Archive for the ‘ethanol’ Category

Gusher of Lies gushes lies

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Robert Zubrin writes a scathing critique Robert Bryce’s recent anti-energy independence book “Gusher of Lies”, including this nugget:

[Bryce's] estimate of the amount of water used to produce corn ethanol — are off by a factor of over 400. (He says 885 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol; the actual industry figure is 2, since corn used for ethanol is not irrigated.)

Now that’s a pretty big boo-boo, but hey, the OPEC apologist Defenders of the Status Quo will try anything.

Freedom’s Enemies Hate Biofuels

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Venezuelan petrotyrant Hugo Chavez has renewed his denunciations of biofuels. According to an Associated Press story dated April 26, 2008:

“Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says a U.S. push to boost ethanol production during a world food crisis is a ‘crime.’
The socialist leader says he’s concerned that so much U.S.-produced corn could be used to make biofuel, instead of feeding the world’s poor.
Chavez says the corn needed to fill an average car with ethanol would be enough to feed seven people for a year.”

Actually, since a bushel of corn yields 2.8 gallons of ethanol, the corn needed to fill a 20 gallon SUV tank is 7 bushels, which at the current market price of $5/bushel, costs a total of $35. According to Mr. Chavez, then, the cost of feeding one person for a year is $5. With oil hitting $120/barrel, Mr. Chavez’s government this year will receive about $88 billion in revenues taxed from the rest of the global economy, while the OPEC governments collectively will tax the world to the tune of $1400 billion.

(Omitted from Chavez’s analysis is the fact that the ethanol program has actually stimulated corn production so much that, after the part used for ethanol is taken away, the net US corn harvest available for food and feed is up 34% since 2002. Furthermore, contrary to claims in many articles, this has not been done at the expense of soy or wheat production. In fact, U.S. soy plantings this year are expected to be up 18% to a near record of 75 million acres, wheat plantings are up 6%, and overall, US farm exports are up 23%. Much more can be produced as demand requires, since of 800 million acres of US farmland, only 280 million are actually being farmed. This is why – $5 per person per year feeding price aside –  the entire Malthusian conceit underlying Chavez’s fuel vs. food argument is nonsense.)

Chavez’s remarks reinforce those made by the Saudi Arabian oil minister in a speech made in Paris April 8, wherein he expressed his deep concern that biofuels could contribute to global warming. Chavez and the Saudi’s negative assessments of biofuels were also strongly supported by arch Malthusian Lester Brown in an op ed in the Washington Post April 22.

The fundamental unity of the Islamist, the petrotyrant, and the Malthusian positions was made clear by pro-OPEC propagandist Robert Bryce, in a debate with me that aired on the Mike Medved Show April 21. (Which can be heard by clicking here.)

When hard pressed, Bryce finally emerged with the following argument: Biofuels are to be shunned because they threaten to lower the price of oil, and thus encourage economic growth, particularly in the third world, and thus global warming.

So apparently we should all be thankful to OPEC, which by taxing the world economy into a recession, is doing so much to curtail uncontrolled human aspirations, while concentrating power in the hands of those who would eliminate all freedom forever. 

Robert Zubrin, author “Energy Victory: Winning the war on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil,”

A reader writes in with an example of how innumerate Chavez’ statement is:

“If the $88 billion/year Venezuelan oil revenue figure is correct (and I have no reason to suspect otherwise), then Hugo Chavez can singlehandedly end global hunger – $88 billion/$5 per person = 17.6 billion people that can be fed on Venezuelan oil revenue alone. What a humanitarian gesture that would be! And as there are only 6.6 billion people on Earth, he can still pocket $55 billion dollars for his own personal needs…”

International Energy Agency (IEA) warns against retreat on biofuels

Monday, April 28th, 2008

The Financial Times report:

Biofuel production is critical to meeting current and future fuel demand in spite of its possible role in driving up food prices, the west’s energy watchdog has warned.[...] the International Energy Agency said that the crop-based fuel was vital to meeting current and future demand.

Biofuels already make up about 50 per cent of the extra fuel coming to the market from sources outside the Opec’s oil cartel this year. This explains why fears of a retreat from biofuels this week helped drive oil prices to record levels.

So it’s very clear why the Defenders of the Status Quo are bashing ethanol and blaming it for food price increases — any decrease in ethanol production will drive an increase in oil price.

William Ramsey, deputy executive director at the IEA, said: “If we didn’t have those barrels, I am not sure where we would be getting those half a million barrels [from],” adding that Opec has said it would not raise supply. [...]

the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation says biofuels are not a major cause of the food crisis. The FAO estimates biofuels account for 10 per cent of the food price spike.

Don’t be fooled by the Defenders of the Status Quo

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Oil prices have driven up food costs but the Defenders of the Status Quo are blaming alternative fuels. What’s going on here? Watch Dazed&Confused and get some clarity:

Debunking anti-biofuel hysteria

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Roger Cohen in the New York Times:

The supposed crimes of biofuels are manifold. They’re behind soaring global commodity prices, the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, increased rather than diminished greenhouse gases, food riots in Haiti, Indonesian deforestation and, no doubt, your mother-in-law’s toothache.

Most of this, to borrow a farm image, is hogwash and bilge.

If Asian rice prices are soaring, along with the global prices of wheat and maize, it’s not principally because John Doe in Iowa or Jean Dupont in Picardy has decided to turn yummy corn and beet into un-yummy ethanol feedstock.

Much larger trends are at work. They dwarf the still tiny biofuel industry (roughly a $40 billion annual business, or the equivalent of Exxon Mobil’s $40.6 billion profits in 2007). I refer to the rise of more than one-third of humanity in China and India, the disintegrating dollar and soaring oil prices.

Hundreds of millions of people have moved from poverty into the global economy over the past decade in Asia. They’re eating twice a day, instead of once, and propelling rapid urbanization. Their demand for food staples and once unthinkable luxuries like meat is pushing up prices.

At the same time, the rising price of commodities over the past year has largely tracked the declining parity of the beleaguered dollar. Rice prices have shot up in dollar terms, far less against the euro. Countries like China are offloading depreciating dollar reserves to hoard stores of value like commodities.

Food price increases are also tied to oil being nearly $120 a barrel. Fossil fuels are an important input in everything from fertilizer to diesel for tractors.

Another myth that needs nuking is that the Amazon rain forest is being destroyed to make way for Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol. Almost all viable cane-growing areas lie hundreds of miles from the rain forest. Brazil has enough savannah to multiply its 3.5 million hectares of cane-for-ethanol production by ten without going near the Amazon ecosystem.

Brazilian rain forest is burning, as it long has, for a complex mix of economic reasons. Brazil’s successful ethanol industry — 80 percent of new cars run on ethanol or gasoline and all gasoline comprises 25 percent biofuel — is not one of them.

He calls for removing the 54cent a gallon tariff on ethanol imports.

“Food vs Fuel” Argument is False

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Here is some interesting data that shows that the food vs fuel argument is false.

2015 (Projected)
Harvested corn
acres & yield
(129.3 bu/A)
(149.1 bu/A)
(151.1 bu/A)
(180 bu/A)
Total Corn Supply
(prod = carry in)
10,573 Mbu
12,512 Mbu
14,393 Mbu
17,232 Mbu
Ethanol per Acre
350 gal/A
404 gal/A
435 gal/A
575 gal/A
Ethanol produced
2.96B gal
5.8B gal
8.3B gal
15.3B gal
Corn used for
1,093 M bu
2129 M bu
3010 M bu
4,695 M bu
Corn Supply
(Less Used for Ethanol)
DDG Disp (M bu eq)
9,669 M bu
10,898 M bu
12,175 M bu
13,989 M bu


Note the bottom line. AFTER corn crop removal for ethanol production the US produced a net of 9.7 million bushels in 2002, 10.4 million bushels in 2006, and 12.2 million bushels in 2007. 

Thus despite the growth of the corn ethanol industry (or actually because of it, as I’ll explain below) the net corn food product of the USA increased 17% between 2006 and 2007, and 26% since 2002. Overall, US farm exports are up 23%.

The reason why this is so is because agriculture is not a zero sum game. Only about 30% of US arable land is actually being farmed (it’s more like 15% in the third world). As a result of the ethanol program, the price received by farmers increased over the past year from $3.50/bushel to $5 per bushel. (There are 56 pounds of corn in a bushel – that’s actual grain, not corn on the cob. So $5/bu corn is $0.09/lb). By increasing the price the farmer gets from $0.07/lb to $0.09/lb, the program caused a great increase in the amount grown, both by increasing acreage and intensity of effort, and thus yield. This puts more corn on the market, and actually acts as a factor to decrease the price that grain merchants can charge for the corn, since they need to sell it all. (Adam Smith discusses this very issue in The Wealth of Nations.)

However, the retail price of corn, as well as all other food commodities, is being driven up an average of 4% by increased fuel prices, which are up 40% this year, as well as increased demand from China and India. The increased fuel prices affect retail food prices by increasing the price of production (of both agricultural products and especially fisheries), transport, wages, and packaging, which are the majority of cost of retail food. (At $5/bu, a $2.50 box of cornflakes, which contains 15 oz or corn, contains corn that cost 8 cents when bought from the farmer.

Robert Zubrin
author “Energy Victory

I feel the need, the need for speed

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Well we’ve got more details on that Lotus Exige 270E Tri-Fuel, a GEM FFV (which stands for gasoline-ethanol-methanol flex fuel vehicle, but you knew that already right?):

The heart of the Exige 270E Tri-fuel is a Roots-type supercharger (with a sealed-for-life internal mechanism meaning that it does not require the use of the engine’s oil) and air to air intercooler attached to the tried and tested 4-cylinder, 1.8 litre 2ZZ-GE VVTL-i engine. Using a development of the supercharger and intercooler package from the Exige S, the Exige 270E Tri-fuel has peak power of 270 hp (201 kW / 273 PS) at 8000 rpm, 184 lbft (260 Nm) of torque at 5500 rpm, up by 51 hp (38 kW, 52 PS) or 19% and 25 lbft 45 Nm or 14% over the standard gasoline Exige S. Maximum engine speed is 8000 rpm (8500 rpm transient for up to 2 seconds).

The low carbon number alcohol fuels methanol and ethanol give more power when burned in the engine than conventional gasoline (petrol) fuel. The performance benefits come largely from the high heats of vaporization of methanol and ethanol, which give strong charge-cooling effects, and the increased octane ratings. There are other secondary thermodynamic effects. Methanol’s higher heat of vaporization leads to a slightly higher performance relative to ethanol. All charge air ducting has been kept as short as possible with large diameter pipes making sure that the bends in these ducts are not too tight, to the benefit of throttle response and efficiency. The Roots-type Eaton M62 supercharger is turned by the crankshaft, and has an integral bypass valve for part load operation.

The 2ZZ VVTL-i engine has two cam profiles – a high speed cam and a low speed cam. The seamless switch point between these two cams is completely variable depending upon driving conditions and engine load. This gives the Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel a smooth and linear surge of power from idle speeds all the way to the maximum 8500rpm. An electronic drive-by-wire throttle ensures the quickest engine response possible whilst keeping the emissions as clean and as low as possible, to meet relevant legislative demands. Six fuel injectors have been fitted to increase fuel flow to the engine at normal and higher engine speeds and loads.

We called Lotus but it seems this car is not being offered for sale by Lotus U.S.dealers (Lotus is a British firm.) As always — this is a good opportunity to let your local auto dealers know that you want fuel choice, and they should bring it on.

Stop OPEC’s hold

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Scott Blanchard writes in The Birmingham News:

A little-known section of the Energy Security Act of 2007 contained a provision that would require within five years all new vehicles sold (foreign and domestic) in the United States be capable of running on alcohol fuels (a k a “flex fuel”) as well as gasoline. It costs, on average, about $100 to make a car flex-fuel capable. The most common flex fuel available today is ethanol, or E85, but flex-fuel cars can run on any alcohol-based fuel such as methanol or butanol and, of course, on gasoline.

This one provision would have had the effect of creating an international standard for flex-fuel automobiles. In turn, it would have had a domino effect forcing foreign automakers to equip their vehicles for flex fuel (or risk losing the huge U.S. market). [...] gasoline would be forced to compete with alcohol fuels. [...]

[Let's] seek to persuade our members of Congress that it is in our interest to have fuel choice. Had the Open Fuel Standard mentioned above been enacted (and not removed at the last moment due to lobbying by Nissan Motor Co.), we would be well on our way toward weaning ourselves off the shackles of our oil addiction.

How do you say farvegnugen in Swedish?

Friday, March 7th, 2008

The Methanol Institute reports Volvo and Lotus are showing gasoline-ethanol-methanol flex fuel vehicles (GEM FFVs):

Even President George Bush was impressed when he walked on to the exhibit floor of the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference and saw Volvo’s display of seven trucks powered by alternative fuels, including methanol/ethanol and DME. Volvo had showcased the carbon-dioxide-neutral trucks in Stockholm and Brussels last year. The Swedish automaker pointed to the production of methanol from the gasification of biomass as a carbonneutral pathway. According to Volvo Environmental Projects Manager Henrik Landälv, while one of the trucks is dedicated to run on either methanol or ethanol, these are pre-commercial prototypes that will require additional development. Based on a their evaluation, Volvo found methanol and DME to be superior to ethanol and biodiesel for climate impact, energy efficiency, land use efficiency, fuel potential, and fuel costs. Back across the pond, Lotus Engineering unveiled the Exige 270E Tri-fuel at the Geneva International Motor Show. Tri-fuel runs on any mixture of methanol, ethanol and gasoline, with a top speed of 158 mph, and jumping from 0-60 mph in 3.88 seconds. According to Geraint Castleton-White of Lotus, “For car companies and the motorist, the use of sustainable alcohols like synthetic methanol requires relatively fuel changes to the vehicle.”

Lotus Exige 270E Tri-Fuel

 Lotus Exige 270E Tri-Fuel: a gasoline-ethanol-methanol flexible vehicle. 

As Michael Ledeen would say: Faster please!

Rick Santorum agrees it’s time to Set America Free

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Senator Santorum writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

It’s been two years since President Bush admitted we are “addicted to oil.” This expensive addiction has taken a toll on our economy while funding major sponsors of the jihadis and other terrorists that seek to harm us.

We have been told the only way to break this addiction is to reduce consumption, as in the recently passed mandate to increase fuel efficiency. I am all for conservation and improving fuel economy, as with hybrid cars, but even if everyone drove a hybrid it would just slow the rate of growth in our consumption of oil. Those savings will be more than offset by our reduction in national oil production because we are unwilling to drill in Alaska and offshore. In other words, the Middle East, Russia and Venezuela have us over a barrel.

I suggest that in the short term, we dig our way out of this problem. The United States is the “Saudi Arabia of coal,” and Pennsylvania is sitting on hundreds of years of this affordable and accessible resource, which, with innovative technologies – spearheaded by Pennsylvanians – we can use cleanly and right away.

Pennsylvania coal already generates most of the electricity in this state. The industry is in the process of doing it more cleanly through clean-coal technologies, such as gasification of coal into methanol, a form of alcohol that can be burned in internal combustion engines directly or used to manufacture synthetic gasoline and chemicals. These technologies can lead to a whole host of new clean uses that can help us reduce oil imports.

Just two hours up the road from Philadelphia, the nation’s first coal-to-gas-to-diesel facility may soon be developed in Schuylkill County; word was expected today on a U.S. Department of Energy loan of $100 million to help enable construction. This fuel, which is currently being used in another coal-rich country, South Africa, can be used to power jets, heat your home, and run diesel engines.

Across Pennsylvania, farmers are also digging and planting corn and other crops that will be turned into ethanol that can replace gasoline in our cars. Most cars in America can’t run on ethanol, however, so who is going to install ethanol pumps at the gas station without the cars to run on it? At this point I would say to all of my hard-core conservative friends: Hold on to your hats.

What we need is a government mandate! We need to mandate that all cars sold in the United States, starting with the 2010 model year, be “flex-fuel vehicles” – that is, they should be able to run on a blend that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline (the so-called E85 blend), or even a coal-derived methanol/gas mixture. This mandate would cost a fraction of the new fuel economy standard with the added benefit of saving barrels more oil.

What would Chávez and company do in response? Jack up production to kill this industry off before it gets off the ground. So – hold on again, conservatives – let’s put a temporary tax trigger on imported oil if the price hits $50 per barrel. Anyone think it will go that low without this idea?

Finally, Congress should immediately repeal the protectionist $26 per barrel tax on imported ethanol. So while we may have a tax increase if oil prices drop, we offset that with an immediate tax cut on ethanol. That’s a net win for taxpayers and our energy security. Ethanol will begin to flow into this country from poor third-world countries that don’t have oil or much in the way of terrorists. U.S. popularity would soar in the third world and help the poor of those countries as well as ours.