Fuel choices, Global Warming & Polution

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Billy T, Nov 25, 2005.

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

    All fuels have enviromental problems. This thread considers them. Try to give facts, not just your views, but rational views, derived from facts are welcome and encouraged.

    Excerpts from BBC News website 24 Nov.05 By Richard Black:

    Current levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere are higher now than at any time in the last 650,000 years.
    Over a five year period commencing in 1999, scientists working with the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (Epica) have drilled 3,270m into the Dome C ice, which equates to drilling nearly 900,000 years back in time. Gas bubbles trapped as the ice formed yield important evidence of the mixture of gases present in the atmosphere at that time. Project leader, Thomas Stocker from the University of Bern, Switzerland.:
    "We find that CO2 is about 30% higher than at any time, and methane 130% higher than at any time; and the rates of increase are absolutely exceptional: for CO2, 200 times faster than at any time in the last 650,000 years."…Other research, also published in the journal Science*, suggests that sea levels may be rising twice as fast now as in previous centuries. Using data from tidal gauges and reviewing findings from many previous studies, US researchers have constructed a new sea level record covering the last 100 million years. They calculate the present rate of rise at 2mm per year.
    "The main thing that's changed since the 19th Century and the beginning of modern observation has been the widespread increase in fossil fuel use and more greenhouse gases," said Kenneth Miller from Rutgers University.
    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body which collates scientific evidence for policymakers, concludes that sea level rose by 1-2cm during the last century, and will rise by anything up to 88cm by the end of this century.
    *"The European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica," by Thomas Stocker, Science, Nov. 2005.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 25, 2005
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  3. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Some quotes from Brian Jennings' article in Forbes called "The Case For Ethanol"
    Be warned he is pro production in US and the executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, www.ethanol.org.

    While no new oil refineries have been built in the U.S. in nearly three decades, new ethanol-production facilities are coming online at a rate of almost two per month. Today, 92 ethanol plants are operating across the country with a total production capacity of 4 billion gallons of fuel annually. Two dozen more plants are now under construction to provide an additional billion gallons of ethanol.

    An average-sized ethanol plant costs approximately $65 million to build and will employ nearly 40 people. These positions are good-paying, high-skill jobs--chemists, engineers, managers, marketers. The plant’s $56 million in annual operating costs circulates throughout the community many times, benefiting everyone from the farmers who provide the corn to make the fuel ethanol to the local businesses that supply goods and services for the production facility. An ethanol plant will increase tax revenue for local and state governments by at least $1.2 million annually.

    From the perspective of trade, our increasing imports of oil and gas are a costly habit. America’s trade deficit in crude oil has risen from $27 billion in 1987 to $100 billion in 2002. This deficit is the primary culprit in our total trade deficit. Given that each billion dollars in trade deficit costs the U.S. 19,100 jobs, this is a counterintuitive drain on the U.S. economy that must be plugged.

    For every barrel of ethanol that is produced, 1.2 barrels of petroleum are displaced at the refinery. Ethanol won’t replace 100% of the fuel we use, but it is a critically important component in America’s energy-supply portfolio.

    Comment by Billy T on last paragraph above:
    It could, but not it you try to produce it by growing corn in Iowa's ground which is frozen 1/3 of the year, very high cost, and harvested with very expensive labor.
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  5. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Brazil could displace oil at lower enviromental & dollar cost.

    Just released study (Unicamp University - one of the best in Brazil in technology) shows that with no clearing of rain forests there are 2.5E8 hectars of reasonbly level land in Brazil with soil, rain, truck access, etc. for mechainical cultivation of sugar cane. Also there is great potential in "enzimatic hydrolysis" for efficiency improvement of the conversion (I do not know what this really is).

    The following is partial extract from Forbes special report, 16 Nov.05 called: "Sugar in the Tank" (Author David Atoms):

    "Brazil is the world's largest producer of sugar and ethanol. Brazilian cars are also equipped with engines that can run on ethanol and gasoline, or any blend of the two. Known as "flex-fuel" cars, they have dazzled the market since their launch by Volkswagen in March 2003. Last month, they captured 66.7% of new car sales. ...

    ...in Brazil ethanol, or "alcool" as it is called, costs only $2 at the pump, compared to $4 for a gasoline-ethanol blend (Brazil no longer sells regular unblended gasoline). And while ethanol-powered cars consume 25% to 30% more fuel per mile than gasoline cars, the average motorist can save about $820 a year by switching to ethanol. ...

    'Ethanol is typically cheaper than regular gasoline, and we're going to do all that we can to support it," said President Bill Ford in a speech to employees in Dearborn, Mich. Ford has since begun a prime time TV advertising campaign for its ethanol vehicles, noting that it plans to produce 250,000 ethanol vehicles next year, way ahead of its plans to produce 250,000 hybrid cars by 2010.' ...

    U.S. ethanol production is rising dramatically, thanks to generous corn subsidies, (at least $4.5 billion according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and tax incentives for fuel distributors. There are currently 93 ethanol plants in the United States, with another 24 under construction. Production is expected to rise to 5 billion gallons by the end of next year. ...

    Few understand how much of their tax dollars go to support the inefficient sugar / alcohol industry in US:
    The US should buy alcohol from Brazil (and other tropical producers who have cheap land, labor, 24 month growing season, good rains, etc.) If it did so, the balance of payments problem would be less than paying for oil imports. Frozen Iowa's corn based Alcohol is several times more expensive to produce. IT WOULD COST US TAX PAYERS LESS if US simply GAVE CAR FUEL AWAY FOR FREE!!!!! The amount given would need to be limited because if car fuel were free, the consumption would rise and this would no longer be true. Perhaps every US citizen could receive free (transferable for non car owners) coupons for 1000 liters of free alcohol annually and pay lower taxes.

    The US voter is in the pocket of the Iowa corn lobby and too ignorant to know it.(end of Billy T insert)

    Last year the use of ethanol reduced the U.S. trade deficit by $5.1 billion by eliminating the need to import 143 million barrels of oil, according the Renewable Fuels Association, which represents ethanol producers. In recent years, major energy companies weren't interested, leaving the field wide open to smaller entrepreneurs. Ethanol became the salvation for Midwest corn growers struggling to make ends meet with a saturated market and slumping prices. ...

    Sugarcane growers in Florida recently commissioned an ethanol study. Oil industry executives testifying at Senate hearings recently urged that the solution for U.S. energy needs lies in better "access" to new exploration and streamlining refinery permits. To be sure, experts agree that gasoline still has a major role in U.S. energy supply. But with demand and future prices of fossil fuels uncertain, the day of renewable energy may have arrived. ..."
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 25, 2005
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  7. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Although alcohol fueled cars reduce CO2 emissions, its production is also a source of pollution. The pollution, mainly nutrient rich water, discharged from the alcohol distillation plant is approximately 12 times the volume of the alcohol produced, at least in Brazil, where alcohol is produced from sugar cane at less than half the cost of producing it form corn in Iowa, or other non-tropical locations with high land and labor costs.

    I believe that considerable contaminated (mainly oil and detergents) water is also produced in the production of oil, especially from older oil fields in the secondary and tertiary stages of production where fluids are pumped into the ground circumferentially around the extraction well to force out the oil remaining in the ground / porous rocks. Can anyone supply information on this? It would be informative to know what fluids are used in the old fields of Texas.

    The fact that the fluids are pumped into the ground is only delaying the contamination. The aquifers are being polluted and out grandchildren will drink that water. Alcohol is currently doing the same:

    In SW Brazil there is a large (about the size of Ohio) region (“the Pantanal”) of basically level, gently rolling land. During the wet season, one can travel by boat all over it except the locally higher ground. Many tourist lodges exist there as the wild life, especially the great flocks of many different birds are spectacular to see. The rivers flow very very slowly and often reverse direction of flow when one section has had more rain than another. Thus, the water of the Pantanal that does not evaporate, seeps into the ground, and has created what I think is the largest fresh water aquifer in the world.

    For several years installation of new alcohol production plants has been prohibited by law, but the “grand fathered ones” continue to operate. Because the rivers flow so slowly the polluted effluent of these plants is a problem, occasionally killing fish etc and slowly polluting this great aquifer. (The fishing in the Pantanal is fantastic and also a great tourist attraction.)

    I am very "pro alcohol" as a replacement for oil as you can tell from comments I have inserted into news items of the prior posts, but want to recognize that alcohol is only the lesser of two evils, not all good, pollution free, etc.
  8. DaleSpam TANSTAAFL Registered Senior Member

    I really like the idea of ethanol as a fuel instead of gasoline. Since it carries it's own oxygen (part of the reason for the 30% less fuel efficiency cited above) it burns cleaner and particularly at higher altitudes. Also, since the CO2 in the fuel was recently part of the environment it does not result in any net increase of CO2 (petroleum fuels obviously also simply return CO2 to the environment, but it is CO2 that has been fixed for a very long time so it is almost like new CO2). An ethanol-powered car is essentially a solar-powered car and without having to poison areas with arsenic etc. to make the photovoltaics.

    However, I am quite skeptical of ethanol being really cheaper. Believe me, I would like it to be cheaper for the aforementioned reasons, but fermentation is a batch process and distillation is a continuous process. Batch processes are inherently more expensive. Is there now a continuous fermentation process? Or is the lower consumer price supported by Brazilian taxes? How is this possible? My last serious look at this was about 8 years ago (in the US) so my info may be fairly outdated. Has this happened recently in Brazil?
    Just because we are in their pocket doesn't mean we are ignorant of the fact. The sugar industry is also another related industry with lots of protections and subsidies. Unfortunately, the real problem is that most of the people who do know about the protections and subsidies think that they are good ideas. Ignorance of economics and the resulting liberalism is much more problematic and widespread than ignorance of the facts. I don't understand how any government gets away with these kinds of policies, but unfortunately every one does (not just the US government).
    I certainly hope so, but I remain skeptical. Probably the real motivation to kick the petroleum habit will be related to national security rather than environmental reasons, but so far I see little serious push in that direction. Unfortunately, hybrids and hydrogen are the current buzzwords. As though either of those will really fix anything.

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

    I do not have hard data, but I think that for each ton of CO2 that comes out of the tail pipe of an alcohol fueled car approximately two tons of CO2 are removed from the air. Only a small fraction of the CO2 removed from the air by growing cane ends up in the alcohol.

    In Brazil some stays in the ground as cane roots, but more than is in the alcohol produced goes thru a cow* and ends up enriching the soil. Part of the "cow cakes" deposited in the fields are relatively rapidly returned to the air by biological processes and even simple oxidation of carbon compounds. Some is sequestered for years in plants, even the pasture grass. In any case, it is rare to fertilize pasture fields in Brazil (but Ca/ lime etc. is sometimes used.) so a lot of pollution (and oil consumption) of the fertilizer industry is avoided.

    Point is alcohol fueled cars may be the only economically feasible way to reduce the global CO2, and like planting trees for "carbon credits" alcohol fuel deserves incentives /subsidies, but does not get any in Brazil.

    It is hard to be sure of anything in the tax and subsidies areas, especially for a foreigner (or even a native) in Brazil, where even contracts can get over turned if some judge decides they are "unfair." (Part of this is hangover from when triple digit annual inflation was the norm, but the "social/economic engineering" caused by extremes of wealth is also a factor.) However, that said, as far as I can tell the taxes on alcohol and gasoline are energy content based and thus neutral or favor neither. What certainly does happen, especially as the elections approach in period of rising oil prices, is that the state owned oil monopoly, PetroBras, does not raise the gas price at the pump.

    There are many (hundreds, if not thousands) of independent alcohol plants as being near the cane fields reduces transport costs. They shut down if sugar is more profitable and charge what they can for alcohol when alcohol is more profitable. About 30 to 20 years ago more than 90% of all cars sold in Brazil ran on alcohol, then the world price of sugar went up and alcohol for the cars became more expensive than cheap gas of the post 1980 era, so 20 to 10 years ago, gas powered cars were 90% of new sales. Now 2/3 of all cars sold are "flex-fuel" and run on any mixture. (I don't know how they achieved this, but the efficiency is about the same. The old alcohol only cars may have been more efficient as I think they had higher compression ratios.) The car buyers still remember when they got stuck with an alcohol only car.

    Summary: although the taxes are fair, near election time gas is sold below current cost domestically by PetroBras if the global price of crude is high. PetroBras is a net exporter of oil and I guess they make up the domestic loss on the larger than normal profit on foreign sales, until after the election, when they at least will not lose money on domestic gas sales.

    I am not saying that gas is cheap in Brazil as it is taxed almost as high as in Europe I am just saying that if either is subsidized, it is "pre election gas" not alcohol. Competition among all those independent alcohol producers is keeping the cost of driving on alcohol very significantly less than on gas currently. I only burn 100% alcohol in my flex-fuel car now as a result, but it is nice to know that if world develops a sweet tooth and Cuba etc have cane production problems, I can switch to gas if it should ever be cheaper again. (Gas is about twice the cost of alcohol now.)

    The reason that alcohol is expensive in US is political (imports essentially prohibited). The reason it is cheap here is: land is cheap, labor to cut cane is cheap, rain is abundant, soil is fertile, unlike Iowa's corn, the cane grows 12 months every year, trucks and drivers to deliver the cane are cheap, compared to an oil refinery, the alcohol plant is cheap. (Ask any backwoods man in West Virginia where I grew up, if you do not believe me.)

    Also, it may soon get significantly cheaper. I do not understand why, but it is something to do with great advances now being made in "enzymatic hydrolysis" or something like that. -If anyone can explain that to me, I would appreciate it. - I sort of have the impression they will soon be making alcohol out of grass, garbage, etc., but I may be all wrong about this.

    PS Most of your quotes that appear to be mine, are not. They are from well know publications etc. I hope you noticed that it was the president of Ford motor company said:
    'Ethanol is typically cheaper than regular gasoline, and we're going to do all that we can to support it"

    when you were having doubts about alcohol being "really cheaper than gas" because of batch fermentations etc.
    *So long as there is a demand for beef, the cow will be there eating something. Cane is one of the most efficient converters of sunlight. The photosynthesis processes it and a few other plants use is a four step/ carbon process, or something like that, that I do not understand. If you want to really help with the global warming problem, become a vegetarian. Cows make a lot of methane and molecule for molecule that is much worse than C02 in the greenhouse effect heating of Earth. I mention this to show that Brazil’s chamber of commerce is not paying me. - Brazil has a current problem with it a few cows (now slaughtered) so it may not currently be the world's largest exporter of beef, but it was last time I saw the relative rankings. Certainly, beef contributes more to Brazil's favorable balance of trade than alcohol exports. As detective Friday would say, "Just the facts" are what motivate me. (Most of you are probably too young to recall detective Friday of early TV fame.)
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 25, 2005
  10. CANGAS Registered Senior Member

    Cangas knows piston engines ( very well indeed, thank you ).

    Cangas knows the dire strait of the warmed, and warming, global environment.

    Cangas understands the carbon dioxide-green plant-ethanol-car-carbon dioxide cycle.

    Cangas believes that ethanol fuel has great advantages, both already exposited here and more.

    Badge 714. Billy, you are not the only Dragnet wise person here.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    ( gloat )
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2005
  11. Light Registered Senior Member

    Just for the record, I remember Joe Friday, partner Frank Smith, and badge 714. (The setting was in LA, California.)

    There is one downside to ethanol that I've not seen mentioned anywhere here so far. Since it is a lower-energy-density fuel, transporting it very far can be significant factor in determining any over-all gains from it's use. It's a fairly heavy liquid, about the same as water, and shipping it all the way from Brazil would add a noticeable amount to it's price. It would be much more efficient to just ship the raw sugar itself rather than the final alcohol product.

    But wherever the conversion is finally made, there will still be increased transportations costs when compared to gasoline/oil on a per BTU basis. That's not a show-stopper but cannot (should not) be left out of the final equation.

    Yes, Billy, T., there are a large number of sources that can be hydrolyzed into sugars - starches (as in potatoes) and cellulose - as in grasses and other fibrous plants like trees, weeds, etc. The limitations are the growing season and the rate of growth. Efficiency of harvesting, conversion and transportation would have to be considered there also. There remains some doubt if it would be a net producer of energy.

    A related footnote: Hydrogen cannot become a meaningful vehicle fuel unless we make a major investment in nuclear power. Generating it from any other fuel source is a loosing proposition in the final analysis.
  12. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    Billy T, can you answer this question: Does it take more or less energy to produce ethanol than we get back in usable energy to propel a vehicle?
  13. CANGAS Registered Senior Member

    Pure ethanol has an octane rating of 107. Compression ratios of something like 13 to 1 ( spark ignition ) could be used, with their coincidental higher economy. Of course, diesels can be made to run on anything that can be stuffed into their combustion chambers. Rudolph designed his first one to run on coal dust.

    Good ol' USA has a lot of farmland that could grow greenies that could be processed into ethanol, so transportation from Brazel ( how is that spelled, Billy? ) may not be a concern for Nortes.

    Ethanol has a significantly lower BTU count per gallon than gasoline, very roughly 2/3, so fuel tanks might grow. However, if compression ratios were raised as much as they could be, thereby increasing economy significantly, fuel tanks could conceivably stay about the same size for the same range on a tank.

    The big story could be diesels. Diesels have been given an undeserved free pass on emissions for a surprisingly long time. If the hammer is ever dropped then the ubiquitous black smoke diesel exhaust will have to go sayanara. Ethanol should burn much cleaner in a diesel. And, with its higher octane, diesels burning ethanol could finally become quiet and well-behaved enough to become widely accepted over spark engines.

    Anyone fixated upon some kind of economy of production obsession will hopefully wise up and understand the SERIOUS implications of continuing to increase greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

    An ethanol cycle, taking greenhouse gas out of the air, making it into fuel, burning it to produce the initial amount of greenhouse gas, does NO NET HARM TO THE ENVIRONMENT.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2005
  14. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    Hemp oil is even better, requires a lot less energy to grow and process for a net gain in usable energy, and doesn't require additives to lubricate a diesel engine.
  15. Light Registered Senior Member

    Are you sure about that? I would think it would not produce even close to the amount per acre as soybean oil. But this might be interesting, can you provide some links?
  16. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I think it takes at least 20 times more, possibly even 40 times more to capture the carbon from the air, etc. via photosynthese in the growing cane, but this is "free*" renewable solar energy that is growing the cane.

    The energy for the trucks that haul cut cane to the closest alcohol plant is surely less than 10 percent of the energy content of the alcohol that load of cane will produce and can of course be alcohol. The energy required at the plant is mainly thermal. I do not know to what extent (I think relatively small currently) heat is recovered from the hot liquid that has had most of the alcohol distilled from it, but surely in a counter-flow heat exchanger more than half could be. Economically when you have the crushed cane to burn heat recovery is not worth while, I assume. I think this crushed cane can supply the heat required for distillation several times over. I know it is often used in a "cogeneration mode" to supply electricity for the crushing, plant lights, etc in the larger processing centers with some surplus to feed into the grid, but doubt if the electrical efficiency is more than 10 or 15 % at most (coal fired plant can get 30% conversion efficiency I think) None the less, It is all solar energy that would not be economically possible to capture without the cane.

    It is also useful to think of The “alcohol system” like a jet engine powering an airplane. - Most of the power generated in the airplane’s turbine is internally consumed by the compressor. That is, a jet engine has more that 100% of its useful power re-circulating (I forget the typical number, but 300% seems to come to mind.)
    Think of an alcohol plant/ production system as re circulating about 20 or 30% of its useful out put. So one way of answering your question is to neglect to sunshine and then say that the energy required to produce alcohol is negative. I.e. you get co-generated electricity energy free while doing so and heat for buildings etc also (but there in not much need for that heat here in Brazil.) I suppose you could co-locate a bakery or food processing plant and use some of the surplus heat, but typically the population density near the plant is too small and the fields are growing cane, not some food that could be processed and shipped away in cans.

    Please do not think I know a lot about all this. Really I just can see/recognize some of the obvious facts and have no direct access or experience with the details of the alcohol industry, except at the "gas" station when I fill up with it because it is cheap and I like the idea that I am helping the environment as I drive, with a clean burning fuel that is actually reducing the CO2 in the air.

    I have failed in prior posts to note that much of the carbon taken from the air is returned to it as cane is burned for heat, especially at the larger plants that produce electricity from it also. Some of the smaller plants probably send crushed cane back to the multi-use farms where it was produced on the same trucks that deliver the cane to the plant. I expect that in small farms, where the farmer raises his own food, has a few cows, pigs etc. that if he cuts the cane himself, he may haul it to the plant with a horse drawn waggon. (In the smaller cities there are still lots of horses used to pull open air buggies, but most people use the bus or have a bike.)

    *Few people realize that even if the photovoltaic cells were free, the cost of electric energy from them would be reduced by less than half. In the industry, this is called the BOS cost, Balance of System. BOS cost is associated with the copper wires collecting the energy and conversion of DC to AC mainly, but land, cleaning dust and bird droppings etc, repair, etc. is also included but not the energy storage systems which would be required if photo electric power were to ever supply most of the energy needs.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 26, 2005
  17. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    I'm arguing from a bit of a position of ignorance too. I know of two fuels that give us back a lot more energy than we use to extract them from the surroundings. These are wood and hemp oil. Hemp oil is one of the easiest things in the world to process from the plants and it's hard to find a place where hemp won't grow without using water or fertilizers. It's not all that hard to extract a few tons of wood if you live in the right places, either. Most of us just aren't equipped to run our appliances with them.

    One other thing that screws us is that property taxes for houses go through the roof when an owner adds additional space. People who live near Omaha can wind up paying $250 a month in taxes on a house that is barely big enough for a family. The price is somewhat artifically inflated by the real estate bubble, but I tell you what, you wouldn't expect someone who lives two counties south of Omaha in for God's sake Nebraska to pay that much tax just to own a three-bedroom house. This means that it can cost horribly to have a room to set aside for functions like power generation, laundry, a place to dry clothes inside, etc. People who can afford more square feet pay less for materials like lumber and insulation to enclose those square feet, but a damned puny ass county government charges horribly for those few hundred square feet. This is screwing us on ways to save and manufacture energy because such efforts are intensive on use of space. One reason for the proliferation of trailers where permitted is because the taxes on two or three of them for a year is like the taxes on a "good" house for a month.

    Something's got to give.
  18. DaleSpam TANSTAAFL Registered Senior Member

    Agreed. That's why the whole hydrogen car push here in the US has really irritated me. It appears that people can't think beyond the nearest hill. I think they believe that if the stuff coming out of the tail-pipe is clean the whole thing must be "green".

    Btw, excellent point on the transportation costs. I had not considered those. The economies of scale still favor relatively small fermentation facilities (relative to the refineries). That might make it easier to locate them close to where they would be most efficient for distribution.

  19. DaleSpam TANSTAAFL Registered Senior Member

    I don't think wood is really practical to use as a general energy source. As it is our (USA) wood production is having trouble keeping up with lumber needs. Our forests are now much younger with the majority of the trees being much smaller and providing much less useable lumber. Of course, that equation will change as lumber prices continue to increase relative to steel and concrete and residential construction moves away from wood and towards modern materials.

    On the other hand, hemp oil, soy oil, or any other veggie oil is a good idea IMO. I personally don't care if we wind up using alcohol-based biofuels or vegetable-oil-based biofuels. Perhaps there are some arguments one way or the other, but I am unaware of them. I believe that all of the environmental benefits mentioned in this thread apply equally to each since they both represent energy and material that was recently fixed by photosynthesis and can therefore be returned to the environment with no net change.

    Let's ignore the environmental benefits for a moment. In this time of perpetual national-security concerns I don't understand why biofuels are not a major topic of public discourse simply from the prospect of becoming less dependent on OPEC. With a domestic source like this we would have much more stability in energy prices and our economy would be much less sensitive to the politics of thugs and petty dictators in the middle east. We could behave in a more rational manner in the middle east (e.g. not supporting certain thugs and dictators just because they feed our petroleum habit). I would think that this is sufficient reason to adopt biofuels, and the environmental benefits are "icing on the cake".

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

    I think Dale is correct and want to add that vegetable oils may be even better than alcohol in that you get them without either fermentation delay or thermal input for distillation. Just crush, press, filter, and store til truck comes to pick up the oil - all practical near the field with less transport cost because of less mass to transport. "Biodiesel" is beginning to take off in Brazil now. I forget the name of the plant that has been developed, but next time there is a newspaper article on it, I will post it Latin name, if given. As I recall it has little water requirements, grows well in poor soil and it seed pods are 30 to 40% oil. I do not recall reading that it can be used (after oil extracted) for cattle food. Perhaps it is toxic? I have great faith in the future of genetic engineering and expect that the oil content can be raised, and the toxin producing genes,if present, can be "knocked out" or otherwise made inactive.

    The main problems that I see are from the two conflicting social forces:
    (1) The usually ignorant "greens" who are against things like "bio-engineering" and
    (2) The established transport/oil industry.
    If more greens would read and understand some of their best, like Amory Lovings, they would not be such an obstruction to progress, so damaging to the environment they think they are saving etc. MHO.

    I support nuclear power, but it needs to done more like France does it, with a few well-tested, well-thought-out reactor designs, identical control rooms so in case of problems the best experts are immediately familiar with the controls, government control that places safety over profits, etc. not the US way of "free enterprise" that lets CEOs trained in “profit management“, make the final decisions, specify every control room uniquely, get custom-designed, one-of-a-kind plants, etc. and sometimes get in bed with the regulators to bend some rules.

    For example, the capital cost of the plant is the major cost of nuclear power (make much worse by "green power's" years of approval delay, etc.) and that cost is not allowed into the rate base until "on line." This is why in late December part of the Three Mile Island plant was put it "on line" by the CEOs, prior to complete installation of some of the safety pumps and controls, which as I understand it, fortunately had no effect on what happened there, but could have. If it did not go on line before 31 December, the capital invested would not go into the “fair return” formula of the PSC for at least another year.

    Profit should not be the first consideration in the control of a nuclear power plant. But nuclear power can be cheap, especially if it were better understood by the "greens" and better controlled to get the profit driven CEOs out of the control loop. In many areas of the economy, the "free market" is the best regulatory system, but not for nuclear power. MHO.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 27, 2005
  21. Light Registered Senior Member

    There is another factor to consider. I'm surprised it hasn't surfaced before now but it struck me as I was reading DalSpam's post where he mentioned OPEC.

    As good as your intentions are about Brazil, Billy, we need to take a step back and think about that in a little more depth. The energy production in the US needs to be as domestic as posible - lest we eventually echange being dependent upon OPEC for being just as dependent upon APEC (the "A" standing for alcohol.

    That could easily happen and be formed from contries such as Brazil, Argentina, and few others along with the Carribean nations. They could form their own alliance and control the world's alcohol supply just as easily as OPEC does with oil.
  22. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Economically feasible oil sources are much more limited than economically exploitable sunshine, so I think your fears of an APEC are unrealistic. True that tropical countries get more sunshine and part of what is available in Iowa (while ground is frozen) is useless for agriculture, but certainly the agricultural potential of the US is enormous. Until very recently, US was ahead of Brazil in the production of soy beans and some crops, like wheat, Brazil will never even come close to the US current production.

    I am sure you know enough economics to recognize that all benefit from trading what they have advantage in for items that other are lower cost producers. If not read Adam Smith or any of his followers who also understood this. With greenhouses the US could produce coffee, but it is much better to import it and sell wheat etc.

    Yes I expect that tropical countries will charge what the market will bear, but as any can tropical country can begin to produce cheap alcohol, it is very unlikely that an "alcohol OPEC" will or could form.

    Even with the gift of oil very limited, OPEC is not very successful in controlling prices. North sea oil, Russian oil, Alaskan oil and some others are not part of OPEC. OPEC has essentially nothing to do with the current high price of oil. Rapid growth in Asia is the main cause. OPEC's major producers would like to see lower priced oil as they are well aware that current price levels are making the consumers think seriously about switching to alternatives.

    Summary: It is economic and environmental foolishness for US tax payers to transfer billions to a few politically well connected groups at the expense of the many so that the many pay more to drive their cars and pollute the world's air with CO2 etc.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 27, 2005
  23. Physics Monkey Snow Monkey and Physicist Registered Senior Member

    Isn't this just one of the many reasons why we should be making a major investment in nuclear power?

    Also, while the amount of CO2 in the air is certainly rising, I was under the impression that there is considerable debate as to whether this is what causes "global warming". In particular, it seems that solar activity is much better correlated to the change in temperature, and that we might actually see a marked decrease in worldwide temperature as solar activity wanes. Perhaps I am just poorly informed here. Of course, even if various emissions do nothing significant to the global temperature, they certainly makes humans unhealthy, cloud the skies over our cities, etc so alternatives should definitely be pursued in my opinion.

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