata and boy it smells good!

Re:Cuba a potential major sugar producer (5, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538537)

But ethanol is such a poor fuel compared to biodiesel I am amazed it gets the attention it does.

There's no technical reason for it. It is pure politics and the media exploiting(mocking) the anger with the petroleum companies. And it's putting more rainforests at risk. I don't what it does to the soil. I'm sure it will make Monsanto rich. As long as we continue using our present day jalopies, biodiesel is the one true fuel for rapid oxidation. And for the best bang for the buck(best yield per acre), algae [wikipedia.org] is the way to go(about half way down the page). Heck you can grow the stuff in(on) the ocean. No need to use up valuable real estate, but in case you want to anyway, "More recent studies using a species of algae with up to 50% oil content have concluded that only 28,000 km or 0.3% of the land area of the US could be utilized to produce enough biodiesel to replace all transportation fuel the country currently utilizes. Furthermore, otherwise unused desert land (which receives high solar radiation) could be most effective for growing the algae, and the algae could utilize farm waste and excess CO2 from factories to help speed the growth of the algae."

I'm more amazed (4, Funny)

gerf (532474) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538111)

That three billion people die a year from hunger. HOLY CRAP!

Troll (3, Insightful)

313373_bot (766001) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538137)

The only thing more pathetic than being a living fossil from the cold war is making puerile jokes about one. Are you afraid from him?

Re:zombie castro said what? (2, Informative)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538351)

Actually the mash left over from distillation is useful for live stock feed. You could also burn dried mash to produce power and heat. So its not like the leftovers are waste.

Re:zombie castro said what? (1)

rocketman768 (838734) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538621)

Tell him to grow his own da** corn! We can do whatever we want with our corn, because -- it's what? -- it's ours. If he doesn't like it, he can _try_ to invade us.

Hey Fidel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538037)

It's not sweet corn that people can eat that is the issue here.

BTW, aren't you dead?

No, half the world is not starving. (-1, Troll)

Senes (928228) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538051)

If 3 billion people were in facing death from hunger, the problem would just solve itself after a few years. Or they could all just go get jobs.

Re:No, half the world is not starving. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538151)

Are you really that ignorant?

I don't think jobs are the problem, but the supply of food.
Not everywhere is like the land of the plenty were the supermarkets are stocked with food.

Re:No, half the world is not starving. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538211)

People are starving because of a food supply problem?! THE HELL YOU SAY!

Re:No, half the world is not starving. (-1, Flamebait)

fimbulvetr (598306) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538269)

So then they can fish, right? Or trap rabbits? Perhaps walk a few hundred miles north (or south) to get to a better habitat? Shit, you'd wonder how our fucking ancestors did anything, since our current population just bitches about the world owing them a goddamned favor. There's no guarantee of food - there never has been, and I doubt there will be. If you don't like the fact that there's no food, go somewhere where there is food - or suffer the hand of natural selection and die.

Re:No, half the world is not starving. (5, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538589)

Not everywhere is like the land of the plenty were the supermarkets are stocked with food.

Yeah, well it would be if everybody would stop shooting at each other for a second.

Surprisingly... (1)

Conception (212279) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538055)

They are both correct. An odd moment of clarity from DoE and Castro.

But Who's Going to Break This to Willie Nelson? (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538251)

He seemed kind of adamant [comedynet.com] that corn fuels were the way to go...

Re:Surprisingly... (2, Insightful)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538443)

Funny thing about that. See, starving poor people don't usually have much money. And the only reason this corn is even being grown is because energy companies are willing to pay record high prices for it. If the starving poor people were willing to do that, they wouldn't be starving poor people.

Yes, it's harsh, but that's the way it works.

Re:Surprisingly... (0, Troll)

Hao Wu (652581) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538605)

Few people starve only for "lack of food".

Where many people are starving, it's usually because people like Castro have taken a nation's food supply to feed their army and incite civil wars.

"For the greater good", they will say...

corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (5, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538063)

They (like sugar cane) all grow in a 2d space. In addition, a log of energy goes into growing corn and sugar. In addition, these crops are basically batched. You may plant and then lose it all in the end.

Instead, ethanol and bio-deasil will come from algae or other microbes. The simple fact is that it allows for a continual stream of fuel as well as feeds on our waste. Finally, the amount of fuel that it uses is a fraction of regular crops.

Have to laugh at what castro is saying. There is plenty of food for the world. The issue is one of distribution. Correct that, and we could cut back on crops.

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (5, Insightful)

Chief Wongoller (1081431) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538209)

The European Union continues to subsidize thousands of farmers, allowing them to produce huge amounts of surplus food every year that costs EU taxpayers a fortune. There is no political will to curb this waste as (especially in France) the farmers have too much political clout). So, there is no need to consider planting new crops specifically for fuel. The resources already exist, though greater efficiency may come from changing the crops EU farmers currently grow to ones more suitable for biofuels. Growing crops in the EU for biofuel, therefore, could solve two problems contemporaniously: EU waste converted into much needed fuel. Alternativly we could all scrap our cars and take the bus!

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (4, Insightful)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538451)

exactly, in the US and the EU the govt pays farmers to not grow food to allow their land to recover and pays farmers to enter land management where they grow what makes their land produce best and not necessarily what's selling on the market. Many people don't know large parts of the US have been in drought conditions for 5 years... in my own county the corn only grows at half what it used to due to lack of rain. But we don't go hungry because there's extra grown in spite of what the market may bear.. it's that important that people don't STARVE.

That said, now that farmers might actually have a CASH crop and end the govt subsidies, people don't want to pay fair prices for food... funny how "free market" raiders don't like when another industry can lock up some profits at their expense. It does seem "wasteful" to use the food crop for fuel, but poverty and hunger are not due to lack of food like Casto and others would like to think... we ship more than enough food to the starving nations to feed them, their leaders sell it or burn it instead of helping the people... the GOVTS simply don't care about other people. We grow lots of crops to not use expressly for food that corn can be used for both food and fuel is a good thing! Like how soy can be used for all sorts of things.

Frankly, we need to get more "eco-friendly" all life comes from the Sun... even coal and oil were once vast herds of dinosaurs and lush forests before being buried by massive amounts of earth being flipped over... last I checked we're not making anymore dinosaurs for oil anymore. If we can get slightly less power from a plant without waiting the thousands of years to make oil we should go for it.

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (1)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538225)

Oldest excuse in the book: "Its just a problem of distribution."

I was in the grocery store today, and all the grapes were from South Africa.

Sounds like distribution is *too* easy.

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538607)

Perhaps you've noticed that Sudan doesn't exactly have the same transportation infrastructure, and that despite the grapes, most of the food in that store is still domestically produced?

One word (1)

StarKruzr (74642) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538255)

Biodiesel. You're absolutely right.

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (2, Insightful)

Lorkki (863577) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538293)

The issue is one of distribution. Correct that, and we could cut back on crops.

Yeah, all we have to do is restructure the global economy so that poorer countries are able to develop, and the problem will most likely solve itself. Why aren't we getting to work already instead of ripping them off?

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (4, Insightful)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538487)

Much of this restructuring has to happen in the poorer countries, and they are unwilling to restructure.

Take a look at North Korea, where the government makes the (mis)allocation of resources to military expenditures rather than food supplies. Take a look at Sudan, where the government has no interest in the health of its citizens, or Somalia, where there is no functioning national government.

By and large, the countries which have opened themselves to Western-style Keynesian socialist markets are developing themselves out of food security issues (China, India, and other developing 3rd world states). The other places, where nationwide starvation remains a chronic issue are either the result of natural catastrophe (Bangladesh), or broken governments (North Korea).

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538301)

Algae essentially grow in 2d too. They only grow in the plane that the sun shines. Once you have an algae soup, only the top few cm get any light. Sunlight only goes a few metres into clear water before its useful properties are reduced.

Sugar is a good way to go. Sugar is very fast growing which is why ethanol in Brazil is pretty cheap: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2005/06/17/AR2005061701440.html [washingtonpost.com] . There flexi-fuel cars can run on gas (which is at least 25% ethanol) or E100 (100% ethanol).

A massive usage for corn is in fattening cattle. This is a hugely wasteful way to feed people compared to a more direct approach such as eating the corn or soy or whatever, Processing into beef is very wasteful. This would also drive up beef prices which would make McDonalds unhappy with DoE

There is no reason why there should not be a multi-input strategy. Corn can grow where sugar cannot. Algae can grow where corn and sugar can't. It is silly to really argue for one over the other. Rather make a multi-input ethanol industry.

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538569)

Hmm, algae farms that span miles don't sound that healthy with malaria being being what it is.
Malaria [wikipedia.org]

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (2, Interesting)

lordmatthias215 (919632) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538599)

One thing I've heard brought up by universities down here in Texas and Louisiana is a plant called Energy Cane- similar to normal sugar cane, but much more aggressive and much more energy dense. From what I understand the stalks grow over twice the size of for-food cane, and its relatively easy to grow. I say we take a look at utilizing things like that in some parts, at least down in the Houston area (home of Sysco Sugar) where the sugar industry has been hit hard due to artificial sweeteners. Take whatever land that hasn't been converted to suburb yet an get a pilot program going.

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (5, Insightful)

krotkruton (967718) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538339)

Furthermore, we already use too much corn (not the best choice of words, but I'll explain what I mean). Besides the corn we eat in its regular form, corn syrup and other corn derivatives are used in a large portion of our diets in the US. Also, corn is used as the vast majority of feed (estimated at 92% in 2003 [cornell.edu] ) for livestock. Corn is a major part of our entire food infrastructure. We are already in serious danger if a corn famine ever arose, but the effects would compound if we base our fuel on corn as well. Diversification is important for any country, especially with an economy as large as the US. Of course, this might never happen, but we all know it's possible (Ireland). By the way, I live in Illinois in a small town of 4000 people surrounded by corn fields. I'm not saying this because I hate corn, but dependence on a single crop is a thin line to walk.

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538499)

By the way, I live in Illinois in a small town of 4000 people surrounded by corn fields. I'm not saying this because I hate corn, but dependence on a single crop is a thin line to walk.


There's also sugar beets and several other prairie plants that make a lot of sugar. Before the beverage industry fell in loe with corn syrup, sugar was usually either derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. The sugar beet industry was huge in the west right into the 80s. In eastern Colorado, it was a poor town that didn't have a sugar beet mill. Of course, they smelled worse than a feedlot when they were running.

For the past 15-20 years, people have been building suburbs next to ranch/farm land and feedlots, and then complaining and litigating about the organic environment their move entails. It's just a well the sugar beet industry is declining -- one less revenue stream for the lawyers. It's just a pity that the birth rate of idiots, assholes and lawyers is rising.

Re:corn and switch grass are NOT the way to go (2, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538475)

There is a lot of work going on with ethanol from cellulose. I think that is the answer for consumption in a lot of places instead of some "pork" project to keep a powerful lobby group even happier. I find it bizzare that this group already has enough power that it has Americans getting fat on expensive corn syrup instead of cheaper sugar, but perhaps it's also because I personally don't like the taste. It makes sense for Brazil to make ethanol from sugar cane, but it's a bit more difficult for a colder and drier climate to make it from corn.

I would like to know (4, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538123)

How come aren't there any diesel hybrids available? They should provide even more mpg than a prius.

While I'm thinking about it, why aren't the car engines run like the train engines, with the diesel motor running at a more or less constant rate refueling the batteries that run the electric motors that actually turn the wheels - the diesel engine could be much smaller than normal because it won't have to peak to provide power - just a nice steady constant - wouldn't even have to be a normal 4 stroke engine - it could be a stirling engine that is highly efficient but has problems speeding up - though Ford managed to get it's 0-60 speed down to 17 seconds while experimenting with alternate engines during the 70s oil crisis - making it's marriage to this application ideal.

Any thoughts on this? I admit I don't have much knowledge in this area and probably missed something very basic that is wrong with the idea.

Re:I would like to know (1)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538159)

You just described the kind of hybrid that the auto makers are selling. The engine runs at an optimal rate most of the time, even when stopped, to charge batteries that drive the engine. I believe the engine can also engage more directly when more power is needed.

Re:I would like to know (4, Insightful)

josecanuc (91) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538201)

You just described the kind of hybrid that the auto makers are selling.

I believe the grandparent poster meant direct, electric-only wheel power, not the "dual-forces on one driveshaft" approach current hybrids use.

Diesel-electric locomotives have no direct mechanical linkage from the hydrocarbon-fueled engine to the wheels on the track. This is exactly the kind of car I am waiting for. I'm a EE, so I like the idea of electricity as the main transport of energy in a car. And the hydrocarbon engine plus generator could be replaced in the future by better technology. So IF someone made an inexpensive, reliable fuel cell, it could take the place of the engine.

Re:I would like to know (4, Interesting)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538519)

I've read about a Mini Cooper design that used a hybrid motor. It was an excellent design, with a gasoline generator powering 4 electrical motors which were located in each wheel hub.

Here's the link: http://www.leftlanenews.com/hybrid-mini-offers-640 -hp-0-60-in-45-seconds.html [leftlanenews.com]

640 hp, 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, 160 hp per wheel-motor, and a 3 prong plug-in-the-wall adapter for charging the batteries up.

Cool, huh?

Re:I would like to know (4, Interesting)

John Courtland (585609) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538585)

I've posted this before, but for a very long time I've wanted to take an inline 6-cyl diesel, turbo it, and jam in into a regular RWD vehicle like a Supra. Then I'd replace the transmission with a large alternator, and have motors all the wheels, or if I can't make the fronts work, just the rears. I'd have to write some custom software to keep the engine running at an efficient speed for the alternator and electrical load, instead of trying to meet perceived fuel flow for mass air, throttle position and exhaust richness. Alternators can achieve 94% efficiency, with some hitting 98% (but that's in a lab, I'm sure it's not that good in reality), and turbo diesels are the most efficient HC engines that I'm aware of at that scale. I wonder if anyone has ever tried this.

Re:I would like to know (1)

PayPaI (733999) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538163)

Right here [wikipedia.org]

The Chevrolet Volt is a plug-in hybrid concept car created by General Motors. However, the company has avoided the use of the term "hybrid," preferring to call it an electric vehicle with a "range extender" due to its design.[2] The vehicle is designed to run purely on electricity from on-board batteries for short trips up to 40 miles (64 km) in the city--a large enough distance to cover the daily commutes of most Americans. With use of a small internal combustion engine hooked to a generator to resupply the batteries, ...

Re:I would like to know (1)

trickonion (943942) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538235)

It's called a Series HEV.

Parallel HEV:
Both the Electric Motor & ICE operate torque on the same drive shaft

Series HEV:
Only the Electric motor operates torque on the drive shaft, the ICE is designed to recharge batteries for the motor.

A series HEV is DESIGNED to be plugged in, but the ICE can be used to extend the range, because of its general small size, and hopefully static (at least more than what we have now) output.

http://web.missouri.edu/~suppesg/Technology.htm#_T oc90965829 [missouri.edu]

Re:I would like to know (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538245)

That's because the EPA hates diesel engines, even though they are cleaner than gasoline engines. Look at what has happened to the light-duty pickup truck diesel, and the OTR diesel engine, beginning with the 2007 model year. Especially pickups. The EPA have managed to get the fuel milage of the diesel down as low as the gas pickups. Effectively removing the benefit of the diesel engine. This is because they wanted to adopt their own screwy emissions standards, instead of going with what the EU and the rest of the world is using. That keeps the oil companies happy, becuase the end result is that we have to burn more fuel to do the same work, but it is "cleaner". They don't understand that having to burn all that additional fuel is probably creating more pollution than if they had just left well enough alone.

Re:I would like to know (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538501)

That's because the EPA hates diesel engines, even though they are cleaner than gasoline engines.

That depends on your definition of "clean". Diesel particulates are very nasty. Ignoring them doesn't make them disappear.

Re:I would like to know (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538373)

why aren't the car engines run like the train engines

Trains run at more or less constant speed. Cars stop and go a lot. Batteries have a hard time handling that. They overheat and operate inefficiently.

That said, it's still a good idea. Chevy thinks so too: check out the Volt [chevrolet.com] . What the world needs is an efficient long lasting battery/fuel-cell that can cope with lots of rapid charge/discharge cycles.

Re:I would like to know (2, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538377)

Diesel-electric serial hybrids scale UP very well, but so far they don't scale DOWN to automobile size all that well. To make a serial hybrid, you need an engine big enough to produce enough power to run the car, and an electric motor big enough to produce enough power to run the car.

Re:I would like to know (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538491)

To make a serial hybrid, you'll need an electric motor and battery system capable of producing the peak power required for acceleration. This isn't very difficult to do. Witness the acceleration rates claimed for the Tesla electric sports car. The IC engine needs to be large enough to produce average power. A standard sized sedan requires on the order of 25 horsepower to cruise at 60 MPH. So, a very small petrol engine could keep up with most driving conditions.


What I'd like to see is a series hybrid with a multifuel combustion engine. Whatever burns, is available and cheap will work. Needless to say, the big oil companies will hate this. It'll give consumers too many choices.

Re:I would like to know (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538385)

UPS has deisel hybrids in test (in Chicago I think).

They are hydrolic/deisel hybrids, so still different.

Re:I would like to know (4, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538393)

Because the diesel/electric motors in trains aren't done for efficiency reasons, they're done because of space constraints.

First, trains don't have batteries. It's just:
engine->genset->electric motor.

Diesel engines (especially large ones) work within a very narrow power band. For on highway trucks it's around 1000 - 2000 RPM. This is great when pulling a heavy load, but it means that you're gearing has to be set up accordingly. This is why 18-wheelers have 13 speed gear boxes.

With the amount of torque that trains need to get up to speed the gear box would need to be as long, if not longer, than the train itself. You'd need a 10000:1 (made up number) gear ratio to get the train moving, but that ratio would only be good for 1000-2000 RPM, so you'd have to shift to 9999:1, etc.

The genset -> electric motor works great because the electric motor has a near infinite 'gear ratio' and provides peak torque from 0 RPM.

However there are losses, you'll never get better than a drive where the engine is connected directly to the wheels, this is why some automatic transmissions allow you to lock up the torque converter.

Diesel hybrids are coming, but the gains over a traditional diesel engine aren't as great as over a gasoline engine.

Re:I would like to know (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538397)

Weight. Small engine->More batteries to ensure performance; larger engine->bigger electric motor to ensure performance. Diesels are a bit heavier, so they lose a bit there, and once you go to having an always on charging system with no direct to the wheels power train, you have to add another electric motor into the system.

It would probably work out that such a hybrid got somewhat better mileage, but the added cost wouldn't be worth it.

Re:I would like to know (1)

bobscealy (830639) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538407)

While a motor can be made to be much more efficient at constant load and speed (eg by camshaft grind) the efficiency of going from rotational energy to electricity and back to rotational energy is just too low. Trains only do it because of the number of diffs and mechanical complexity that would be required to get the energy of the motor to so many wheels.

Good question (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538545)

Diesels perform better (in mpg) or about the same as gas hybrids. I have a diesel Toyota LiteAce van that does approx 34 mpg (the gas equivalent does about 21mpg). Diesels really like to run at an even speed which should make them suite suited to use in a hybrid scenario.

I expect the real reason is that diesel is perceived to be "dirty" and hybrids want to be seen as "clean".Perhaps is is more a marketing issue than anything else.

Stirlings are very interesting. I have two model sirlings. They are very effective for some applications but tend to be pretty heavy for the power they produce making them less than ideal for automotive applications.

Re:I would like to know (1)

vanyel (28049) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538549)

While I'm thinking about it, why aren't the car engines run like the train engines, with the diesel motor running at a more or less constant rate refueling the batteries that run the electric motors that actually turn the wheels

I'm no expert, but I do drive an electric and have been following them for some time; my understanding is:

In cars, the loss of efficiency from a two-stage power system makes the design pointless from that perspective, and few cars have enough room for both electric motors big enough to provide the necessary power and an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) big enough to feed it. If you downsized the ICE to an average power size, then you have to have electrical storage to provide the extra when you need it, for as long as you'll need the extra oomph, which comes to the same battery tradeoff we have now with electrics: cost or size/weight, as well as needing even more space.

In trains, the extra size/weight is an advantage (gives them more traction for pulling with), and such a setup solves the startup problem (diesel engines can't run at 0 rpm and a transmission that could handle that kind of power would be prohibitive and add maintenance costs), making the loss of efficiency worth it.

I also have a hybrid Escape, and well, to be honest, I think the biggest factor in my better gas mileage is the graph that shows what my mileage is over time as I travel at different speeds. Slowing down 5mph made a huge difference ;-) (about 10-15%). The "official" reason is that they recover braking energy, but that's such a small factor that it's virtually useless. The batteries/electric motor do allow a smaller ICE, which uses less fuel in normal modes of operation than a larger engine would, and the electric provides the extra power when you need it, which is the sort of operation you are suggesting. The difference is that when the ICE is running, it's more or less directly providing power to the wheels, so you don't have the loss of efficiency from converting the energy to electricity first.

It also has a sort of "constant velocity transmission" such that you never lug the engine. I think this is the source of most of its real efficiency advantages, as it's always running at the optimum rpm for the power it's producing. It also should make it last longer: it has a 10,000 mile oil change spec, and in looking at the oil at 10,000 miles, it's cleaner than regular cars' oil at 4,000...a reflection of not stressing the engine the way you do when you have to shift (rather than making bigger explosions, you immediately make a lot more of them, i.e. it revs up at the drop of a hat, keeping the internal pressures, and thus stresses, lower).

I suspect this type of transmission might be viable in locomotives too, actually, and might be what they were talking about somewhere where I heard they were talking about a "hybrid locomotive", as it probably would improve their efficiency. I don't remember where that was though.

That is a disadvantage for it as an SUV, however: without a real transmission, you don't get the torque multiplication effect of gearing down, and the thing is useless in snow country or any place where you actually need a lot of starting torque (i.e. when you're stuck). But over 40,000 miles, I average 26mpg, vs the rated 19 for the standard V6. On a warm, dry day on flat ground, I'll get over 30.

Re:I would like to know (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538609)

We haven't seen a diesel hybrid because of cost, mainly.

A hybrid, right now, barely makes economic sense in even optimal circumstances for it, IE lots of inner-city driving. A diesel is unfamiliar technology to most people in the USA, and while a diesel engine would increase the mpg of a hybrid, the gain from combining the two technologies would be marginal. The additional cost of a diesel engine would be a killer for the vehicle. The emissions requirements would be a killer as well, gasoline engines are currently cleaner in the tests than diesel.

three billion? (4, Informative)

Surt (22457) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538127)

http://www.starvation.net/ [starvation.net]

Even if you buy their generous estimate of 35K deaths/day, that's over 200 years to reach 3 billion deaths.

Re:three billion? (4, Insightful)

Maxmin (921568) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538261)

Even more surprising than the absurd 3-billion-deaths number, is how people are more than happy to harp on it, than to focus on the fact that many people do indeed die of starvation.

Re:three billion? (1)

SQL Error (16383) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538541)

Even if you buy their generous estimate of 35K deaths/day, that's over 200 years to reach 3 billion deaths.
Maybe Castro was making an offer rather than a prediction?

Re:three billion? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538617)

Actually that's 35k children under the age of 5 per day that die from malnutrition and preventable diseases combined.

No, we save tax dollars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538141)

He doesn't realize that we pay farmers NOT to plant corn, soybeans, and other crops through agricultrial subsidies. They can now plant, sell at a higher price that what they currently recieve, and the government doesn't have to continue the payments.

Re:No, we save tax dollars (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538237)

Them's trolling words. In other words, now we pay farmers far more than we currently do to plant stuff again and we somehow "save tax dollars".

Future Energies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538429)

The real answer is, use a range of energy technologies to solve the problem. Take a look at FutureEnergies.co.uk or the guys at Green MotorSport

this is good (1)

gtshafted (580114) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538147)

I'm actually surprised the DOE come to a logical conclusion. I could be wrong but with the current technology, the amount of energy that we can produce from corn (or grass, ...) doesn't even equal the amount that we use to produce it (converting it to ethanol or whatever...). There is some promise with genetically engineered bacteria producing ethanol, but what happens when that stuff gets into the wild (which is inevitable given what happened with genetically engineered food). Personally I'm still looking towards solar or fusion....

Re:this is good (1)

OSU ChemE (974181) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538273)

I've seen a range of numbers, some saying the entire process is less than break-even, some saying it nets energy, but even those that show a net energy gain, the gain is pretty slim, on the order of 10-30%.

Re:this is good (1)

DeathToBill (601486) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538597)

Oh no, not bacteria that produce ethanol! Help! The world will end!

Wait a minute...

Sugar Cane fuel is the current answer (5, Insightful)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538157)

Sugar cane ethanol is the viable alternative, if you are going to use biomass based fuel. Brazil is doing it since the seventies, it already works on most cars that use gas with little to no modification (Fiat, GM and other auto companies already produces them in quantities there) and it is almost a closed cycle, using barely to no fossil fuel on its production. This [senate.gov] (warning, PDF) is a good summary on the benefits of sugar cane ethanol, of course we can wait for hydrogen or whatever is the technology of the future, just like we are waiting since the seventies, but if you want something that already works, sugar cane ethanol is the way to go.

Do you know that the only reason that makes U.S. not to get more ethanol from Brazil is protectionism via subsides and import quotas? Fidel got it right on this one, in order to protect the few (and rich) local corn farmers (not to mention the oil barons), U.S. impedes cheap sugar and ethanol to reach the U.S., artificially increasing the demand of corn for ethanol production, driving corn prices up and, this way, making things harder for poor people on U.S. itself and, indirectly, on Mexico too (thanks Nafta). Check this article [cnn.com] and see, it is past the point of speculation and conspiracy theories.

Law of unintended consequences in action here. It could be different. Unfortunately, I'm not a citizen of U.S., so, I'm not part of the democratic process there. But a lot of you are, and only you could make the difference. You can wait for the Tesla electric car [wikipedia.org] all your lives (maybe it will fly too, if you wait time enough) while complaining about dependence on fossil fuels and financing wars on it, or you can make the difference now and take a stand on it.

Re:Sugar Cane fuel is the current answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538311)

I'm more annoyed than anything about the fact that the only cane sugar soda drinks in the US are those imported from foreign countries (like the Coke bottles you get in the Hispanic foods aisle at the grocery store).

Why the fuck are we drinking corn syrup instead of cane sugar? Yay for incredibly stupid ideas put in place to subsidize farmers in the US.

Re:Sugar Cane fuel is the current answer (2, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538611)

There are several smaller producers out there who use cane sugar. Jones Soda is switching over [nwsource.com] .

Here's [google.com] the froogle results for cane sugar sodas.

They are available if you look.

Re:Sugar Cane fuel is the current answer (1)

dyslexicbunny (940925) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538547)

Unfortunately, I'm not a citizen of U.S., so, I'm not part of the democratic process there. But a lot of you are, and only you could make the difference.
I'm a US citizen and I can safely say, neither are we! Apparently you've never heard of Diebold.

In some seriousness, our agriculture business is completely fucked up with all the subsidies and quotas that removing them all would do God knows what to our food prices here. Honestly, USDA should fund a couple of studies (from people not associated with the agriculture industry) to see what the impact of trying to fix everything might be before doing anything first.

wonderful (4, Insightful)

qw0ntum (831414) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538161)

Great. At least someone realizes that corn isn't the answer. The answer is hemp [wikipedia.org] , which among other industrial uses [wikipedia.org] is great for biofuel [wikipedia.org] production [hempcar.org] .


Before you say it, no, we don't need to think of the children. Industrial hemp contains less than 0.3% THC, as opposed to the 20%-30% that is found in unfertilized female plants that are grown for drug use. But God forbid anyone grow hemp: we all know what evils marijuana can cause [imdb.com] .

Re:wonderful (2, Funny)

Aokubidaikon (942336) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538409)

How about we genetically modify corn to product THC? That would solve all of our problems.

Re:wonderful (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538427)

But God forbid anyone grow hemp: we all know what evils marijuana can cause [imdb.com].

This being slashdot, I didn't follow the link.

I presume it's a Steve Carell and/or Will Farrell movie?

- RG>

Re:wonderful (1)

qw0ntum (831414) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538455)

"Reefer Madness" bud, 1936 film about the dangers of 'marijuana cigarettes'. Required reading in the history of propaganda.

Ethanol's real name - FARM SUBSIDY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538175)


Why doesn't anyone recognize this ethanol bullshit for what it is - a sop to farmers and farm state congressmen. We already use all the arable land on this planet to feed ourselves and the beef we eat, where are we going to grow all the plants that would be needed to feed our SUVs?

Re:Ethanol's real name - FARM SUBSIDY (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538187)

a sop to farmers and farm state congressmen.

No, it's much more about massive corporate welfare for ADM (price fixer to the world.)

-jcr

Re:Ethanol's real name - FARM SUBSIDY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538349)

This is essentially the Republican Party's buyout of midwestern farm states' votes. I think this is despicable. And I'm a card-carrying Republica.... wait a minute, I lost the card. BUT ANYWAY, whatever happened to being the party of FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY, hmm? Pathetic!

Re:Ethanol's real name - BULLSHIT!!!! (2, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538433)

We already use all the arable land on this planet to feed ourselves and the beef we eat


I see, so *everybody* who is born from now on will starve to death, right? Because we have absolutely no arable land left to feed anyone...

Let them eat TOBACCO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538177)

Hmmm, how many hungry people could be fed if the farmland in Cuba used to grow tobacco was used to raise food, rather then a crop known for it's addicting properties?

On the other side, corn base ethanol is a subsidy for big corporate agribusiness, and has nothing to do with actual energy independence or carbon dioxide reduction.

The compromise positon is free cigars and moonshine for all!!

Why not? (2, Interesting)

Runefox (905204) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538185)

I mean, when you eat corn, it's pretty much in one end and out the other, anyway, right? Just make everyone in America eat a cob of corn every day, and let the sewage treatment plants separate the fuel from the... Well, you know.

Oh shit, what now? (2, Funny)

fm6 (162816) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538221)

The news here is not that corn is a bad way to make ethanol. Everybody who isn't in the pocket of agribusiness knows that. The news here is that a true blue bushie [energy.gov] (or should I say true red bushie? how did Republicans become red [cpcml.ca] ?) has reached this conclusion. Which is going to upset a lot of people. Which means they're up to something. What? Is Bush going to invade Iowa?

Re:Oh shit, what now? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538305)

(or should I say true red bushie? how did Republicans become red?)

Apparently, the color scheme for elections (traditionally using red, white, and blue) was standardized for the 2000 US presidential elections with states G. W. Bush carried being colored red and Al Gore being blue. The "red state" and "blue state" labeling comes from this.

Re:Oh shit, what now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538631)

Yeah, and I would hazard a guess that when the colors were being picked, the idea of calling liberal democrats "reds" was tossed out as being a little too suggestive of McCarthyism for the media's tastes -- they like to think of themselves as unbiased. (I'd say their actual bias is towards the Washington elite power structure itself, rather than 'left' or 'right', so they're at least partly right.)

Its about time (2, Informative)

AP2k (991160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538291)

...we wake up from this corn ethanol farce. Corn ethanol hasnt gotten close to breaking even and isnt expected to do so. Meanwhile viable alternatives like sweet and brown potatoes which can yeild just as much ethanol as sugar cane per volume are given the blind eye. Potatoes grow easilly, have few enemies, and require next to no fertilizers.

I would really like to see automakers push more diesel engines in America. Bioiesel production per energy breaks even with nearly every method. It also has greater energy than gasoline per volume, unlike ethanol which has about 2/3's as much as gasoline.

Ultimately the defining factor of energy infrastructure is the technology itself and demand for innovation of that technology. Today, automakers are focused on riding out low compression engines to the very end instead of focusing on more efficient and powerful diesel technology. But as already pointed out, it was never about energy independance, but rather kickbacks to the agriculture business. So we will not see soon a Manhattan project for more efficient engines, nor will we see the same fervor put into biodiesel prduction that we currently have for the ethanol pipe dream.

Thanks Congress. You are awesome.

Re:Its about time (1)

pkbarbiedoll (851110) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538369)

Someone mod the parent up. Just because we work in IT and may not have many blue collar friends/relatives doesn't mean that scores of willing hard working Americans are chomping at the bit to farm, especially when doing so would lessen our dependence on oil. We often seem so intent on screwing over a large number of blue collar folk in the name of cheap goods from overseas. Growing sweet/potatoes is something that can be done easily, affordably and organically. This is an option we need to promote, instead of importing more goods from other countries. As if we don't import enough as it is.

Re:Its about time (3, Interesting)

jfengel (409917) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538573)

I'm all for figuring out that corn isn't a miracle for anything except winning votes in Iowa, but where did you get the idea that potatoes require "next to no fertilizers"? I grow potatoes and you have to fertilize the bejeezus out of the things or you end up with cute little micro-potatoes.

More data:

http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1619.html [osu.edu]

Potatoes are still better than corn; for all I know you're right that they're the most efficient. But I just wanted to point out that fertilizers are still going to be necessary.

Starving (1)

HolyCrapSCOsux (700114) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538309)

So we need a Soylent green fuel.
After the starved folks die, we catalyze them into either a fossil fuel, or a biofuel....
Is it possible to create oil from biowaste? That is where it came from any way right?

Corn is Inefficient (2, Insightful)

hedgemage (934558) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538337)

It takes more energy to grow and process the corn into biofuel than you would get from using the biofuel produced. The only reason why corn has been considered is because lobbying concerns have been pushing for it to increase the bottom line of big agri-businesses like ADM. The US already has massive corporate welfare programs for the 'poor farmers' of corporate agri-business and I'm surprised that the DoE has taken this stance.

Correct (4, Interesting)

jeevesbond (1066726) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538347)

Ethanol is not the way forward, the BBC has an interesting article [bbc.co.uk] on this, some excerpts:

The grain required to fill the petrol tank of a Range Rover with ethanol is sufficient to feed one person per year. Assuming the petrol tank is refilled every two weeks, the amount of grain required would feed a hungry African village for a year

Much of the fuel that Europeans use will be imported from Brazil, where the Amazon is being burned to plant more sugar and soybeans, and Southeast Asia, where oil palm plantations are destroying the rainforest habitat of orangutans and many other species.

Using ethanol rather than petrol reduces total emissions of carbon dioxide by only about 13% because of the pollution caused by the production process, and because ethanol gets only about 70% of the mileage of petrol

Food prices are already increasing. With just 10% of the world's sugar harvest being converted to ethanol, the price of sugar has doubled; the price of palm oil has increased 15% over the past year, with a further 25% gain expected next year.

So it seems the right decisions are being made here. I'm quite suprised as I thought lobby groups were already springing up around so-called 'green fuels', I've seen some suspicious adverts for ethanol fuels on Canadian TV recently.

Re:Correct (1)

jeevesbond (1066726) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538531)

*sigh* to start with the article is about corn, but that BBC article linked to is mostly about grain. Secondly there's nothing wrong with ethanol as the Reuters article points out:

Sell said the future of biofuels is cellulosic ethanol, made from microbes that break down woody bits of non-food crops into sugars that can be fermented into fuel.

I am, in fact, a noob. Sorry.

Re:Correct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538587)

Hold up - ethanol made from any plant is carbon neutral... so how the hell can "Using ethanol rather than petrol reduces total emissions of carbon dioxide by only about 13% because of the pollution caused by the production process, and because ethanol gets only about 70% of the mileage of petrol" be true? Are they talking about E-85?

How many calories can we grow? (3, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538359)

Think about the total amount of food grown and the land used to grow food. The average person eats about 2000-2500 kCal per day in food. The average person consumes about 36,000 kCal per day worth of oil (just oil, not including coal, nat gas, etc.).

Is the Earth big enough to provide 15-20 times the current food production level of biofuel-grade plant material? And if we plant more energy crops won't we be planting less food crops?

The US will be fine, but any one who eats food grown on land that could be used to grow an energy crop will see higher food prices.

Re:How many calories can we grow? (1)

Orion_II (1073458) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538555)

Well, the unique thing about biodiesel is that you don't actually need to use fresh crops; you can actually use waste vegeteble oil:

As of 2000, the United States was producing in excess of 11 billion liters of waste vegetable oil annually, mainly from industrial deep fryers in potato processing plants, snack food factories and fast food restaurants. If all those 11 billion liters could be collected and used to replace the energetically equivalent amount of petroleum (a rather utopian case), almost 1% of US oil consumption could be offset.[citation needed] However, usage of waste vegetable oil as a fuel competes with already established usages.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste_vegetable_oil#W aste_vegetable_oil [wikipedia.org]

A Solution (1)

illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538365)

Why don't we just switch to using cane sugar for our food and have the farmers sell all that excess corn for biofuel? It might make us a little less fat, too.

This isn't coming from Fidel (0, Troll)

beeblebrox (16781) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538367)

It's Fidelito [wikipedia.org] that's getting mildly concerned. He's a one-trick (crude) pony.

The last horse crosses the finish line. (1)

jonbritton (950482) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538391)

Have people been suggesting corn as a source for biofuels, and I'm not aware of it? I thought we had all pretty much agreed long ago that cornoil-based biodiesel is cute for demonstrations involving frenchfry buses and wowing people into supporting the cause, but any serious implementation would depend upon algae farms, or at least one of the more prolific oil producing plants (industrial hemp, for example.)

Maybe I'm out of the loop.

Check out Stephen Gaghan's Cerealana (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18538425)

The truth is that we are past peak corn. People are fighting and dying to preserve the Capt Crunch conspiracy.

Wake up, people!

Scam (1)

GeoSanDiego (703197) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538595)

I think that some of the best evidence that corn ethanol is a big wasteful takpayer subsidized scam is that the plants that are being built to convert the corn to ethanol are all powered by fossil fuels.

Btw, if anyone wants the direct link (1)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18538603)

The editorial [www.cuba.cu] , straight from cuba.cu website. In spanish, of course, but at least the exact words, without anything lost in translation.
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