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Ethanol vs Biodiesel vs Gasoline

January 28, 2005


Ok I'll add a bit more. I have been doing some reading on ethanol (which I wasn't sure if it was considered a biodiesel, I now realize it isn't) because of the most recent West Wing episode where they are campaingning in Iowa. If you want to win in Iowa you have to drink the ethanol kool aid.

I then read an article about the true cost of ethanol. This only made things less clear and I was hoping that some of you, that may have read more than I, can clarify some of the issues.

What is the true cost of ethanol, gas and biodiesel? I would like to limit this to the production and distribution costs, not environmental clean up or military protection of middle east oil fields. Feel free to discuss those costs, but break them out seperately so we can at least try to compare oranges to tangerines and not apples to lemons.


Comments (37)

  • spewey

    This little snipped from the article linked below summarizes the "economic advantages" of ethanol.

    David Pimentel, an agricultural scientist at Cornell University and one of the foremost critics of ethanol, has conducted numerous cost analyses on ethanol production. He's made a name for himself mostly by driving the ethanol industry raving mad. From its very beginnings, when hoe enters soil, ethanol production has not changed much since the nineteenth century. Pimentel found that one acre of U.S. corn field yields about 7,110 pounds of corn, which in turn produces 328 gallons of ethanol. Setting aside the environmental implications (which are substantial), the financial costs already begin to mount. To plant, grow, and harvest the corn takes about 140 gallons of fossil fuel and costs about $347 per acre. According to Pimentel's analysis, even before the corn is converted to ethanol, the feedstock alone costs $0.69 per gallon of ethanol.

    More damning, however, is that converting corn to ethanol requires about 99,119 BTUs to make one gallon, which has 77,000 BTUs of available energy. So about 29 percent more energy is required to produce a gallon of ethanol than is stored in that gallon in the first place. "That helps explain why fossil fuels (not ethanol) are used to produce ethanol," Pimentel says. "The growers and processors can't afford to burn ethanol to make ethanol. U.S. drivers couldn't afford it, either, if it weren't for government subsidies that artificially lower the price." All told, a gallon of ethanol costs $2.24 to produce, compared to $0.63 for a gallon of gasoline.

    So, if we were to switch entirely to ethanol use, we'd run out of petroleum four times as fast.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Ethanol's Nine Lives

  • AzDesertRat

    Thanks Spewey for bringing up the article. Of that $2.23 that is costs to produce a gallon, us taxpapers are picking up an additional 83 cents which is one of those "hidden costs" which no one talks about.

    Can't go around as politician saying these things though. It would be political suicide.

  • farmersam

    It does cost more to produce a gallon of ethonol then a gallon of gasoline, however the author does not take into account the recovery of by products in the brewing process.

    A bushel of corn doubles in value as feed even with the recovery of ethonol. In other words, ethonol is the by product of preparing the corn for cattle feed.

    But you can't get subsidies to enhance cattle feed, can you?

    This is one of those feel good programs that actually solve nothing for the envirnment but the uninformed public feels like we are doing something. Just like most of the other environmental programs that have cost us millions.


  • Bill_G

    I need some help with the math. Chasing this topic down I found two sites that say ethanol has a net positive energy yield. It's small, but it's positive nonetheless.

    The first is a USDA 2004 report based on 2001 data. It states in Table 4 (towards the bottom) that the energy input per gallon of ethanol produced is 45802 Btu, and the energy value is 30528 Btu. To me that suggests a loss. However, they clearly see this as a gain. I quote -"The net energy balance of corn ethanol adjusted for byproduct credits is 27,729 and 33,196 Btu per gallon for wet- and dry-milling, respectively, and 30,528 Btu per gallon for the industry. The study results suggest that corn ethanol is energy efficient, as indicated by an energy output/input ratio of 1.67." That's my math problem. What did I miss?

    In another study, done in Canada in 1991, the author demonstrates a small energy gain from corn ethanol too. He then goes on to explain the attributes of hybrid willow as a better crop for energy production. Interesting argument. Obviously one that has not gained a lot of traction. I point the article out for two reasons: His assumptions are based on 1980's data for corn ethanol production yielding a slight net positive energy output supporting later arguments from the USDA despite their math; and I like his addition of sewer treatment plant biosolids into the equation of sustainability. To me this is one of the greatest throw away products in our society and we make no attempts to put it to use. Instead we dump it into our rivers and streams without a second thought. Growing trees in sludge that yield fuel - To me, if this were feasible, it would be an excellent direction to go.

  • wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

    Bill, I'm addressing only the last part of your post and not the math. Sludge from municipal sources tends to contain heavy metals and such due to the dumping of many kinds of materials down the drain. I for one would not want it dumped near me for that reason.

  • Monte_ND_Z3

    To me that suggests a loss.

    It does to me as well. Additionally, unless they are somehow converting the by-products to energy, I call it voodoo energy economics to offset the energy cost with credits from by-products. What are they doing with the by-products? Using them for cattle feed, the largest use that I am aware, doesn't equate to producing energy or fuel in my book. If they burned the solids as fuel, perhaps, but I doubt the energy cost to dry them out would result in a gain there either.

    Of course, it is the government doing the math. These are the same people who consider reducing the size a projected increase in the Federal budget the same as giving us a reduction in the budget. Additionally, they are answering to politicians who believe it is sensible to pay 10's to 100's of millions of dollars for jobs that pay in the hundreds of thousands at the most.

  • AzDesertRat

    And for those of you who are interested (Monte, you may be able to clarify this), the ratio for crude oil is roughly 5:1 (4.87:1 may be the exact number). In layman's terms, for every energy unit it takes to extract the oil, you get five energy units from using it. Even if the forumula of 1.67 is correct, you are still using more efficient energy to make a less efficient energy source.

    Now, if there were tangible benefits like a corrolating effect in the amount of cleaner emmissions or sustainable energy, there may be something. But, as we all know, corn takes energy to produce which includes in many cases chemical fertilizers which, in many cases are byproducts of the oil industry.

    The problem with current hydrogen technology is the same. It takes more energy to produce the hydrogen fuel than what you get out of it. At least in hyrodrogen's case it results in cleaner emmissions at the back end. We can't say the same about ethanol.

  • Bill_G

    Thanx Monte. I don't quite see it as the gummint did the numbers and therefore they tried to fool us POV. With published data, I really am curious how they arrive at a net positive conclusion. I know how they arrived at the values. That math is simple. It's the conclusion I question. Perhaps I do not understand their conclusion or I misread the report (somehow).

    Wayne - So you're fine with sludge in the river where it gets redistributed into the environment rather than put to a higher and possibly productive use? I'm not, and I'm not particularly afraid of the heavy metal boogie man either. That is point source pollution that can be monitored, quantified, and prevented.

  • farmersam

    They're adding in the enhanced value of the corn as feedstuffs after fermenting.

    Like I said in an earlier post, it's hard to get subsidies to enhance cattle feed.

    If you look at a map on where the ethonol plants are located, you will see it is near proximity to large feedlots.

    The feedlots were there before the ethonol plants.

    The cattlefeeders industry has always been a large proponent for ethonol production because of this. Many are the largest stockholders.


  • lilyroseviolet

    I just dont understand that if that is true how can people eat any byproduct of cattle knowing that it is fed corn that has been robbed of its natural state and altered multi times and all times with out the thought of making it more nutrient rich for the cow, and yes, ultimately for the people who will eat of these animals by-products

    I donÂt know where the food comes from or the ethanol corn waste that is excess that may be fed to animals.

    Cattle need be fed feed with a certain amount of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides? these are different poisons which are used to treat soils grown in and the seed itself before sowing time, after sowing and during its growing season up to harvest and then it goes through other chemical treatments which are used in the areas where stored to prevent infestations usually of rodents or insects. If the food is processed there are other chemicals which are used to allow for longer storage these are called preservatives ( usually used in human food, though). Fumigating, spraying, or granular are sometimes the options as well as dispersed by the air  sprayed down from helicopters or airplanes, supposeably on calm early mornings when most people wouldnÂt be outside to catch any drifting, less risk taking.

    Spraying of commercial fields might wish to have a written and announce in the newspaper and should be paid for by the township that is selling the chemical to the user. Obviously, the town will or should benefit from any action to ones food source.
    , Why cant we just get one of these old farters to open up some acreage to grow for fuel only and allow those who grow feed for the cattle only the best food instead of having the pressure to perform to the point of creating a confliction of purpose I think we need more conscientious farmers to grow for maximum nutrients in the food with out any toxic residue or involvement with worrying about ethanol.

  • farmersam


    Look up the meaning of the word 'enhanced'. Corn is a better balanced feed for ruminants after the starch is removed. The balance of the corn kernal is cooked to enhance digestibility and conversion rates.

    Townships selling chemicals?

    Benefit from locally grown food?

    Most food especially animal protein is consumed far from the source. Most meat is produced in very low population areas, especially feedlots.

    Last I heard chemicals were sold by privately owned businesses.

    There is typically more chemicals including fertilizer applied to one acre of urban lawn then on twenty or so agricultural acres.

    Modern hybrids require the application of 1/2 gal or less of pesticides and with modern yield monitors fertilizer is only applied at the rate needed where needed and mixed for proper nutrients on the go. Less then half is being applied per acre as opposed to a decade ago.

    Inputs are very expensive and there isn't a farmer out there that can afford to over apply.

    I'll bet you're against GMOs also and they are one of the biggest reasons for decline in pesticide use.


  • althea_gw

    I think I'm in the only state in the country with a 10% ethanol mandate. The Governor wants to raise it to 20%. This has created much debate of late. I fall on the side of the opposition to increasing ethanol use for a whole host of reasons, most which have already been mentioned in this thread.

    An opinion piece in my local paper sums up the ethanol situation nicely.

    "Annette Meeks: Ethanol mandate a bad deal
    Annette Meeks
    February 1, 2005 MEEKS0201

    A fast-tracked piece of legislation, supported by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, would raise the ethanol content in gasoline sold in Minnesota from 10 percent to 20 percent by the year 2012. Or, if we consumers suddenly jump on the ethanol bandwagon and double our current consumption of the corn-based fuel by 2011, the 2012 mandate would be dropped.

    It sounds tempting, doesn't it? At first glance it seems reasonable to conclude that putting more corn-based fuel in our gas tanks will lessen our dependence on foreign oil, help the environment and benefit Minnesota's corn farmers -- kind of a political no-brainer. But is this a good idea for Minnesotans? I don't think so, and here's why:

    Will this mandate help Minnesota achieve greater energy independence? Probably not. More than 80 percent of the crude oil used in Minnesota comes from North America. Meeting Minnesota's energy needs is an enormous challenge. We shouldn't accept a plan today that falls short of achieving even greater energy independence.

    This is a bad deal for consumers, as well. Gasoline blended with ethanol actually gets less gas mileage (about 3 percent less at the current 10 percent level) than regular gasoline. Doubling the ethanol level to 20 percent will further reduce fuel efficiency, adding to the cost of driving a car. Mandated increases in the use of ethanol won't help consumers save a few dollars on a tank of gasoline.

    But more important, most new car warranties don't cover engine problems that could result from using fuel blended with more than 10 percent ethanol. That means a new car purchased today could end up costing you a bundle six years from now when you either have it retrofitted to adapt to our new fuel standards, you abandon it altogether and purchase a new car, or you void the engine warranty by refueling your car with our newest state mandate.

    Let's be honest -- consumers, through our tax dollars, are already heavily subsidizing the production of ethanol -- to the tune of $1.4 billion per year.

    Is this good for the environment? Supporters of the bill like to tout ethanol as a "renewable" source of energy. Yet, according to the Sierra Club, "it takes the equivalent of 70 percent of the energy in a gallon of ethanol to fertilize, harvest, transport, and distill it. (Efficiency like that could give renewability a bad name.)" Indeed, pro-ethanol mandates also increase the likelihood that our farmers will take advantage of this government-mandated windfall by increasing their use of chemicals and fertilizers -- hardly the environmental utopia its sponsors have in mind.

    Furthermore, under the Clean Air Act, Minnesota will have to get a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to go ahead with this risky plan. The EPA allows gasoline sold in the United States to have an alcohol content of up to 10 percent or to have an 85 percent alcohol content that some newer car models are specially equipped to use. But it does not permit the sale of any fuel with an alcohol-content percent between those two levels.

    And getting that waiver from the EPA won't be so easy. Ethanol use raises emissions of nitrogen oxides, which is a contributor to the formation of smog. Increased smog levels in Minnesota have been a growing concern. A recent study by the California Air Resources Board showed that blending ethanol with gasoline increased evaporative emissions compared to gasoline not blended with ethanol.

    Indeed, the proposed ethanol mandate runs counter to the Bush administration's ambitious "Clear Skies Initiative," a plan that would amend and update the Clean Air Act by requiring a 70 percent cut in emissions from coal-fired power plants of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury. It makes no environmental sense to reduce nationwide emissions of nitrogen oxides from power plants while adopting a new ethanol mandate in Minnesota that will raise such emissions in our state.

    This legislation probably will help ethanol agri-giants like Archer Daniels Midland. But it's not likely to boost income for the average Minnesota corn growers -- the very farmers that the plan purports to help.

    In 1997, a U.S. Department of Agriculture study concluded that ethanol "represents an inefficient use of our nation's resources." The study concluded by saying, "When all economic costs and benefits are tallied, an ethanol subsidy program is not cost-effective." It wasn't then and it isn't now.

    Our state government should focus its efforts researching ways to meet Minnesota's energy needs in the years and decades to come. This is a challenge worthy of our most innovative efforts. The proposed ethanol mandate is a step in the wrong direction.

    Annette Meeks is CEO of the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis."


  • marshallz10

    Always amazes me when someone fails to see the fallacies in discussions. Case in point is the touting residues of ethanol production as high valued livestock feed, so valued that containment facilities are drawn to such feed production sites. This may or may not be true; I haven't searched the net to confirm. But what I do remember is a bit of economics and a bit about bringing livestock closer to cheap raw materials. Hauling all that maize and other raw feed ingredients long distances doesn't make sense. Hauling processed feed long distances makes more sense.

    I remember conversations with Iowan corn farmers while looking at a local ethanol production facility standing idle and awaiting harvest time. The farmers were reluctant to commit their corn to the plant because market prices might be much better than those offered by the coop facility. So I suppose Nebraskan corn might be shipped to Iowa to feed the plant.

  • Bill_G

    I sent my questions off to the ethanol.org contact list and have not gotten a reply yet. I can't be the first with this question about the input vs the output energies. You would think they would be quick to clear the air and ready with some FAQ responses.

  • marshallz10

    I suspect "subsidy cow" might center the core of this agribusiness. Without subsidies...well, one can imagine...

  • AzDesertRat

    Bill, I would be interested if you got any response and what the response would be (hopefully with actual sources instead of an oversimplification of generalities).

    Keep us informed.

  • farmersam


    You may be referring to one of those first plants that did not perform very well. Several of those have been scrapped.

    I guess every industry goes through the learning curve.

    Prices at the modern plants are based on current prices plus a bonus. Most of them require you to purchase shares to sell to them. There is actually waiting lists to sell to them or buy shares these days.

    The new ones are net to feeding centers as the mash is fed wet, very costly to haul and shelf life is 48 hours or it begins to mold causing listerius to the cattle eating it.

    These plants have been good to farmers within 50 miles of the plant bring them 25+ cents per bushel more for their corn.

    The plant at Columbus, Nebraska (owned by a Minneasota company) is known locally as Gotham City because it is visiable for 20 some miles and well lit up at night. It sits on 640 acres and looks like something out of science fiction. Security rivals the White House.

    Personally, I think we are going through a fad phase with this and they will fade into history in a decade or two. To me it makes more sense to produce liquid fuels from biomass but maybe that is the forester in me coming out. At least we would be utilizing something virtually unused right now. Global demands on grain is only going to increase with our population and water transportation is cheap.

    However nothing is going to change until oil goes over $75 a barrel and stays there. Nothing will ever compete at a lower price.


  • althea_gw

    Sam, the 25+ cents per bushel price only applies to farmer-owners. Farmers who do not own shares in the plant only receive @ 8-12 cents/bushel more.

    I think you are right in your prediction of eventual long term failure of an industry dependent on subsidies. But as long as the subsidies flow, ADM is at the head of the line for handouts. ADM bought out the largest of the ethanol plants here in 2002. The class action suit by former farmer-owners regarding the sale has also been prominent in the local news lately as ADM lawyers have attempted to stall the start date of the trial. This sort of opportunism is a likely future for all ethanol production plants, imo.

  • TreePapa

    Here's another angle to consider on this (or perhaps just a different take on the same angle):

    According to By George Monbiot, in Feeding Cars, Not People , "The adoption of biofuels would be a humanitarian and environmental disaster". Producing enough biofuel to make a difference in pollution, gobal warming, etc., will, in short, create a very strong demand for fuel-crops, which will lead to environmentally and socially unsound farming. According to Monbiot, "Those who have been promoting these fuels are well-intentioned, but wrong. They are wrong because the world is finite. If biofuels take off, they will cause a global humanitarian disaster."

    I, Sequoia, think that biofuels produced entirely or primarly from waste oil and the like could have a useful place powering a portion of the "public" fleet ... mass transit, public service vehicles such as fire trucks, ambulances, utility trucks, etc. Whatever they could power w/o having to have land devoted to fuel production.

    An environmentally and socially sound and sustainable answer to the transportation of persons, OTOH, has to go through mass (public, and subsidised) transit and intelligent land use (IMHO). I'm not optomistic about this happening in my lifetime, but I'm less optomistic that a magic bullet or technical fix will make the personal automobile truely sustainable in my lifetime, or that of my child.


    - Sequoia

  • marshallz10

    Sam, thanks for the thoughtful response. I was visiting Iowa about 4 years ago and was introduced to the corn growers. They expected at the time to have ADM or another biggie assume the debt and operate the plant in not too distant future.

    I think, too, that this is something of a passing fad and that food production (and higher-end industrial uses) will dominate. There are other sources of biomass better suited.

  • lilyroseviolet

    Tree Papa, in your link Feeding cars not people, I checked out the reference number 2 (Monsanto on biodiesel revolution ).
    The article by Monsanto is encouraging biofuel usage and justification of need while tattling on the course of actions of other enities.

    Sam I looked up enhanced corn:

    this did not help me, perhaps you know of a better link for me to understand. The other searches I found left me more confused as the fermenation that you elude to from the byproduct of a corn that had been processed for biodiesel or the starch removed for what ever the use and the rest is served to the cattle or animals with a rumen stomach system. Especially if it is cooked, Would this not create a very acidic product for the ruminants be more difficult on thier systems? I know you are saying the corn starch is removed...how is it removed? after fermentation, does the corn cobs get used as feed by being ground up at that point? Also if the corn is extracted from the cob, what is the process, cut or chemical? See below what I found in regards to using fermented corn.

    "Fermentation in the rumen generates enormous, even frightening, quantities of gas. We're talking about 30-50 liters per hour in adult cattle and about 5 liters per hour in a sheep or goat. Eructation or belching is how ruminants continually get rid of fermentation gases. As mentioned above, an eructation is associated with almost every secondary ruminal contraction. Eructated gas travels up the esophagus at 160 to 225 cm per second (Stevens and Sellers, Am J Physiol 199:598, 1960) and, interestingly, a majority is actually first inspired into the lungs, then expired. Anything that interferes with eructation is lifethreatening to the ruminant because the expanding rumen rapidly interferes with breathing. Animals suffering ruminal tympany (bloat) die from asphyxiation."

    NOw I am confused perhaps someone can get me on the course so I can catchup with the thread...stuck in not understanding. Help!

    On the other questions you had on my post...( I am feeling quite feeble here so please stay with me and help educate me, thanks)
    Townships selling chemicals?
    Yeah, dumb idea, I must of been drunk when I said that one. I dont want the government to be involved in our choices, however, When chemicals are being administered near me or will affect my immediate environment, then I want to know. I have a right to decide where to be when chemicals are applied and not be surprized as I see it falling out of the sky as a spray when I am out walking in its drift with my family.

    And yes, I understand that the homeowner and urbanites are using chemicals at a much heavier rate than large acreage farmers. This is baffling to me in how to approach the topic or protect myself/family/loved ones/anyone.

    As far as the GMO's, I use to think I needed to boycott all GMO's. At this time I think there may actually be some good that can come out of GMO's. I am not sure what, but am open minded that it has positive possibilites.
    Althought the pesticide usage may be down, what I see is that the ownershop of seeds has taken the place of chemical usage. It all points to the same culprit or hero as you may look at it.

  • farmersam

    The starch is converted to ethonol during fermentation so in a sense is gone or whatever is left is converted to other compounds.

    Fermentation is how a ruminant digests all of it's food. Excess acid is caused by starchy grains which no longer exists after ethonol production.

    The byproducts of ethonol production is heavy to oils which is readily digestible by anything and is very good for fattening cattle. The varying vitamins. etc are still there, as is the celulose which is what ruminants are designed to digest.

    The corn cobs are left in the field. All commodity corn is shelled at time of harvest by combines. All that leaves the field is the grain.

    BTW, I know of no plant that extracts all the products listed above. Most do one or another.


  • lilyroseviolet

    thanks Sam.

  • Bill_G

    No response as yet. I should put a burr in their saddle.

  • althea_gw

    George Monbiot has written another article about biofuel from palm oil in todays Guardian. A clip:

    "The last time I drew attention to the hazards of making diesel fuel from vegetable oils, I received as much abuse as I have ever been sent for my stance on the Iraq war. The biodiesel missionaries, I discovered, are as vociferous in their denial as the executives of Exxon. I am now prepared to admit that my previous column was wrong. But they're not going to like it. I was wrong because I underestimated the fuel's destructive impact."

  • bry84

    Personally, I'm not a fan of ethanol. If I thought it worked, I would think it great, but honestly I don't believe it does any good.

    I've read several studies where they showed that on average the addition of 10% ethanol to petrol (gas) caused about 10% reduction in MPG. This has been debated and argued with me by a number of people, and personally having not done the tests I can only say that they seemed logical and I believed them. Largely because ethanol contains about 20,000 BTU of energy per litre and petrol around 30,000 BTU per litre. There are variations in quality, but ultimately there is simply less energy potential in ethanol, and I see no plausible way petrol blended with ethanol can provide the same mpg as regular petrol. If it's the worst case and every percent of ethanol takes off a percent of milage, I don't know, but it must be reducing the mpg and making the energy return (not to mention value to consumers) worse. Regarding the much lower energy content per litre, I have to view the frequent statements that ethanol does not affect mpg, or even that it makes it better as highly suspect.

  • meldy_nva

    Why is a lower mpg of ethanol/biodiesel always presented as being a highly important negative factor in comparison to gasoline mpg? Can't we accept that a different quantity of propellent may be needed to traverse an equal amount of distance?

    Analogy: If I had a thousand plums and a thousand cherries, I would not expect to get the same number of jars of jam from the cherries as I would from the plums... looks to me like comparing mpg of ethanol/biodiesel to gasoline is the same difference. I think to compare *costs* per mile is fair, but how do we put a dollar value on a non-renewable source [petroleum product] to make a fair comparison?

  • bry84

    "Why is a lower mpg of ethanol/biodiesel always presented as being a highly important negative factor in comparison to gasoline mpg?"

    I can't imagine it not being an issue. Ethanol takes large investments of fuel, land, time, crops and the associated fertilisers/pesticides to produce. These are only worth consuming if they produce a product that yields net energy returns, otherwise we're just wasting resources and damaging the environment more. There are plenty of different ways to calculate the energy returns and some people insist it provides more energy than it consumes and others claim it takes more energy to produce than the final product contains. One of the most important parts of this equation is the resulting mpg from mixing it, although I've seen plenty of cost/return studies that did not account for ethanol containing 2/3 of the energy petrol does. Even small reductions in milage have a large impact on the energy input vs. energy return, to make a fair decision they have to be studied and taken in to account.

    I have seen studies of mpg that showed 10% ethanol in petrol to provide anywhere from 5-15% less milage. Even at just 1 or 2 percent reduction the net return looks worse, and at the highest end a 10-15% reduction makes it not worth using at all. As I'm sure you can see, it would be useless to add 10% ethanol to fuel only to reduce the mpg by the same amount or more. That's why mpg concerns me. Until it's taken in to account and studied extensively, we don't know if the whole thing is a exercise in pointlessness.

  • meldy_nva

    Bry - my discontent with using "mpg" as a comparison factor stems from the fact that vehicular mpg is dependent on the machine and the driver *more so* than upon the fuel providing the energy; thus, saying that ethanol provides 30% less energy than the equivalent amount of gasoline is valid for a comparison of products, whereas saying that adding/using a biodiesel product will cut mpg by X% is not a particularly useful comparison, since the mpg can be affected to equal or drastically higher percentages simply by the equipment/operator actually using the vehicle.

    In real life: D gets 15 mpg, G gets 25 mpg, I get 30 mpg, and J gets 60 mpg -- all using the same product but in different vehicles. G & I can drive the same vehicle - I consistently get notably better mpg because of differing driving styles. While a product that produces 10% or even 30% lower mpg will look inefficient in a study, to me the real inefficiency is in the machine/driver that uses the product, and that doesn't show when quoting mpg as a viable unit of comparison. Most of us could improve our driving skills in order to improve mpg by 10%, and almost all of us could come close to cutting in half the total quantity of fuel used, simply by driving a fuel-efficient vehicle regardless of the fuel.

    "In theory there is no difference between practice and theory. In practice there is." Y. Berra

  • willow85

    .(ADM quoted their prod. cost @ $0.92 / gal for ethanol for their new plants.)-- That is likely factoring in the other agri-businesses that co-exist in the production process.

    If your going to complain about ethanol production subsidies, you have to also complain about petroleum co. subsidies -- (In the tens of Billions this year, and your paying for this April 15th and not when you fuel up your car.) One never really knows the true cost of anything -- one can only make guesses even after the last history book is written. The reality is that the oil is finite, the ethanol renewable, but not at a rate sufficent to meet all our demand when the oil is depleted. Very long term it's probably going to have to be hydrogen, and solar/wind, but Ethanol could help build a bridge to that time. I've worked in the Oil Field, and have more than one set of scars from it -- Oil is by no means in-expensive in that respect either.

    -- Countries like India and China are busily working on $2000 cars to meet demand -- Oil will just head up more in price making ethanol seem more reasonable. The other conflicting demand is that the population of the world has increased by 50% in the last 30 years from 4 Billion to 6 Billion. The big challenge is producing enough food, and fuel at the same time in that bridge time before the other renewables come on line.

    Like that old song goes -- "Every form of Refuge has it's Price", and heating that Refuge and getting there also has it's price -- sometimes it's a lot steeper than first meets the eye.

  • underworld79_hotmail_com

    Hello, I didnt get a chance to read every post here but it seems like it is the usual thing that ethanol costs too much. Well, it does if you do it the wrong way as we are right now. Corn is quite simply a bad cro to use for ethanol. There are other crops that have hundreds of times the yield, can be grown most anywhere and can be harvested all year long. Until we can get around using only crops that have big lobbies in DC, ethanol will be expensive. Once I can reach the right people, ethanol production can be set up that is economical and utilizes far less space for growing crops and putting to use land that is either Federally subsidized to NOT grow anything or put to use land that would not normally be able to grow crops.

  • texasfred

    I see a lot of discussion about gasoline vs. ethanol, and even a snippet of ethanol AS biodiesel. I must have missed vlass the day everyone spoke of cellulose biodiesel. I thought that I had heard that now there is a production method that utilizes that remainders AFTER the corn, and other crops have been harvested. Don't diesel engines running on true BIO-diesel save the owner money? Or, at least come close to it, with environmental positive payback? [Now, assuming that this is correct-which are the three best vehicles to run this stuff in, for personal home use?](lol) Thanks

  • fancifowl

    it might put to use land that is in conservation now,(erodable acres) if a crop were to pay $1 per acre more than set aside it would possibly be cropped, thus, there would be a net loss to conservation.??

  • georgeiii

    You know the whole point is moot. We already have passed the point of sustainable production with corn. All we can talk about is who going to eat and who's going to drive? We're talking about this great thing we can do with corn. But there's only so much corn. Talk to the members here from down under if the changes haven't hit you yet. Our enviroment is changing. Oil, diofuel, gasoline are all dinosuars and their time is passing. Cold fusion, solar power, electromagnetic motion. In ten years the rest of the world will be using these while we're still lining up at the gas stations crying about shortages. As for Monsanto they want to develop corn seeds that are infertile after the first year so you have to go back to them every year for your seeds. These is big profeits for them.

  • ziggy___

    One thing that makes it murky is the skewing of statistics on both sides who are both controlled by big corporations. I do believe ethanol to be better due to the fact that the corn is ALREADY in production for cattle feed. Adding yeast and distilling the ethanol is just an added process to gain added profit. Inother words, most of the costs recorded for ethanol would be there even if nobody produced ethanol from it.
    Another point is toxicity. Ethanol is a far less toxic product. Its toxic effects on the environment are much shorter lived too.
    I don't think we'll see a replacement of gas or diesel with ethanol or biodiesel within our lifetimes. I'm not sure they can produce enough to keep up with demand. I do see it as a good suplement that is better than conventional petroleum production of fuels in many ways.
    Another problem is that the production of any of these alternatives is taken over by existing industries, like corn production. Ethanol, or other alcohols can be made from any products that have sugar or starch in them.


  • Konrad___far_north

    Here a talk from Billy Meier and Ptaah:

    But all talk and warning is useless, also with respect to all other terrible things, as, for example, in regard to the fact that cattle, pigs, other animals and all kinds of poultry are bred in enormous masses in order to control the human beingsâ hunger for meat. However, the worldâs population is no more informed about how enormous masses and tonnages of foods are thereby grown and are produced only to feed all these creatures, than it is with respect to the fact that enormous amounts of foods made from plants are converted into biofuel, in order to operate motor vehicles. And all this happens through unscrupulous multinational corporations and unscrupulous farmers, and so forth, who only rake in money and want to get richer, while millions of human beings go hungry and starve on the Earth. But we have already also talked about that often, for which reason I want to talk to you now about something quite unpleasant. ...

    more interesting things....

    The 7 major forces of nature of which only 4 are known to Earth scientists.
    The risk of breakdown of the global ocean conveyor belt.
    That the Sol star has a dark twin 1 light year away hence we live in a binary star system.
    The dark twin's effects on the Oort Cloud.
    What caused the Neanderthal humans to die out.
    Actions of several presidents of the USA.
    The behaviour of FIGU members.
    The effects of consumed fats, oils and sugars on the human body.
    The yeti/sasquatch/bigfoot.

  • MelinaB01

    Ethanol is "an alcohol product produced from corn, sorghum, potatoes, wheat, sugar cane, even biomass such as cornstalks and vegetable waste. When combined with gasoline, it increases octane levels while also promoting more complete fuel burning that reduces harmful tailpipe emissions such as carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons.Biodiesel is "a domestic, renewable fuel for diesel engines derived from natural oils like soybean oil, and which meets the specifications of ASTM D 6751." Or, for those of you who want a more technical definition, it is "a fuel comprised of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats. Also Biodiesel is made through a chemical process called transesterification "whereby the glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil.Both forms of biofuel have definite environmental advantages over petroleum-based gasoline and diesel fuel.Ethanol contains 35% oxygen. Adding oxygen to fuel results in more complete fuel combustion, thus reducing harmful tailpipe emissions. Ethanol also displaces the use of toxic gasoline components such as benzene, a carcinogen. Ethanol is non-toxic, water soluble and quickly biodegradable.Biodiesel, on the other hand, "is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. The use of biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine results in substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter compared to emissions from diesel fuel. Looking forward for more interesting discussion on this.

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