Alcohol fuel - The obvious answer, Yes or No?

Discussion in 'Business & Economics' started by Billy T, Nov 18, 2005.

  1. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    There's not a lot in the public domain right now, but if you google for "underground coal liquefaction" you'll find a few results. The less ambitious ones use a two-stage process where the coal is converted into gas underground, and then that gas is extracted and fed into a liquefaction process at an above-ground refinery. The more ambitious ones are looking to liquefy the coal directly in the ground, and then pump out liquid fuel. Apparently they're building a pilot plant in Australia to try this out:
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  3. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Thanks for link. Here is diagram of the basic idea (see my comments below it.):

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    In addition to concern that their patented catalyst will be consumed by chemical reactions in the coal bed and thus be costly (not really a reused catalyst) my main concern it that it would seem to have a great deal of pumping and thermal energy lost. I.e. the very high pressure of 350C “simulated” super heated steam injected will mainly, I think just flow back up the annulus which is less than a foot away from the injection point. It has a 50+ meter path back to the surface in which heat will be lost and the pressure will drop. Both this lost pressure and thermal energy must be restored to the flow going back down. Also they are intentionally (they hope) extracting hot oil, gases and steam, which is more heat removal.

    I think they are assuming that the wet oxidation will make the annulus flow much hotter than the injection flow temperature. That may be true, but my concern is that because the injection point is less than a foot away from the annulus most of what is coming up the annulus will just be the mass injected after a small volume of coal has been converted. I.e. I expect they will be able to convert some coal, perhaps a hemisphere several meters of radius, but then little more. That is, the surface of this hemisphere will cease to grow (not being converted to gases and liquids), so then they will soon have just their pumped circulation, with pressure and thermal losses the flow down the pipe that comes back up the annulus.

    I am just guessing and hope I am wrong as using brown coal in situ is attractive. Surely they do have some computer models that predict the hemisphere will continue to grow with more heat coming up the annulus than they sent down the central pipe. If that is true, then I think they can use the excess thermal energy for power production (they seem to have some doubt the steam coming up the annulus will be hot enough.) but as studies of ocean thermal power, have claimed to be economical with organic working fluid in rankine cycle engine, I don’t doubt that they can sell power IF they can get more heat coming to ground level than the injected down the pipe. I.e. I think there is a good chance they will just burn a hemisphere in the coal bed and then the process will stop. Anyway, this is too much of a real possibility for me to be interested in investing in it. Thanks again for the link.
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  5. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    No not all tropical land is forest – where did you get that crazy idea???? I said 5% or more of “tropical” land was forest. Note when I put quotes on “tropical” that indicates the equatorial band between 30S & 30 N latitude as most of the sugar cane grown in Brazil is slightly outside to the tropics (not within 23.45 degrees of the equator).
    Perhaps you do not know that once the entire Sahara was a forest. Most believe man’s introduction of the goat transformed it into the present desert. There are large experimental, fenced-off, patches in several parts of African desert where the forest has been restored. Over grazing is responsible for most deserts. So yes it would be possible to grow sugar cane in the Sahara, but the cost of doing so would not be competitive with growing it in areas that are now “tropical” and forested. BTW, India is second only to Brazil in current production of sugar cane, and has a great deal of forested land.

    A large part of the Sahara is below sea level. For hundreds of years Mediterrian water could fall into this depression and generate significant hydro-electric power. (Several studies have shown this would be profitable.) The side effects would of enormous economic significance – energy intensive industries, etc. but also important is the increase in rain fall in the Sahara, as the salt lake forming in the depression evaporates. This strong brine would also be an economic source of minerals, especially Chlorine and Sodium. When these studies were done, lithium did not have the current value, but as most sources of lithium are brine lakes, probably it could be economically obtained too, 100+ years from now.
    Yes, 5%. Much more than 5% of this band has little productive use now. Certainly 5% of this “tropical” band could be producing sugar cane (or some other commercial crop). In a few decades, man will have no choice, unless population grow is halted, but to clear “tropical” forests for production of food, fiber, and energy. The point is to do this as intelligently as possible and that will take planning and TIME, so let’s get started. We need to start reducing fossil fuel burning NOW. IMHO, using this valuable chemical feed stock for heat is a crime against future generations. – We have done them huge harm already with the debt we are passing down. At least stop burning up what they will need for chemical, especially fertilizer, production. Sugar cane based alcohol is proven in large scale to be economical so it can and should be displacing fossil fuels in transportation in places other than Brazil.

    There is NO conversion factor to be aware of. I was just pointing out that one is power and the other is energy so there is no conversion factor between them. If you make other assumptions, specifically that you are considering only one second of time, then a Joule is the energy a watt for that second releases but in general there is no conversion between apples and oranges or watts and joules. Likewise, with a special restrictive additional assumption apples can be converted into oranges. For example if one is concerned only with cost and apples are twice the cost of oranges per pound, then within this LIMITED context on can say that two oranges equal one apple but there is no general conversion factor between apples and oranges, nor between Joules and watts.

    You have a tendency to be imprecise, if not actually confused. When I get time to reply to your other post I will insert some red corrections of your misused terms into my quotes of you.
    Yes that is a big mistake. I misread the wiki article. I will accept your efficiency factor (assuming your “givens” below from post 380 are correct).
    6.10 GJ/ton Given
    {Billy T thinks this does not include possible conversion of the bagasses to sugar, and is not sure where this value came from.}
    31.5 tons/acre/yr Given
    {Billy T and you have noted that higher values exist. The yield per acre has been increasing as genetic improvements and more productive farming practices are applied but probably never will more than double, although corn’s yield per acre has more than tripled over the decades.}
    192.15 GJ/acre/yr both above multiplied

    4046.86 m^2/acre conversion
    0.04748 GJ/m^2/yr both above divided
    47,481,299 J/M^2/yr above multiplied 10^9

    175 w/m^2/d Given
    15,120,000 J/m^2/d multiplied by seconds in day
    5,518,800,000 J/M^2/yr multiplied by days in a year

    0.86% Difference both bold divided

    No, I mean what I said. – 5% of the “tropical” land. Not all of it would be taken from the forests. Some, especially in Brazil, is abandoned pasture, logged over land, etc. But as stated above, even deserts, with irrigation, can grow cane or other crops and will be needed if population growth cannot be stopped. In the long run, all the soil nutrients that the crops remove must be replaced – so starting with only sand as the soil, is not much more expensive than starting with fertile soil in the long run. Of course crop rotation, especially for nitrogen fixation by clovers etc. is desirable, and unless cellulosic alcohol is feasible putting clover etc. on the land in some years increases the total land required. That can be largely avoided with only chemical fertilizers – What is best is an economic question.

    Yes, assuming your data is correct; but note I have never suggested “tropical” alcohol could replace all uses of oil. - Only of gasoline (and then only after more public electric mass transport + tele-commuting is in use).

    Even in the US where gasoline is the most profitable fraction and “cracking” at the refinery tries to maximize it, there are only 19 gallons of gasoline obtained from each 44 gallon barrel of oil. As most of the world needs a much smaller fraction of gasoline, but say eventually* less than 11 gasoline gallons from the 44 gallon barrel, I will reduce your annual 1.8E20 Joules in petroleum globally needed by factor of 0.25 as I am only trying to replace gasoline with alcohol, not all petroleum use but admittedly my (corrected) 2E18 Joules of annual energy in alcohol is not enough to replace current use of gasoline by a factor of: 180x0.25 / 2 = 22.5 and only very draconian efficiency measures could reduce he global need by that factor.

    Thus, in addition to alcohol powered cars, massive increase in electric public transport and tele-computing, natural gas powered and electric battery powered cars do seem to be necessary even if 10% of the land which can grow sugar cane with high yield were converted to this use. However, with your sunlight conversion efficiency factor, instead of my (corrected) 0.2% that 22.5 factor becomes only about a factor of 5 reduction in needs which will still be hard to achieve via tele-commuting and mass transit, at least in the USA. If, however other countries like China and India, learn from the US’s mistake and do not build massive road networks, but use that money for mass transit, etc. then it does seem possible that sugar cane alcohol, especially if the bagasse is also converted into alcohol could be the most important liquid fuel – eventually ending the use of natural gas powered cars.

    * Currently I doubt if even 10% of India’s petroleum use is as gasoline for cars. Thus the 11gasoline gallons from each 44 gallon barrel assumed above as the ultimate global need is very plausible PROVIDED that India and China do learn from the US’s mistake of a massive hi-way building program instead of mass transit. China, at least seems to have learned this important lesson. – They are building more high speed rail than the rest of the world will have. They are building high rise urban housing, not suburban sprawl. They have the world’s largest subway systems, etc. Unfortunately, they are also the world’s largest sellers of cars, but starting 1 January 2011, they are limiting the sale / use of cars by a new registration permit system. (There was a mad rush to get permits in December 2010.)
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  7. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Your extremely sloppy discussion (or perhaps complete confusion?) makes it hard to follow what you are trying to say, but doing so incorrectly.
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  8. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    You said you wanted to cut down 5% of forests within a 60 degree band about the equator and in their place put up sugar cane? you said so right here:

    So why are you looking up all land in that latitude range?

    Sure I did and its irrelevant, the present Sahara can't support forest or much vegetation at all.

    Some believe. More so I would think that would be a warning of what to expect if you cut down the rainforest.

    So therefor you believe even a significant amount of the Sahara can be restored and soon? You do relies that even crazier then fusion power coming in and saving the day?

    Prove that, prove over grazing is responsible for MOST deserts.

    Oh sure but I doubt India or Brazil can ramp up sugar cane production to cover dozens of millions of km^2.

    Huuum that strange show me where these "large" parts that are below sea level are?

    Because certianly it appears that almost all of the Sahara is above sea level.

    All irrelevant as you would need up to 28-44% of all land in these latitudes growing sugarcane to replace just world oil demand, that many times more then existing farm land in that area, and might even be more then viable farmable land in that area.

    I disagree, there is still plenty of increase productive capacity form existing farmlands, its all a matter of improving 3rd world farming efficiency with 1st world techniques and plants, a much easier task than making millions of more km^2 of farmland on forests and eve desert! All that is needed is to accept the bio-fuels will not be a majority energy provider. For example we could take the Sahara, all 8.6 million km^2 and place solar power on it, with an average of 225 w/m^2/d and a solar power efficiency of 10% being low even for printed solar panels that would mean 13 times more power production then the world present TOTAL demand for energy! Yet we would need 2 Sahara deserts just to make up oil energy demand if we were to use sugarcane and your most optimistic efficiency estimates.

    A statement general enough to agree with, but how should we precede is the real question.

    and yet you want to increase the debt by destroying forests, adding CO2 to the atmosphere, killing off whole biospheres and what ever value they could have provided, lost to history.

    Yet it is impractical to scale it to replace even a majority of fossil fuel use. You keep making the same claim over and over despite it being proven impractical, despite it being proven that it would require an obscene amount of land.

    Lets say I was asking how much fruit I have, then why should I care if its an apple or an orange? We are talking about energy and power interchangeably so it should not matter if its watts or joules, the numerical value is the same.

    1:1 conversion at 1 second in time, you I'm going to make a point to call it a watt or a joule when ever I feel like it just to tick you off, its irrelevant to this thread, it doesn't change the numbers, its just you nit picking irrelevant points when you know you have been defeated on relevant points.

    And I won't even read it because it is irrelevant, just you picking nits.

    Again I've been over this with you that total energy content of the biomass, sugar, bagasses, leaves all of it. If you were to dry out and burn sugarcane in a calorimeter, that how much energy you would detect. So yes it does not consider the energy content that could be extracted to ethanol, because that would be only a fraction of the total energy content presented, so I'm actually be quite generous by assuming total energy content and not the tiny fraction that can come off as ethanol, as you found the fraction was several times smaller. For example total solar to biomass efficiency was 0.86%, and you found at present solar to ethanol efficiency is 0.13% or 1/7 of the total biomass comes off as ethanol, even when you assumed 0.2% with cellulosics its still less then 1/4!

    Oh certianly show me that corn now provides 3 times as much biomass as before, and note that not just in edible or fermentable corn that total biomass. Certainly we could use your 36 tons/acre/yr that would be only a 12% improvement.

    Yet you said earlier: "SUMMARY: Five percent of the currently forested “tropical” lands"" so how do you mean what you said?

    I don't know if the efficiency is that bad, at present the US consumed ~20 million barrels of oil a day yet of these it consumes ~9 million barrels worth in gasoline. Certainly not all the rest of the oil was destroyed to make gasoline as then there would be none to make jetfuel, diesel, plastics, etc, that we know the US consumes. I was always told that cracking efficiency was somewhere around 80%. But if you want to consider efficiency consider the fact that sugarcane is doing less then 1% solar to biomass conversion efficiency, of that only (lets be generous) 25% makes it out as ethanol, then we burn that in a car (negating transportation energy loses) which is getting at best 35% efficiency, for a grand total of 0.09% efficiency. Or we could of started with solar photovoltaic power at 10-20% efficiency, electric grid at 93% efficiency, run an electric car at greater then 80% efficiency, for a total of 12% efficiency. The latter we could get us over a hundred times more work per initial unit of energy! Heck we could just burn biomass to power a steam cycle power plant at 35% efficiency, through the electric grid (93%) and power an electric car (85%), that comes out to 0.8% total efficiency or 9 times what we could get with an alcohol burning car, or 9 electric cars could operate on the energy needed for just one alcohol car! So if you want to talk about the direction mankind should go for transportation economy and for generally its whole energy economy its clear the latter case of electrification is the way to go!

    Finally you agree, kind of, again why would we need alcohol fuel when electrification could do the same for far less energy, I guess it might be good for prop planes, race cars, and maybe chains saws, but that about it. That is certainly demand that could be met without having to cut down rainforest or try to grow on the Sahara.
  9. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Yes Billy T said: “SUMMARY: Five percent of the currently forested “tropical” lands could supply four times more energy in alcohol than the US used in gasoline in 2009.” (But note that claim is false as it has my error of treating the efficiency as fraction instead of a percent.)
    Please note that statement neither expresses my “want” nor that only the forested land could be used. In fact I have said that abandoned pastures and logged over land could also be used to grow sugar cane. Read what I said, especially the verb “could.” That also answers your next question, which was:
    I.e. I am intending to get suitable land from all parts of the 60degree wide band, and I have already corrected your false reading of what I said here:
    Well of course then depends upon what you mean by “soon.” I did mention that several large tracks of African desert were fenced in, a couple of square miles each or more at least two decades ago as I recall to prevent grazing. They now are a young forest. There are photos of these green dots in the desert taken from satellites.

    My first job after getting my PhD in a just formed new group, was nearly a decade working on the controlled fusion problem, not directly but the edges, but “hands on” with modestly hot plasmas for the US Navy at APL/JHU, so when the time came, naively expected to be about a decade later our experienced group could over see the contractors starting to build the first fusion powered aircraft carrier. Ten years later, both we and the Navy realized the it would be at least two decades more before we would be needed for that task, so they killed funding for our group. The fusion problem has decades of history, where it seems each step forward has been off set by two steps backwards as new problems were learned. When I selected my experimental PhD project and when I took this first job, I was very optimistic that man was on the threshold of unlimited energy and wanted to part of that. 45 years later, I am jaded: I think it may not be possible to make fusion energy even economically close to competiting with coal for at least 100 years more.

    Yes, I think restoring a significant fraction of the Sahara to forest (or crop land) is a less difficult task than achieving economically competitive fusion power in the next 100 years. We know deserts can be restored to forests, economically with fences, as man has done that on several experimental tracks desert tracks.
    I cannot do that, but can only note that the southern edge of the Sahara, by almost any definition you want to take for that ”edge” is clearly marching south, at about 1 mile per year as I recall, and that is due to over grazing. To demonstrate that is why the UN or some other group fenced in sections to show not only could this desertification be stopped with fences that prevented grazing, But it could even be reversed back to a young forest.

    By “large,” I meant big enough to be economically feasible to drain Mediterranean water thru hydo-elctric generators into an evaporating but growing lake for as long or longer as one normally considers the economic life of a river dam silting in behind the dam, not a large fraction of the Sahara. Specifically I was speaking of the Qattara Depression:

    “ …The large size of the Qattara Depression and the fact that it falls to a depth of 133 m below mean sea level has led to several proposals to create a massive hydroelectric project in northern Egypt rivaling the Aswan High Dam. The proposals all call for a large channel or tunnel being excavated from the Qattara due north about 80 km to the Mediterranean Sea or to the near-by Nile River. Water would flow from the channel into a series of hydro-electric penstocks which would release the water at 90 m below sea level. Because the Qattara is in a very hot dry region with very little cloud cover the water released at the 90 m level would spread out from the release point across the basin until evaporating from solar influx. Because the depression is so deep and broad, a great deal of water would be let in to maintain the artificial salt sea at the 90 m level and as the water evaporates more sea water would be sent through the penstocks to generate more electricity. …”
    From:, but there are several other locations also where studies suggest it would also e profitable. The evaporation form the below sea level lake would facilitate he re-forestation of a significant part of the Sahara.. The Bedouins and their “black goats” both are now gone, so fences may not be needed.
    This must be the fifth or sixth time I have told you I am not trying to replace global oil demand. Please learn to read what I actually say.
    Yes there are suggestion to do this with high voltage DC transmission to EU. I have a copy of one but you can probably still find it. It is very deailed and worth reading (why I saved it in my computer) Search on UE-MENA or The DESERTEC Concept. It is a “Club of Rome” publication with separate articles by many scientist and introduction by His Royal Highness Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 17, 2011
  10. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    I wasn't saying you were saying that only forest land could be used but that 5% forest land was all you were claiming necessary. Now sure if you claim that any land in the area adding up to 5% of forest land in area could be used then why even mention forest land, worse why would you even suggest cutting down forest when all that other land would certainly have fit the need and then some?

    Oh goody can you show me where they are? I would like to see if these experiment represent generally what could be done to a desert like the sahara and its vast oceans of sand or a set of special cases where the land was Savannah and not true desert.

    This statement is not proof or evidence of anything. For example you could have been working on a reactor design the was fundamentally flawed, like the Tokamak. In fact you admit to bias in your prospective (jaded) now I'm not saying fusion is soon in coming but at least I'm neutral and rational about it.

    There is no way we could in 100 years convert the whole or even most of the Sahara to desert, to even try would economically cost many many times more then all the fusion research ever.

    Again show this evidence so that I might examine its credibility.

    Maybe, but I don't see how that accounts for all deserts? There a many things that cause deserts, certainly mountains blocking clouds is a big factor probably a lot bigger then supposed over grazzing. But sure maybe the sahara case was caused by a change in the earth's tilt , certainly grazing could have been a exacerbating factor, but I don't see it as the most prominent theory and certain not as an explanation for all or even most desert in the world.

    Aaah but you said "A large part of the Sahara is below sea level." and the Qattara Depression is a very small part of the sahara. Its not even 1/4 of a percent of the Sahara. More so the idea is fabulous but its not going to help most of the Sahara.

    Oh then please state it again, but note if it has to do with reduced demand or US demand I've already countered those claims.

    I don't care, I was merely using it as an example not asking for more information on it, I have google for that, thank you very much.
  11. chimpkin C'mon, get happy! Registered Senior Member

    It would seem like the place to grow biofuel crops...since we need cropland to feed people, not cars...if you were going to do it...

    Well, it seems like you'd have to bioengineer some sort of floating plant, like sargasso, maybe? that's meant to grow in the deep ocean...and produce some sort of biofuel.

    Honestly,there an oil substance would be better too, as you don't have to ferment and distil.

    Ideally, edible by/nutritious for crop fish, because we don't need to do any MORE damage to the already very iffy state of the food fish stocks.

    Further, whatever we don't come along and vacuum up for our cars would, if writing a wishlist for a bioengineered floating plant, reproduce and die off in a fairly fast amount of time, and lose buoyancy when dead...sinking to the bottom of the ocean with its' little carbon load, carrying it out of the atmosphere.

    So the properties of algae (that being production of an edible oil that doubles as a fuelstock)would have to be enhanced and combined with that of the clumpy power of sargassum-so making it economical to gather...and the growth ability of kudzu?
    I keep thinking duckweed....

    Admittedly, attempts to fix our planet's human-caused issues by bioengineering...well, has some really scary potential to blow up in our faces, genesplicing being what it is.

    OTOH, right now we're using the technology to do what may be even less advisable stuff.

    I...will advocate for whatever will likely/possibly work. Even if it's not "natural." We're sort of moonscaping things...

    Not that I have any idea if this is doable...I just know about algal oils, and I believe those need a non-oxy environment to increase oil production anyway. I just think that using crops on the limited amount of arable land we have(versus the not-so-limited amount of people) to feed cars ought not to be our first choice.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2011
  12. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Yeah and no they don't need a non-oxygen environment, at least no the eukaryote ones that is, I did not do much research on prokayotic algae. But yes high oxygen will reduced the efficiency, which means they will need aeration, they need to be kept a control temperatures, need CO2 and need to remove oxygen and need nutrients. Ideally the oceans surface would do for temperature control and a semi-permeable membrane would remove oxygen and let in ocean nutrients, but that still in the most basic research phase, but it is such a noble dream, farming the oceans with long bags of algae.

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  13. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    We both know now that more than 5% is required to replace a significant part of global liquid fuel use (when India, China, etc. are using more). The 5% was originally just my guess, and then I miss read (I have mild dyslexia) the wiki solar to alcohol energy conversion efficient and briefly thought I had made an accurate guess. I spoke of the fact that there was more than 5% in the forest between 30S & 30N latitudes to show that it would certainly be possible and economically more productive if even all the new land for growing sugar cane came from the forest only. I was not advocating this. Of course the abandoned pasture, logged over regions, quasi desert (with irrigation) etc. land should be used before clearing forest.

    I also have made the point that mankind really has no choice in a decade or so but to convert "tropical" land, currently not productively used into the production of fuel, fiber and food, some forest included in all probability, UNLESS he can get population growth stopped. Furthermore I have stated that sugar cane alcohol is the ONLY currently proven in large scales use to be economical, and practical in all ways as a replacement for gasoline. Let's not wait for the conceptually "best," which may prove to be impractical or not economically viable, but adopt the proven good, now. I.e. there is no reason why the US could not import it from "tropical" countries instead of oil (for gasoline, at least) and that that should be done NOW, because:

    (1) Converting to alcohol car fuel makes a slight one-time REDUCTION in atmospheric CO2 with the carbon of CO2 that was in the air then stored as carbon in the alcohol ocean tankers, the port storage tanks, and the car's on average 1/3 full fuel tanks, plus cane roots left always in the field or the new growing cane. Even if some trees are cleared, that wood may be converted to alcohol also, (i.e. cellulosic alcohol). Then there is a net reduction in CO2 from the cleared forest mainly because less fossil fuel is burned, but also as sugar cane is a C4 photosynthesis plant (trees are not) it takes carbon from the air more rapidly than trees do. Of course, if cellulosic alcohol is not possible economically, then there is a onetime increase in atmospheric CO2 if the wood is just burned (instead of made into houses etc.). In any case the termination of the EVERY YEAR burning of gasoline soon reverses this possible one-time increase in atmospheric CO2 even if there is clearing and burning of forests for new sugar cane fields.
    And (2)
    Instead of sending fuel dollars to the rich and oppressive Med East governments that also fund the terrorists and educate the future terrorists to hate the US in their "religious" schools, the dollars paying for the fuel go to the population of poor countries, and the poor in them who are cutting the cane, etc. They then in turn have more funds with which to buy US made products reducing US trade deficits etc.
    And (3)
    We should try to leave as much of the valuable and irreplaceable chemical feed stock (for plastic, fertilizer, etc) called petroleum, in the ground for future generations as we can.

    SUMMARY: US should start NOW to switch to tropical sugar-cane alcohol as Brazil has already done.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 18, 2011
  14. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Yes, but possibly not the choice for auto fuel. The cane harvest was less than hoped for (dry weather) & the price of sugar is very high (along with many basic foods such as corn and wheat, etc.) & making plastics from sugar is now competitive, if not cheaper than using oil for their manufacture. (A new 200,000 tons /year plastics plant in Brazil has been operating for a few months and second one of the same size will come on line before end of 2011) -

    These factors have the price of alcohol car fuel more expensive per mile driven than gasoline and most will continue to be in effect for the foreseeable future. Currently, however, for political reasons the price of gasoline is artificially depressed, giving gasoline an unfair advantage vs. alcohol. - I.e. the government has not allowed any price increase from when oil was less than $80/ barrel.

    This is easy for the government to do, and of course popular with voters. Brazil is the majority owner of PetroBras - So can force them to sell gasoline into the internal market at a loss. (More than 1 billion dollar loss in the first quarter of this year, compared to a free market price. Gasoline, after all taxes are removed is 25% cheaper in Brazil than in the US. The US must pay the international prices (about $110/ barrel now) but Brazil makes and sells its own, at a government controlled price for the domestic market. This loss of course hurts Brazilian government income, as they are the main owner of PetroBras, but does help keep inflation lower as fuel (and food) are included in the Brazilian price index.

    The price of gasoline must be allowed to rise soon to terminate the current 1 billion loss (effective a subsidy to gas) per quarter the government is giving to gasoline to avoid making voters angry. Perhaps then the flex fuel cars (85% of the entire fleet now) will be able to switch back to cheaper/ mile alcohol.

    I think only the US computes its inflation index by pretending the people don't eat or drive cars, heat houses in the winter, use electric lights, etc.

    Fortunately, I sold all my PetroBras stock four or five years ago when I began to fully understand that politics controls its rate of return. I was lucky as back then, when oil was much cheaper, the government was setting too high a prices for gasoline to make it give government more income and PertoBras stock price was much higher than it is now. PetroBras stock has not been a good investment for more than year -badly lagged Brazil's "DOW."
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 10, 2011
  15. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    You mean so the Brazilian poor can buy more stuff made in CHINA...surely.

    How bout we give jobs to the poor in Florida and Alabama, growing domestic sugar cane instead of sending more US wealth abroad...

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  16. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Both your points are valid, but the US does not (yet - more below) have a command economy that can do this. That is how more than 30 years ago when Brazil was run by a military dictatorship (CIA made one for ALL countries of South American back during the "cold war.") the development of alcohol car fuel was commanded with every "gas station" required to install alcohol fuel tanks and pumps. Farmers forced to grow sugar cane, etc.

    Brazil mainly buys from China now. As I predicted, long ago, Brazil is rapidly becoming an "economic colony" of China. - supplying raw materials and food stocks to China and importing high value added goods from China.

    The Chinese demand has driven the prices of the commodities (iron ore, sugar, soybeans, etc.) up so rapidly that Brazil still has a trade surplus in this bi-lateral trade. When China decides it no longer needs to lend funds to US and EU for them to buy the products of its export factories* the US and EU will sink into depression (soon after the dollar collapse, which I long ago predicted will happen by Halloween 2014) but Brazil will not be in depression - just continue to be an economic colony of China. - Much like India was not in depression for more than 100 years as an economic colony of England.

    About all that the US has that China needs is food and coal, but only about 5% of the the US population lives from these industries (including their rail transport and shipping ports). Many other Americans will be jobless and hungry and there will be the same sort of social disorder you now see in N. Africa & the Mid East. They are not rioting for "democracy and free speech" (If that were true, they would have done so three decades ago.). They are rioting for jobs and food prices that they can afford. The "rioting for democracy, etc." is just the "spin" the US puts on the facts. Almost any population will riot if it lacks jobs and food. - The US is no exception.

    The US can produce much more food than its population can eat, but currently food is sold to the highest bidder - and that will be rich China, not poor, job-less Joe American. Thus, there may in the end be a drastic change in the US economic system (to more of a command economy) - which while destroying the current capitalistic one does compel food production, then confiscate and distribute the food. The emergency law for this passed long ago - during JFK's administration as I recall. It has only been used once, and only very locally, AFAIK, to seize food from owners / stores during hurricane Katrina.
    * They will not close. China's trade with other Asian nations is rapidly growing - most are prospering too, so don't need loans from China to buy China's high value added goods. For example, S. Korea now has China as it main trading partner no longer the US.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 10, 2011
  17. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Alcohol, may or not be the mobile fuel of the future - See prior post - but sugar cane alcohol has a big and growing future:

    “… Vinasse, the liquid residue left over from {sugar cane} ethanol distillation, can be used to feed the growth of microscopic algae that can produce biodiesel, a process being developed over the next few years by researchers at the Agricultural Sciences Centre (CCA) of the Federal University of São Carlos in Araras, 170 kilometres from São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil.

    The nutrients in the vinasse accelerate proliferation of the algae, which are rich in fatty acids that in turn can be used to produce biofuels. Fertilisers will also be produced, as "the algae capture up to 64 percent of the potassium present in the vinasse," the head of the CCA's Department of Agro-Industrial Technology, Octavio Valsechi, told IPS.

    Using algae to produce biodiesel has the advantage that it avoids the monoculture of oilseed crops on extensive areas of land. However, it is still not clear whether the cost of biodiesel made from algae will be higher than that made from vegetable oils. Bagasse is increasingly used to generate electricity in the sugar mills themselves. But a biomass Gasification Centre being built over the next three years in Piracicaba, 160 kilometres from São Paulo, offers even more promising prospects.

    Synthetic gas, or syngas, produced at this pilot plant will generate three times the electricity currently generated from bagasse, and can also be converted into liquid fuel or a precursor material for plastics, according to the Institute for Technological Research (IPT), the São Paulo state government agency that set the project in motion and forged partnerships with several public and private bodies to make it a reality.

    Syngas is normally produced from coal, but the technology to gasify biomass is only now being tested on an industrial scale. The potential for electricity generation from bagasse with current technology, by burning it directly in furnaces, is equivalent to "one {Brazilian} Itaipú," * a reference to the 14,000 megawatt hydroelectric complex* shared by Brazil and Paraguay, according to the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) which represents the largest companies.

    But using this traditional method, "we are losing half the potential energy of the cane," because of the humidity content of the bagasse when it is burned, Valsechi pointed out.

    Increasing mechanisation of harvesting, which by 2014 will extend to the whole sugar cane crop in the state of São Paulo, that accounts for 60 percent of national production, will do away with the practice of burning the cane fields. Studies are still under way to determine the best way of collecting the straw. …”


    *By some measures this more than 30 year old plant is still the largest hydro-electric plant in the world. Many of the design specs of China’s Three Gorges hydro-eclectic dam were set to be just slightly bigger so by most measures Itaipú is now #2, but Brazil is now building another which will be #3, returning to Brazil world leadership in hydro-electic generation. Already about 80% of Brazil’s electric power is generated by hydro-electric dam plants and less than 5% is fossil fuel, natural gas peaking units included!

    Paraguay can not begin to use its 50% of the energy produced, so sells it to Brazil for most of the foreign export earnings of all of Paraguay. I think Brazil lent Paraguay its half of the cost, but most of that loan, if not all, has been paid off now from these sales to Brazil. Paraguay is a small country with little importance now globally. (~95% of the cars in Paraguay were stolen from owners in Brazil! Stealing cars and driving them to Paraguay is how many make their living.) Once Paraguay was an important competitor to English textiles, but the English got Brazil to attack Paraguay, claim much of its land and destroy the textile industry. "Real politics" was very real 200+ years ago.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 11, 2011
  18. Believe Happy medium Valued Senior Member

    They need to skip over alcohol and just go electric. Alcohol is not energy dense enough and is hard on the vehicles that use it.
  19. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    You need to examine the facts. Alcohol has 70% of the energy density of gasoline, and at least twice (probably more than three, but I am too lazy to get it exact) times the energy density of the best battery. Also is "hard on the vehicles" only if they use the wrong type of rubber in gaskets, etc.

    It actually burns much cleaner. The reason why is related to the fact that it does have lower energy density. Unlike gasoline, there is oxygen in alcohol so it burns cleaner, but having that oxygen in each molecule does lower the energy density. Often it is necessary to add some oxidizer to gasoline to help it burn nearly as clean as alcohol does with no additives.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2011
  20. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    The high price of oil, is making not only a demand for sugar cane as a primary feed stock for plastic production (which in turn is making sugar cane alcohol as car fuel in Brazil too expensive) BUT ALSO is making corn too expensive. - Now at all time high of more than $7 per bushel.

    I.e. Even though the current corn crop is setting production records, so much corn in producing alcohol (profitable only due to the many subsidies and tariff barriers) that there is too little corn for food and feed. The cattle feed lots are starting to mix more wheat into the cow's feed box, so wheat is also at all time high.

    Food and fuel, if included in the US price index (as all other countries honestly do), would show serious inflation has started due to FED's printing of thin air money - a major reason why gold and silver keep setting new highs in price every few days. But if you shop for food, or buy gasoline, you already know the government's stated low inflation rate is a fiction.
  21. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    The US doesnt need a command in 'the government commands farmers to grow certain crops'.

    All it needs is changes in agricultural in dropping all taxes on cane production for ethanol.
  22. Emil Valued Senior Member

    In my opinion, yes.
    Beet sugar is no more effective than sugar cane?
  23. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I don't think there are any such taxes, and know there are subsidies at least for blending alcohol into gasoline.

    As we are speaking of southern fields, much more encouragement to use them for cane production would be to eliminate the large subsidy for cotton production, which is so extreme that WTO has given Brazil not only the right to retaliate , but the unusually right to cross retaliate - I.e. put tariff barriers against US products like drug or CDs etc. Part of the trouble in Egypt was due to fact it could not sell its exceptionally high quality cotton in competition with the US's highly subsidized cotton. This is also the reason why many African farmers have ceased production even for their local markets - US mass-produced food by big agribusiness WITH BILLIONS of tax payer dollars in subsidies can be shipped to Africa and sold in the cities cheaper than local producers can grow it.

    Summary: if you want to reduce starvation in Africa, or get sugar cane grown on Southern US lands, end the farm subsidies that make it more profitable to grow a subsidized crop there. (As I recall there are 11 or 12 subsidized crops and corn gets nearly half of the total, even before more subsidies are given to make alcohol from it.)

    This year's corn crop is one of the largest ever, but so much is being diverted to alcohol production that corn is near it all time high (more than $7 / bushel) This, has forced cattle feed lots to mix in wheat in the cow's feed boxes - why you are paying more for bread than ever before as wheat is now at all time high price too.

    Farm subsidies are a heavy burden on Joe Tax payer, both in what the IRS collects from him and what he pays in the grocery store. The subsidies mainly benefit a few very wealthy farm corporations like Cargill, which is privately owned by multi-billionaires - there is no Cargill stock you can buy - I found that out many years ago when I wanted to get in on the farm subsidy gravy train. (Being paid billions for NOT planting is my idea of financial gravy.) I bought Bunge instead. It was a Brazilain company back then but now has its HQ in the US, in NYC, I think s they need to have easy access to short term loans.

    Bunge has done very well for me too. In today's report from C Schwab on them I read:

    "... Bunge creates joint venture to build river grain terminal in Fairmont city illinois ... facility will have more than a million bushels of permanent storage. Construction is expected to take about a year and will employ about 100 people and 12 to 20 permanent employees."

    Five years from now, when US has dollar has collapsed, corn stored there will be shipped down the Mississippi for transport to China via the Panama Canal while jobless Joe American goes hungry, unless he votes to kill capitalism's fundamental principle: "sell to the highest bidder" / switch to a command economy as I discussed in more detail in post 394.

    I quoted part of post 394 here: but added a BTW, to prevent one from misunderstanding me as thinking that a command economy would solve Joe’s hunger problems as follows:

    “BTW, a couple of years ago, to fight inflation the Argentine government passed laws prohibiting farmers from selling their food crops externally. Thought was that then food prices would drop locally, but in fact many fields were not harvested and some were even burned in protest. Russian experience with command production of agricultural products also shows how hard it is to force food production by central command.

    The great potential of the mid west for producing more food than Americans can eat, may be just that - only a potential that only a capitalistic system can develop, so even with a command economy, jobless Joe American may be hungry and rioting. I.e. I was not stating that a switch to a command economy would put food on Joe's table, but Joe may, probably will, believe that it will and to switch to more of a command economy, via his votes. He surely will not stand still, while world's largest privately owned (no stock) food company, Cargill, sells the food his kids need to China. “
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2011

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