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Corn Ethanol: Now Things Are Just Getting Stupid

ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
edited April 2008 in Debate and/or Discourse
As noted yesterday by Colbert, it takes 129 gallons of gasoline to handle the processing that produces 100 gallons of ethanol. Now, I knew that the gallon is a unit of volume, not energy, so I suspected that the loss was less than that meter seems, and checked the comparative energy capacity of gasoline and ethanol. Lo and behold, I found this.

Now, I don't know much about the validity of this site, but if it's right, it takes 197 gallons of gas to get the equivalent of 100 gallons of gas. I should note that this only stands true for corn, so I'd guess sugarcane is much better.

I guess the topic of the discussion should be "what the fuck, people?"

Scalfin on
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Posts

  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited April 2008
    You should see how much water it takes. :P

    Ethanol can be made profitable energy-wise, and it's nice having an OH FUCK emergency button, but it's mostly a scam.

    One of the main guys who passed the rules through is now running an ethanol plant and is doing fun things like getting tax breaks by claiming the leftovers from the ethanol as waste, then SELLING it, which is not what you do with waste.

    It's also shitty for the environment.

    Best part?

    I had a chemistry teacher in the fricking backwoods in 2001 who was already well-aware of this.

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  • ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited April 2008
    How's Brazil doing it? Hell, can we try apples?
    Hell, how overpriced must the corn stuff be for the producers to stay liquid with all those fuel costs?

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    The rest of you, I fucking hate you for the fact that I now have a blue dot on this god awful thread.
  • SchrodingerSchrodinger Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Ethanol is one of the few things that I disagree with Obama on.

    Basically, plants are solar cells with 0.5% efficiency. Then you have the cost associated with watering, fertilizing, maintaining, harvesting, processing and converting it into a usable fuel, just so that you can put it into an inefficient car engine.

    I would like to see what would happen if we channeled all of that energy into public transportation.

  • ViolentChemistryViolentChemistry __BANNED USERS
    edited April 2008
    Scalfin wrote: »
    How's Brazil doing it?

    With sugarcane. Not corn. Different process, different energy-cost.

    DAMM
    Drunks Against Mad Mothers
  • FencingsaxFencingsax Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Corn is not the most efficient ethanol producer.

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Thing with corn ethanol is that people THINK it's green and so support it regardless of what it actually does.

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  • ViolentChemistryViolentChemistry __BANNED USERS
    edited April 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Thing with corn ethanol is that people THINK it's green and so support it regardless of what it actually does.

    Well it must be green, politicians say so!

    DAMM
    Drunks Against Mad Mothers
  • KageraKagera Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    I have a feeling that support of corn ethanol is tied into farm subsidies.

    Would I be correct in that assumption?

    “This is America. We’re entitled to our opinions.”
    “Wrong. This is Texas. And my opinion is the only one that counts."
  • SchrodingerSchrodinger Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Well, now with the rising food prices, do corn producers really NEED ethanol anymore? Can't they just start growing corn for, like... food or something? Hell, is corn really the only thing that grows here? Seriously, there's gotta be something else that can grow in this climate. Where's Cat when you need her?

    Anyway, I think that we need to invest more in nanotechnology for electric car batteries and lightweight carbon fiber frames, then start putting that technology in the vehicles that get the highest mileage (and thus, the greatest savings.).

    Suburbs are a little trickier. How do you solve public transportation in low density areas that don't require a consistent supply of traffic to begin with?

  • KrunkMcGrunkKrunkMcGrunk Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    Corn is not the most efficient ethanol producer.

    Therein lies the biggest problem. There are better ways of producing ethanol, but for some reason people seem to focus on corn. I've heard that sugar beets were pretty good, actually.

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  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Thing with corn ethanol is that people THINK it's green and so support it regardless of what it actually does.

    Well it must be green, politicians say so!

    Also environmental lobbyists who grew up watching Captain Planet!

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  • Al_watAl_wat Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Thing with corn ethanol is that people THINK it's green and so support it regardless of what it actually does.

    This.

    I am 100% in favour of green/renewable energy. Corn-based ethanol is far from it.

    Fuck I was getting annoyed with people claiming a hydrogen based fuel system was the cure to all of our problems, and even that would be better than corn based ethanol, assuming that it was taking grid power from renewable sources.

  • ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited April 2008
    If we could harness termite bacteria, then it would be quite beneficial compared to other strategies, but it's currently quite stupid.

    Ah, and I found that sugarcane, as well as wood chips and switch grass, potentially, produces cellulosic ethanol, which is much more efficient to produce.

    Oh, and VC, I meant how well. Sorry.

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    The rest of you, I fucking hate you for the fact that I now have a blue dot on this god awful thread.
  • SchrodingerSchrodinger Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
  • EndomaticEndomatic Registered User
    edited April 2008
    Kagera wrote: »
    I have a feeling that support of corn ethanol is tied into farm subsidies.

    Would I be correct in that assumption?

    I would go so far as to say that it is pretty much the entire reason that this sort of thing is still discussed. If it wasn't for "Big Corn", it would've been written off a much longer time ago.

  • HacksawHacksaw J. Duggan Wrestler at LawRegistered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Endomatic wrote: »
    Kagera wrote: »
    I have a feeling that support of corn ethanol is tied into farm subsidies.

    Would I be correct in that assumption?

    I would go so far as to say that it is pretty much the entire reason that this sort of thing is still discussed. If it wasn't for "Big Corn", it would've been written off a much longer time ago.
    This is more or less it; the Corn Farmers of Amercia (aka the most nefarious bunch of mercinaries in the country) have found a new way to make skads of cash, so they're pursuing it with all their strength. Say hello to corn-powered cars, kiddies!

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Scalfin wrote: »
    Hell, can we try algae?

    Fixed.

    Also: bethanolcr1.gif

    Also: corn subsidies can go fuck themselves.

    Also: Iowa can go fuck itself.

    Also: ponies.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • HacksawHacksaw J. Duggan Wrestler at LawRegistered User regular
    edited April 2008
    But we need algae to make oxygen and complete the food chain! If we start turning it into a fuel, what will whales eat?

  • GimGim Long Live Biscuits Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Gim wrote: »
    Iowa.

    And corn farmers.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • HacksawHacksaw J. Duggan Wrestler at LawRegistered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Feral wrote: »
    Gim wrote: »
    Iowa.

    And corn farmers.
    I'm alright with this, but only if they get to eat New Hampshire, too.

  • HappylilElfHappylilElf Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    The more I read about this the angrier I get. "Gee, the corn growers told us it was a great idea and they wouldn't go so far as to lie just to make a shitload of money, would they!?". Good game Washington.

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  • HacksawHacksaw J. Duggan Wrestler at LawRegistered User regular
    edited April 2008
    The more I read about this the angrier I get. "Gee, the corn growers told us it was a great idea and they wouldn't go so far as to lie just to make a shitload of money, would they!?". Good game Iowa.
    Fix'd.

  • tofutofu Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Feral wrote: »
    Scalfin wrote: »
    Hell, can we try algae?

    Fixed.

    Also: bethanolcr1.gif

    Also: corn subsidies can go fuck themselves.

    Also: Iowa can go fuck itself.

    Also: ponies.

    Where is this from?

  • FirstComradeStalinFirstComradeStalin Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    And they wonder why food prices are so high.....

    To be entirely honest, people, ethanol isn't really that viable no matter what plant you use.

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  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Basically if they can get solar catalysis of water into hydrogen to work (titania nanoparticles via a radical reaction is one mechanism) then the materials scientists are going to act smug for the next century.

    Dis' wrote: »
    Cancer is when cells stop letting the body mooch off their hard work - clearly a community of like-minded cells should isolate themselves and do the best job each can do, even if the rest of the body collapses!
  • AldoAldo Hippo Hooray the swamp, always the swampRegistered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Biofuels are such a clusterfuck, it was clear from the get-go that this was not a renewable and clean resource, yet it got sold like that. Now that the media are finally paying an iota of attention to it, shit hits the fan.

    We're currently on the first generation of biofuels, we need to go through this generation to get to the next generation that is a lot more durable and will actually have some net positive effects on the environment. We can't just go about skipping whole generations because we need to get the infrastructure up and companies interested in investing in this (never mind how different the two generations are).

    If the politicians and environmental organisations would have presented this whole fuel from corn thing as an alternative source of energy instead of a *better* source of energy we wouldn't all have our panties in a twist over this.

    tl;dr giev next generation biofuels damn it.

    Elendil wrote: »
    said Aldo hazily, before clop-clop-clopping out of the room
  • SchrodingerSchrodinger Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    tofu wrote: »
    Where is this from?

    http://www.teslamotors.com/blog2/?p=22

    Honestly, we just need to invest in better battery technology, like nanotech batteries.

    "The map shows the relative areas required to offset 50% of the miles driven in the US for photovoltaics, cellulosic ethanol and corn ethanol. Compared to photovoltaics, cellulosic ethanol, which is still unproven at large scale, requires a huge land area, even when using the assumptions of its most optimistic proponents. That is why Tesla Motors will be co-marketing solar panel solutions from partners like SolarCity. With just a small 10 ft by 15 ft solar panel tucked away on the roof of your garage, you will generate enough electricity to travel about 400 miles per week in the Tesla Roadster. If you travel less than that, you will be energy positive with respect to transportation and the excess electricity will offset your home’s power usage."

  • GoodOmensGoodOmens Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Hacksaw wrote: »
    But we need algae to make oxygen and complete the food chain! If we start turning it into a fuel, what will whales eat?

    Whatever the hell they want. Are you going to tell a whale that it can't eat something?

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  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Battery technology is kind of stalled in terms of electrochemistry, which is why we're looking to things like hydrogen fuel cells and the like these days because what we need is some way to rapidly increase the Wh/kg ratio to make any electrical alternative viable.

    There are some advances to be made - nanostructured anodes and the like mean you can achieve pretty spectacular recharge rates but they don't mean an increase in energy density generally.

    Dis' wrote: »
    Cancer is when cells stop letting the body mooch off their hard work - clearly a community of like-minded cells should isolate themselves and do the best job each can do, even if the rest of the body collapses!
  • MalkorMalkor Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Also I guess all the corn we're using for fuel is now raising world-wide food prices somehow. Guess that means we just need more corn farmers!

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  • SchrodingerSchrodinger Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Battery technology is kind of stalled in terms of electrochemistry, which is why we're looking to things like hydrogen fuel cells and the like these days because what we need is some way to rapidly increase the Wh/kg ratio to make any electrical alternative viable.

    There are some advances to be made - nanostructured anodes and the like mean you can achieve pretty spectacular recharge rates but they don't mean an increase in energy density generally.

    Oh yeah, I'm not saying that electric cars are viable now. But I do think that we need to be investing a lot more money into R&D.

  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Actually I would build an electric car tomorrow if I could, but that's because I love electronics and I love working on transportation related issues. Unfortunately doing it right costs gold I don't have.

    Dis' wrote: »
    Cancer is when cells stop letting the body mooch off their hard work - clearly a community of like-minded cells should isolate themselves and do the best job each can do, even if the rest of the body collapses!
  • FyreWulffFyreWulff Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited April 2008
    Malkor wrote: »
    Also I guess all the corn we're using for fuel is now raising world-wide food prices somehow. Guess that means we just need more corn farmers!

    Nebraska alone grows enough corn to give every person in the united states 320 pounds of corn each year. And we're not even the corn state, our primary export is soy bean.

    Plus the fact that a lot of the corn being sold for fuel was going to be sold as feed, and the feed guys were starting to go down because of mad cow scares and other lost business. And now they're not. It works out in the end.

    And even that, there's only one gas station (possibly two) in Nebraska that sell E85. The most you can find otherwise is E10, which is everywhere.

  • SchrodingerSchrodinger Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Actually I would build an electric car tomorrow if I could, but that's because I love electronics and I love working on transportation related issues. Unfortunately doing it right costs gold I don't have.

    Gold you say?

    So what you're saying is, we could all be driving electric cars tomorrow, if only Ron Paul were president?

    (Sorry).

    Anyway, I think what we need to do is figure out which cars consume the most mileage, and target them. Screw the electric sports car, what about electric taxi cabs?

    BTW ELM, what're your thoughts on the home kit plug-in-hybrids that people have been building? I mean, just the fact that the batteries weren't designed for this sort of purpose, so what happens with the lifespan/safety issues.

  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    The plug-in hybrid is a good concept, but it's kind of hamstrung in practice. The Prius motor-engine configuration really wasn't designed to operate as the sole power provider to the car at high speed and so it doesn't, so you always end up burning fuel anyway. There's also a weight distribution issue - people tend to try and throw these batteries in the trunk, whereas what you really want to do is run them down the center axis of the car.

    If I had my way, the ideal way to do it would be reengineer a hybrid to run at high speed with it's electric motor (which means you might have to slip a clutch into that beautiful planetary gear set, though I guess a park stop on the engine would work to) and then run a proper set of batteries down the middle of the car. Basically get it to run as a pure EV over day to day use. Bit of a weight problem in carrying the engine around regardless - the whole ideal situation there would probably end up being a series hybrid which isn't the best way to do things hybrid-wise (which is why the Prius is so good in the first place).

    Of course, in my dream world we skip all that and just run inductive plating under the major roadways in the city so hybrid vehicles are grid powered everywhere except minor off roads.

    Dis' wrote: »
    Cancer is when cells stop letting the body mooch off their hard work - clearly a community of like-minded cells should isolate themselves and do the best job each can do, even if the rest of the body collapses!
  • ShadowfireShadowfire Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Feral wrote: »
    Scalfin wrote: »
    Hell, can we try algae?

    Fixed.

    Also: bethanolcr1.gif

    Also: corn subsidies can go fuck themselves.

    Also: Iowa can go fuck itself.

    Also: ponies.

    I'm actually doing a project in one of my classes on Biofuels, and specifically, Ethanol. I've had a hard time coming up with solid numbers (i.e. X number of corn ears -> Y gallons of ethanol = Z gallons of gasoline), but one of the studies I saw from the CATO Institute was rather sad. They said that to power the entire U.S. fleet of automobiles on corn ethanol, we would need to convert all U.S. cropland to corn production, and add another 20% farmland on top of that. Never mind the fact that we're not longer producing anything but corn, but a lot of cropland can't even support corn. And, you know... we're burning our food.

    My project was specifically supposed to be about Vermont (where I live), and whether corn ethanol would be feasible just within Vermont. Since there is relatively little cropland here that is workable into ethanol, the project would have been about 2 minutes of presentation, so I had to expand to the entire U.S..... :|

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  • MuddBuddMuddBudd Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    GoodOmens wrote: »
    Hacksaw wrote: »
    But we need algae to make oxygen and complete the food chain! If we start turning it into a fuel, what will whales eat?

    Whatever the hell they want. Are you going to tell a whale that it can't eat something?

    No, but I'm not Japanese.

    cause they kill whales

    steam_sig.png
  • SchrodingerSchrodinger Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    The thing about ethanol is that in an absolute best case scenario, it's supposed to serve as a transition during that awkward phase when gasoline gets even more scarce than it is already, but when we do have a lot of internal combustion engine cars still on the road.

    Hydrogen combustion is another transition step, but I think that requires a completely re-designed tank in order to handle it safely.

    Also, while corn burns a lot of fossil fuels, a lot of that is probably coal from power plants, and not actually oil. I'm only guessing, though. But it would be nice if we could at least switch up the farm equipment to electric.

  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2008
    Someone converted a Prius to run on hydrogen once. The sad thing is that essentially that made the cars indirect emissions higher.

    Dis' wrote: »
    Cancer is when cells stop letting the body mooch off their hard work - clearly a community of like-minded cells should isolate themselves and do the best job each can do, even if the rest of the body collapses!
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