Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ethanol

Was on I-80 Monday just west of the Quad Cities and saw another ethanol plant going up with all sorts of American Flags giving it patriotic flare.

Here's GovExec on the impacts of the 2005 Energy Policy Act. They point out something I think few people realize: ethanol can't be mixed at the refinary but requires its own distribution system and then mixing at the point of delivery.

There are other problems as well, says Conklin. Ethanol production plants must be close to feedstocks. Yet feedstocks are predominately in the Midwest - not on the coasts where ethanol is most needed. And ethanol is too corrosive to be moved in pipelines, so it must be shipped by truck or rail, which puts more pressure on the fossil-fuel-dependent transportation system.
I don't think Gov can ever get an energy policy right.

7 comments:

JB Powers 10:08 AM  

Bill,

Take a look at American History. In the Whiskey Rebellion in the West, (Pennsylvania at that time) Farmers distilled Whiskey as it was easier to transport than corn.

Corn is approx 4x the weight of the resultant ethanol. If there is a market for a pipeline (I don't think there is), I am quite sure someone will come up with an Ethanol Ready pipeline.

The Corn boom is a bit exaggerated. In constant Euro's (corn is traded on a world market) the price of corn is up maybe 25%. Nice bump, but the huge investments in ethanol production seems really risky to me.

JBP

JohnR 11:16 AM  

Why do we care whether ethanol goes to the coasts or not?

It seems like a moot point. There are enough drivers in the midwest/Chicago to consume all the ethanol Illinois produces.

Milton 4:12 PM  

Ethanol is the CRACK of the Midwest with high gas prices making alternative fuels
increasingly attractive, no alternative fuel has received as much attention as ethanol.

Ethanol can't travel in pipelines along with gasoline, because it picks up excess water and impurities and rots steal (even in your cars).

As a result, ethanol needs to be transported by trucks, trains, or barges, which is more expensive and complicated than sending it down a pipeline.

NOTE WE SPEND FUELS TO TO SAVE FUEL?

Also, ethanol contains less energy than gas. That means drivers have to make more frequent trips to the pump.




Dr. Goldblatt always like Co Co over Crack.

JB Powers 4:19 PM  

Milton,

If there was a profit in it (doubtful) or within some regulatory regime (doubly doubtful) someone would be moving ethanol via pipeline already.

Certainly most fuels have to be tranported one way or another. The last I checked, MidEastern oil came over in a tanker.

JBP

Extreme Wisdom 9:16 AM  

Has anyone noticed food prices lately? We are engaging in this ethanol nonsense because of Brazil's success, but forgot that Brazil uses sugar cane, not corn.

The subsidation of corn here is nothing more than a sop to ADM at the expense of the taxpayer. It has reduced the need for price supports, but added $$ to everything that corn syrup is used for (like diabetes in a bottle - soda pop).

JOhnr is essentially correct re: transport. The use of fuel here simply reduces the need to use it elsewhere. Does the use of ethanol lower demand for oil? Probably a little bit. Is is worth the waste of taxpayer dollars to subsidize its use as fuel.

Probably not. Ethanol subsidization is welfare. ADM execs and the glorified Farmer are essentially no different than the pre-1996 welfare mom.

Anonymous,  6:58 AM  

Ethanol is not the best fix for our energy dependency based solely on economics. However, it is the "quickest" temporary fix since it is already in place. Yes, ethanol is "the flavor of the week" and is favored by Washington because of the huge political contributions made by the agricultural giant ADM headquartered in Decatur, Illinois to Washington politicians.
It borders on being almost criminal that our government has not thrown their full-weight and support towards the implementation of other alternative sources of energy such as solar, nuclear, and wind power. As long as oil companies and companies such as Archer, Daniels, Midland (ADM) in Decatur are cozy with the political decision makers in Washington, these politicians will never make the decision to "bite the hand" that feeds them.

Anonymous,  3:32 PM  

Corn-based ethanol is a poor long-term substitute for gasoline. It's too low in sugar. Sugar itself isn't even very good in the long run, as cane requires tropical temperatures. And that means hewing down rainforests.

If we, as a state, want to get to the forefront of ethanol, we need to encourage the development of cellulosic ethanol. It's more complicated to produce (thus more expensive) than corn-based ethanol, but it produces a much higher level of energy, and it is made using leftover plant matter (you could use the stalks from the corn, and the leaves from the soy - heck, you could use lawn clippings). Thus, the inputs are cheaper, and don't stress the food supply.

See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulose_ethanol
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulosic_ethanol_commercialization

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