Alcohol fuel - The obvious answer, Yes or No?

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

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

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    Beets will grow in colder climates where cane can not (Russia and France etc.) To the best of my knowledge, beets are NOT one of the few plants (like corn and sugar cane) that use the more efficient four cycle/carbon step transfers / photosynthesis process so it takes more land to capture the same solar energy. Once you have the package of sugar, called a beet, I don't know how the processing cost to get sugar from it compares to sugar cane.
     
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  3. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    The standard quoted US inflation measure - CPI - does include food and fuel, and is showing inflation. Not sure what you think you're talking about.
     
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  5. Emil Valued Senior Member

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    I have not found for sugar cane but I found for sugar beet:
    "Many cultivars of sugar beet exist, almost all are capable of giving root yield of 40 tonnes or so per hectare at 15.5 - 18% sugar content, giving 6 -7 tonnes of sugar per hectare."
     
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  7. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    I was speaking of "core inflation." That is what the FED uses to set its policy by - why Bernanke is not concerned by the vast sums of thin air dollars he is printing. (In some cases with the help of banks as the FED cannot legally buy directly from the treasury. They give credits to some of their 12 "participating banks" which buy bonds from the Treasury and then transfer the bonds to Fed as repayment of the assets the FED created on their books.)

    "The higher gold prices go, the more likely it is that Ben Bernanke's view on higher inflation is wrong, says MoneyShow.com's Jim Jubak." Watch his video telling this here: http://www.moneyshow.com/video/video.asp?t=1

    Basically Jim is saying that the higher gold goes the more likely it is tht Bernanke is wrong about core inflation (a more stable rate) being the inflation rate that CPI will always return to. While that has been generally correct in the past, I think that point of view is now very wrong - with China and India et. al. growing richer, eating more protein, buying approximately twice a many cars as the US is, etc. food and oil prices are the better indicator of long term real inflation.

    Also in several posts I have pointed out that oil is the main cost of food. E.g. the cost of Idaho potato eaten in NY city is directly tied 95% to the price of oil. It is not coincidence that the oil and food prices are rising in lock step together now. $200 / barrel oil will double your food costs, etc. and that is not many years away - very hard on Joe American, now that the real purchasing power of his salary is decreasing again.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 12, 2011
  8. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Periodically I argue with ElectricFetus about feasibility of sugar cane alcohol being a possible replacement for oil as the mobile fuel. (That requires many other things like more telecommuting, public transport, smaller and fewer more efficient cars, cutting down some tropical forest land (as Ohio was once cleared of its forests) etc.

    I tried to find one of our exchanges on this, but failed.
    She had dug up all the data you need / ask for / and much more. Perhaps is she reads this, she will give it to you.
     
  9. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Then that's what you should have said. There are several official inflation measures compiled and publicized by the US government, most of which explicitly include food and gas prices.

    Your post said nothing about monetary policy, and only criticized the core inflation measure as a poor indicator of what consumer prices are doing right now. As if gas and food prices - and the CPI - don't regularly get publicized, or something.

    So its your contention that commodity inflation is being caused by American monetary policy, and not continued strong demand in the developing world?

    The reason that PCE and CPI converge in the long run is that the costs of basic things like food and fuel necessarily get factored into the cost of everything else, in the long run. Anyone arguing against that, doesn't know what they're talking about.

    The audio on your link doesn't work for me, but surely what he's arguing is not that PCE and CPI won't converge, but rather that the recent inflation reflects ongoing, systemic demand from the developing world, and not simply some fluctuation that will have died down by the time it works its way into the PCE.

    Except that view - that this is commodity inflation driven by growth in the developing world - means exactly that a loose monetary policy is still the right one for the USA, even if there is inflation occurring. You want to raise rates in response to inflation that's caused by your own economy getting too hot - boosting rates to fight inflation that's driven by growth elsewhere is not something you should do if you can avoid it.

    Good thing food and fuel comprise a much, much, much smaller share of Joe American's expenses than they do Joe Chinese's, then. The people who really suffer from this are the urban poor - the hundreds of millions of people living in cities in Africa, India, China, etc. that are on the edge of subsistence, and for whom a doubling of food prices means literal starvation.
     
  10. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    To a large extent, yes, but of course growing demand is a small part of why prices, expressed in dollars rise. The dollar decreasing in value (as it has against all other major currency even sick ones like the Euro, currently more than $1.45 required to buy a Euro and only 84 Yen buys a dollar, even after the quake disaster that will cost Japan more than 300 billion dollars!) as the FED makes an over supply of Thin Air money is the dominate factor in all commodity prices, gold silver, oil, cotton, copper, etc. When these prices are expressed in Euros etc. the rise is much more modest. Ergo, the rise in dollar price mainly reflects the falling value of the dollar.

    The flood of unwanted dollars into Brazil has driven the Brazil Real to excessive value. (Currently a dollar will buy R$1.59 and about five years ago I got more than four Real for my dollar. I.e. in five years, vs the Real, the dollar has lost 2/3 of its value! That is the main reason why all of my Brazilian ADRs are up ~five fold in dollars and one more than ten fold! I bought them more than five years ago, when I posted telling others to do so.)

    In terms of Brazilian Reals prices most commodities have not risen or only slightly. That it the flip side of my argument. Commodity prices nearly steady in Real reflects the increasing value of the Real, just as the rapid rise in dollar stated commodity prices reflects the falling value of the dollar.

    Change in commodity demand level (gold and silver excepted - which also reflect the falling confidence in the dollar's value) for most, compared to mid 2008 (before the crash) is more often negative than positive - that fact completely destroys your POV.

    When one realizes the the ~30% drop in home prices, is dollar stated, one understands the housing problem is much worse than a 30% drop in real value, with a huge and still growing backlog of unsold home, either actually on the market, in foreclosure or in the "shadow inventory." There will be no real recovery of the US economy while this housing problem continues. In normal times ~40% of US economic activity is directly related to home construction and putting dishwashers, new rugs, copper wires, etc. into homes. The corporations will continue to show profits as they sell to Asia etc. So GDP may still grow slowly.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2011
  11. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Finally some evidence for intelligence life forms in the Senate!

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    "... The defeat of ethanol subsidies in place since the 1970s was swift, forceful and bipartisan. The Senate voted 73-27 to end tax credits for ethanol that amount to about $6 billion annually. The vote to kill featured 33 Republicans, 38 Democrats and the Senate's two independents. The vote eliminates the 45-cent per gallon tax credit for ethanol refiners along with the 54-cent per gallon tariff on imported alcohol fuel that was designed to keep out Brazilian sugarcane ethanol. ..."

    From: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/...cle_120513fe-984d-11e0-8022-001a4bcf6878.html

    Billy T comment: 6E9 x (2011-1970) = 246 billion dollars wasted to make your corn based food more expensive! Because of the compounding of interest, and the high interest rate that prevailed in much of this period, if those funds had paid down the national debt it would be nearly a trillion dollars less now.

    Later by edit: It is all a trick made to look good to the voters while doing nothing the the corn to alcohol industry, which makes big contributions to the congressmen - See tiassa's link here:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/16/us-usa-senate-ethanol-idUSTRE75F5IN20110616

    I don't like to double post, so just note this could have been in another thread I also started called: "How DUMB can American voters be?"
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 30, 2011
  12. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    An interesting article on new, more productive per acre than sugar cane, source of sugar for alcohol with many other uses (stronger than oak wood, gives eatable fruit, etc.) here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2011/06/110623-tapergie-sugar-palm-biofuel/

    It is a tree which grows in Indonesian forests and has the virtue of being more labor intensive (jobs where there are none) as best if its sap is tapped twice /day. It needs to grow among other trees so will not become a vast field of mono-culture but support small villages. I.e. it can end the deforestation now occurring in Indonesia by palm oil plantations.
     
  13. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    "... Under rising ethanol-blending mandates, it is estimated the subsidies as structured will cost taxpayers $54 billion through 2015. ...
    {Billy T insert: Not to mention at least 10 billion added to the cost of Joe American's food}

    Removing the tariffs on imported ethanol should also lower ethanol prices and allow cropland to be used for food—not fuel—easing global food prices in turn. A federal study last year found a net savings in carbon impact versus gasoline (albeit relatively small), which in turn has environmental benefits. ..."

    From: http://www.moneyshow.com/investing/article/1/tptp082511-24272/Ethanol-Will-Do-More-Than-Survive/

    Billy T comments:Any quick review of this thread will show I have long advocated killing the import tariffs and the 54 billion dollar transfer from hard pressed Joe American tax payer to 6 or 8 extremely rich groups - One, the Cargill group, is the world's largest family owed company, with about 100 of the 8th generation of the founder's children living in huge mansions on the shores of a large lake in Michigan they own and have guards controlling access to it. (They don't want mere billionaires fishing and boating there.)

    The irony is that I no longer oppose these subsidies and protective tariffs. A great deal of Brazil's sugar cane based alcohol is now being turned into plastics and other chemicals. I have not put alcohol in my wife's Flex Fuel car for more than a year - gasoline is cheaper per mile driven. Bunge, several Japaneses companies, and one I have shares in* plus others are expanding production of cane and plants to convert the juice into sugar or alcohol.

    Brazil now needs to thank Joe American tax payer: Brazil is now importing alcohol from the USA! With Joe's subsidies, US's corn based alcohol is now cheaper than can be grown in Brazil, even after the shipping costs. How DUMB can US voters be? - the name of another thread I started, initially in effort to try to make GWB a one term president.

    ------
    * Here is last week's entry I made in my file on San Martino (Third largest sugar/ alcohol firm in Brazil):

    "... 17Aug11: Nova Fronteira Bioenergia S.A., a joint venture between São Martinho S.A. and Petrobras Biocombustível S.A., approved expanding the sugarcane crushing capacity at the Boa Vista mill in Goiás to 8 million metric tons at cost of R$ 4520.7 with the 2014/15 harvest year.

    Crushing at the Boa Vista mill in the current harvest year (2011/12) is ~ 2.3 million metric tons. 70% of the sugarcane crushed at the mill will be company sugarcane. The mill will have the capacity to produce 700 million liters of ethanol, in addition to 600,000 MWh of electrical cogeneration capacity. The Boa Vista mill gets PRODUZIR benefit of Goiás government, of R$3.0 billion. ..."

    Note that the crushed cane makes a lot of electric energy - about 5% of Brazil's and more than 83% is hydro-electic power. Oil makes less than 5% so the main source of CO2 (and CH4 ~ 10 times worse GHG) release by Brazil comes from its largest in the world cattle herd. Unlike corn based alcohol, which is at best "carbon neutral," sugar cane based alcohol makes more than a 85% reduction in CO2 release - Joe American is subsidizing global warming to some extent by using corn instead of cane bsed alcohol fuel. (Only studies done by universities in Iowa or sttes with large economic interest in the corn to alcohol program, GWB started to buy votes, have shown "quasi carbon neutral" results. Cornell and others have shown up to a doubling of the CO2 release!)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 25, 2011
  14. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    "... BP Biocombustiveis, which operates three sugarcane mills in Brazil, aims for crushing capacity of 30 million metric tons of sugarcane per year by 2017, up from 7.5 million tons currently, ... According to the report, BP Biocombustiveis expects to reach the goal by expanding its existing mills and building three new ones. Possible acquisitions aren't figured into the 30-million-ton estimate but haven't been ruled out.

    In 2011, BP invested around $750 million to expand to 100% its stake in Tropical Bioenergia, which has one sugarcane mill in central Goias state, and CNAA, which owns two functioning mills and one greenfield project in Minas Gerais and Goias. ..."
    From: http://english.capital.gr/News.asp?id=1411372

    Billy T comment: I own 2,500 shares of St. Martinho, (Third largest sugar producer in Brazil, I think, and no longer part of the industry cooperative. I.e. free of its controls.), so I can give a more meaningful indication of what 30 million tons is from my notes:
    "Crushing at the Boa Vista mill in the current harvest year (2011/12) is ~ 2.3 million metric tons. 70% of the sugarcane crushed at the mill will be company sugarcane. The mill will have the capacity to produce 700 million liters of ethanol, in addition to 600,000 MWh of electrical cogeneration capacity... "
    Boa Vista is their newest and largest mill of three. Thus BP is making a major move into sugar / alcohol production in Brazil. I would not be at all surprized if they do not buy St. Martinho as that is the surest route to get part of the cane production and processing they are wanting.

    Part of the planned increase in production is due to fact there now exist two plastic plants making 200,000 tons of polyethylene and 200,000 tons of polyproplyene annually in Brazil (both owned by BrasKem) from sugar cane alcohol instead of petroleum. Perhaps some of BP´s alcohol will end up as plastics too? More on BrasKem´s plastic from alcohol here: http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=2901705&postcount=525
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 20, 2012
  15. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Perhaps answer is now NO. In part because of BrasChem´s 400,000 TONS of plastic produced each year from sugar cane alcohol in Brazil, ETOH from cane is no longer cheaper per mile driven, except at peak of harvest when there is problem to store all the production. However if following proves true, the fuel of the future may be N-butanol, which needs little if any mods to IC engines, goes thru existing pipelines with no corrosion, at least as an additive to gasoline. (has lower affinity for H2O):

    "... Cobalt Technologies Inc., a closely held U.S. biotechnology company, will build a plant in Brazil with a unit of Solvay SA to convert sugar-cane waste into butanol.* Cobalt said it can produce n-butanol through fermentation about 40 percent to 60 percent cheaper than traditional processes based on petroleum.

    The company makes n-butanol, a four-carbon alcohol that’s used in paints, adhesives, inks and other solvents and is a $5 billion a year market. N-butanol is traditionally made from propylene, a petroleum product, and may be converted into other chemicals that are used to manufacture products such as tires, plastics and jet fuel, according to Cobalt. Also if it replaces two barrels of oil that came from it prevent three barrels of oil burnt CO2 from entering the air (It takes one barrel of oil for heating shale to produce two barrels of oil from shale - so just the switch to shale oil is a 50% increase in CO2 release per barrel of oil burned.)

    The demonstration facility is expected to show that Cobalt’s biobutanol fermentation technology may be installed at existing cane mills … The plant is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2013. Cobalt may begin working on a commercial-scale biorefinery in 2014 with production beginning during the sugar cane harvest of 2015. From: http://www.businessweek.com/news/20...onvert-brazil-sugar-cane-waste-into-chemicals

    * Currently, in Brazil, the crushed cane burning (The excess of distillation heat needs) generates electric power, but converted to chemical feed stock to replace oil or even as fuel for IC cars would seem to give more profit. Renewable sugar cane is green, very green, and world´s tropical areas could greatly increase production, while giving jobs to many of the poor who then could buy more advanced society´s products. It is also slightly negative in net CO2 release already and will be more so as more carbon is taken from the air (by growing cane) and stored in plastic or car tires etc.

    PS If you come to Brazil to watch the world cup in 2014 or the summer Olympics in 2016, you will be sitting on plastic chairs made from sugar cane. Some are already being installed in a European stadium.
     
  16. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Exchange rate is not "value."

    You should be able to provide clear, direct evidence of that, if it's true. Can you?

    Only if you assume that the value of the Euro is constant. It could be that both commodities and the Euro are rising in value - your analysis requires some data to address that question before it can produce the answer you want to leap to.

    I also note that you aren't providing any citations for the many assertions of fact in your post. Where can I find the data on what commodity prices look like in various denominations, and what is the time period you are analyzing?

    But your argument isn't symmetric in that way - if the Real is increasing in value and commodities are the same price in Reals, then you are asserting that commodities are also increasing in value, and that the rise commodity prices in dollar terms does not represent a fall in the value of the dollar. If a rise in dollar-denominated commodity prices reflects only a decline in the value of the dollar, as you contend, then it follows that constant commodity prices in some other currency indicate exactly that that currency has stable value.

    It doesn't seem that you have thought this through: in one breath you are insisting that commodities have constant value, and in the next that they do not. It looks very much like you are simply looking to express the sentiments "Brazil is great" and "USA is doomed" but recasting them as statements about currency values, and without bothering to really square that stuff with reality. In the first place, why should I care if the dollar is declining relative to other currencies? That will improve the US balance of trade. In the second place, why should I believe your conspiracy theories about the Fed understating inflation and this putative dollar slide, when I'm not seeing any evidence of it in my monthly bills?

    In the first place, I'm unclear on what my "POV" is, here. I simply asked you which factors you think explain trends in commodity prices. I'm curious what (strawman) POV you imagine you are "destroying."

    In the second place, you have provided no evidence whatsoever for your assertion there (that commodity demand has declined since 2008 while prices have increased). More than that, I contend that you assertion is outright false. For example, China went on an investment binge in those years which produced a huge demand for various commodites, and which is only now tapering off.

    What, exactly, is your definition of "real value," and how can it be measured or observed in data?

    Is it just commodity prices? Is it just whatever assumption you need to make at any moment to point to any particular trend in some economic indicator (commodity prices, exchange rates, etc.) and assert "USA is fucked, Brazil and Asia are awesome?"

    You have provided zero evidence to support your assertion that there is a problematic, and growing, oversupply of unsold homes in the USA. News reports that I've seen assert the contrary.

    Nor have you provided any evidence to back your assertion that housing-related activities should account for 40% of GDP in "normal times." That figure is greatly in excess of the estimates that I've seen, and sounds more like the kind of thing associated with China's recent (unprecedented, unsustainable) investment stimulus.

    So that's two (more) extraordinary assertions that you simply dash off without the slightest substantiation. Meanwhile, you are oblivious to the fact that China is actually currently dealing with a housing overinvestment problem, and do not factor that into your growth estimates there at all - even as the CCP keeps revising down growth expectations, and slashing interest rates, exactly to try to arrest the slide in question.
     
  17. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    There is nothing "green" about the large scale destruction of rain forests required by your suggestion there.
     
  18. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Currently bagasse (the crushed cane) is burned for both the distilation heat and to produce considerble electic energy generation; Petrobras must think that it can produce more valuable alcohol. If this is true the world will need very little petroleum as all non-polar regions produce cellulose with ease and in abundance.
     
  19. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    For powering your car, chose sugar cane based alcohol (or it ever comptitive celluose based alcohol), not natural gas. Here is why:
    (1) power plants are convertng from coal and under mandates to reduce CO2, etc. so they will pay more for NG than you will want to - they must out bid others, like it or not.
    (2) Fuel over the life of the vehicle is several times the capital cost of 18 Wheeler trucks, in part becuase they run ~18 hours per day. Your car´s life time fuel cost is about same as price and repare of the car as in part you average less than three hours driving it per day. Thus truckers will pay more to save some on fuel than you will and out bid you too for NG if it is in short supply.
    (3) Of some consideration to many is fact alcohol fuel is slightly "carbon negative" (all carbon in it was first removed from the air). Some carbon is left in the field and more is in storage tanks (large ones at the ports and distribution centers and in every alcohol powered vehicle) plus the huge ocean tankers transporting it, but NG makes more CO2 in the air when it is burned, just less than petroleum does on equal energy basis.
    (4) But most importantly NG is not a renewable energy source as alcohol made by sunlight energy is. It is very questionable if it will be able to economically supply your vehicle when power plants and 18 wheelers take what they need first (at higher price) as the production from fracked shale well falls very rapidly. (See left graph.) New wells must be constantly drilled just to keep production from falling and that is costly and takes a lot of water:

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    Note in right graph, the number of well increases now while production falls and number of rigs drilling dropped even faster - not profitable at anything like current prices, now that it is known how fast the production falls off. A fracked NG well does not have anything like an oil well´s multi-decade life.
     
  20. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Natural gas (methane) can be made via anareobic digesters, supplied via farm waste, as easily as alcohol is made from similar waste. Via that production method it is as carbon neutral and as renewable as cellulosic alcohol is - and considerably easier to produce.
     
  21. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    That is a good point and I agree, but it is not a dense liquid, so there is the cost, both energy and dollars, of compressing it. If it can be used locally, say for cooking as is very much done in India, that objection vanishes, but I don´t see much hope for bio-methane from farm waste fueling cars.
    I think often two small ones (meter diameter concrete pipes, which are factory made and easy to transport to the farm) operate sequentially. One is cleaned out for the still valuable fertilizer while other cooks or even runs a gas lamp at night. Unfortunately in rural India, Bangladesh, etc. sun dried dung is widely used as fuel. It would improve lives much more if used first for bio-methane and then for fertilizing crops.
     
  22. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Your post quotes Roman as saying:
    “American soils have been depleted for like 50 years or something. The only reason we can get any good yields out of them is through massive fertilization. Fertilizer that we synthesize using gasoline. It's very inefficient to use the new bio-fuels, as they ultimately require more fossil fuels to produce than energy they yield."

    I went back thru last two pages and did not see this post. It is obviously not true for all plants /crops. Wood (and even sugar cane) has grown wild for more than a million years.

    There is some truth to his claim when same land is repeatedly intensively used for the same crop without modern agricultural practices (crop rotations, lying fallow with clover etc. restoring the bio-available Nitrogen* etc.) Also the problem is much worse with corn grown in Iowa instead of the tropics for alcohol production, where the shorter growing season does require much more fertilizer to accelerate growth rate. Sugar cane has been grown in Brazil for more than 35 years, when the government mandated alcohol be produced from it for fueling cars. Most cane fields do use some fertilizer for greater profits - more sugar in the cane per acre, but sugar cane is a grass and does still grow wild mixed in with other natural plants.

    Even the more intensive use of fertilizer as in Iowa, is till very net energy positive. Ronan´s statements to the contrary are unsupported NONSENSE.

    As far as the need to import soil is concerned that is contradicted by drive thru "Pennsylvania Dutch" farm area. They soil there is much more fertile now than it was 200 years ago and often the "top soil" is more than a foot deep now.

    *It is just cheaper and more productive use of the land to replace needed soil nutrients artificially than to let the land lay fallowed. I.e. much greater net energy gain rate with fertilizer than without it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2013
  23. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    I got a PM an hour ago telling sugarcane, a grass, was “not sustainable” and blocked “essential services.” Here is my reply:

    Like the Pennsylvania Dutch, have not been farming the same land, even without use of any chemical fertilizers, for 200+ years and now have "top soil" more that a foot thick! ?? Certainly farming is sustainable, but can´t grow that same crop on the same land years after year. They do use horse shit, well aged in piles for a year or so, and grow some clover, etc. in the field some years, which they then deep ploy under. - The horse pulling the plow can only plow about a foot deep. If not for that limitation, the top soil would be more than a foot deep now.

    I never suggested that the 1% of arable land producing all the ethanol all the world´s liquid fueled cars will need about a decade or more hence, had to be grown on the same 1% every year. Perhaps in light of the facts, you will want to reconsider your "its not sustainable" statement? Done correctly, contour plowing, crop rotation, and occasional clover like cover some years plowed under (if you don´t want to add any ammonia) can IMPROVE soil quality as is done in and around Lancaster County, PA.

    What "essential ecosystem services" do you speak of? - Just tell me (not the good peaceful Mennonites in living in the Lancaster PA region for more than 20 decades).

    * Google search on “Pennsylvania Dutch soil conservation practices” takes you directly to page 165.

    In right column of same page you can read how terrible agriculture practices still are in much of the world – For example large goat heads eat the bark off trees and the roots of grasses, to make and expand deserts. The Sahara Deserts is still expanding southward rapidly, except for several experimental square mile plots, green dots as seen by astronauts, that were fenced to keep the goats out, which are now surounded by desert.

    While climate changes did help convert the “Sahara Forest” into the “Sahara Desert”, many large tribes of Bedouins with even larger herds of “black goats” (now an almost extinct species) did more than half of the transformation by eating the young the forest seedling for hundreds of years. This could all be reclaimned in less than 100 years for food and fiber production! (as Israel has transformed desert into crop land in half that time.)

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    I.e. All large forests have a web of rivers that drain the forest rains. The Sahara Forest was no exception. The Amazon River is one too.

    The average prevaling near-surface winds in the Northern Hemisphere blow towards the South* Thus, the Sahara Forest, if it still existed, would get from the Mediterranean Sea, more rain fall than the "land locked" Amazon Forest gets!. Forests tend to be efficient in retaining what rain fall they get.

    * They are the cooler, more northern air masses moving back towards the equator, while the higher winds transport equatorial heat toward the poles. The Coriollis force bends them towards the East (Some Americans know on average the wind comes FROM the NW.) Continued demand for beautiful woods, like mahogany, by wealthy people may convert the Amazon Forest into a desert, without any assistance from goats, and if that happens, it will be much harder to re-forest than the Sahara. I have posted several times the economic mechanism which, despite Brazil´s strenuous efforts, is shrinking the Amazon forest every year. Here is a footnote from post 315 of this thread:

    "... The rich desiring pretty woods, like mahogany, are destroying the Rain Forests. A wood from a single mahogany tree can be worth more than $8,000 {much more than a years salary at Brazil´s minium wage} in the US port of entry. Very illegal to cut them down in Brazil, but area is large and it only takes a day before it is converted into boards with labor cost of less than $10/ per day.

    The valuable trees are selectively harvested by unemployed poor men, and then the forest is burned to hide the crime. After the locals can no longer get the cash they need by illegally catching and selling animals, especially parrots, they are reduced to subsistence farming the poor soil (a cow or two, some pigs and lots of chickens scratching for food among the fallen burnt trunks), but soon they give up and then some rich absentee land owner completes the clearing and seeds the land as pasture. (Grass will grow in almost any soil, with rain.) Some pasture is being displaced for food crops far to the south. There is no sugar cane grown in the old rain forest - it is more than 1000 miles away for the market for alcohol and cannot compete with the cane fields that are used. - Most of those are within 100 miles of either Rio or Sao Paulo. ..."
     
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