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Ethanol boom could hurt world's poor - expert

Discussion in 'The OT' started by Richard King, Jul 19, 2006.

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  1. Richard King

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    http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N13439572.htm
    more...
     
  2. markh

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    Well, I can't clear $2.00 a bushel for corn right now. If corn suddenly jumps a couple dollars/bushel, That may be a concern. So far the ethanol boom hasn't affected cash prices.
     
  3. DonLandis

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    For quite some time now scientists have been working to create a non-food ethanol producing plant that is far more efficient than food plants thru genetic engineering. What may be the competition is still whether a given farm season is used to produce fuel plants or food plants. Time will tell how that will pan out.
     
  4. Bogy

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    It appears that the Earth Policy Institute is either being funded by oil companies, or it is one of the environmental groups that sees fuel that costs $5 a gallon as the only solution to the problem. I can't remember if it was another news story linked on this forum, or one I saw somewhere else, that told of residents on the east coast who were fighting to keep ethanol plants from being built in their backyards. Fortunately for Iowa they are operating on information that is 10 years old when it comes to the environmental impact of these plants, but it doesn't make sense to me to ship corn a thousand miles, and then to distill it. Virtually every ounce of the byproducts created by the process are now used, but they are best used in an agricultural area. It would make no sense to ship the corn, and then ship the byproducts back to Iowa.

    As far as the hungry getting hungrier, I don't think so. It might allow farmers in other parts of the world to grow corn or other grain at a profit, but American farmers are on a continual hunt for new uses for the product they raise. When my grandfather was a young farmer he was doing great to get 40 bushels an acre of corn. When I was in my teens a farmer, on some of the best cropland in the world, was doing good to raise 100 or 120 bushels an acre. Today I know farmers harvesting over 400 bushels an acre. There isn't enough storage space for the harvest. I don't believe Lester knows much about modern farming or marketing. I do believe Les sees any alternative to the problem the world's fuel supply that doesn't primarily consist of drastically curtailing our use of fuel as being wrong. It isn't that I don't think a more efficient use of energy is wrong, but I don't believe that is the only answer.

    Countries where subsistence farming is all they have are NOT going to be switching to distilling ethanol. It takes a LARGE amount of grain to make the process practical, and anyone who would finance a plant in a location without an abundant source of grain is a fool. Well...I suppose that could be a problem. :nono:
     
  5. jonstad

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    Well, first we have to stop grinning, overcome our giddiness, and understand ethanol is no panacea. By itself, it's not going to end our reliance on fossil fuels, at least not entirely. In order to do that, about every square inch of arable land on the planet would have to be dedicated to ethanol production and even then we'd probably fall short. But it wouldn't matter anyway, we'd all have died of starvation by that time!:sure:

    The trouble is, there probably is no panacea, at least not just one. What makes this such a big problem is that fossil fuels have been our panacea for enegy for a long time, right through the industrial revolution anyhow. We get some help from hydro and now nuclear. But by far, the vast majority of human produced enegy on this planet comes from burning coal, oil or natural gas in one form or another.

    Ethanol is certainly a step forward. It can reduce our need for the fossil fuels. It will obviously place some pressures on farmers and farm land of course. But for some countries like Brazil, it may eliminate the need to import oil. But don't kid yourself, Brazil is still using fossil fuel products, it's just their own.

    There's going to have to be different solutions to different applications, and those may in fact vary widely by region and resource availability.

    I don't think a rush to ethanol is going to be a big problem for third world nations however. Higher prices for ag products that should naturally follow might eliminate the need for the massive farm subsidies now meted out by America and Europe. And that is one of the main impediments to third world farmers being able to compete. I expect food WILL cost more. But I suspect this will impact developed nations more than poorer nations. In fact, it may be necessary to switch subsidies from farmers to consumers in some places. For instance, I'd imagine the price of corn-fed beef to go up. But I don't see how that's going to effect the millet farmer in Chad too much.
     
  6. Bogy

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    Farmers in Iowa and Illinois, the two biggest ethanol producers, figure that once the plants get built they will be able to provide fuel that will replace about 2 billion barrels of oil. Without doing much more than reducing the EXCESS of the corn crop. I mentioned before, most years farmers are so productive that the excess corn has to be stored on the ground, where it often molds, because there is no place to go with it. The nice thing is, even moldy corn makes good ethanol, even though eating it would kill you. Its only a start, and I have always said that I feel the answer is going to come from a number of sources, not just one. Meanwhile, its good for my part of the world. Why should Alaska be the only state that benefits from high oil prices? :lol:
     
  7. Richard King

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    Do you have any links to back up this claim? While they may be in favor of $5 gas, many enviro whacko groups are, I have seen nothing to indicate that they are funded by the oil companies or that they have close relations with them as you seem to imply.

    http://www.earth-policy.org/About/index.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lester_Brown
    Sounds like he is out of the Al Gore camp to me.
     
  8. DonLandis

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    "about every square inch of arable land on the planet would have to be dedicated to ethanol production and even then we'd probably fall short. But it wouldn't matter anyway, we'd all have died of starvation by that time!"

    Tell us this is just another one of your gross emotional exaggerations ( akin to enviro wacko nonsense emotional bull sh!t) or can you show us the math to back this up.

    Claiming "every square inch" by that small amount of precision is pretty inclusive not to be laughed off as emotional BS.
     
  9. Bogy

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    Richard, I don't need links to back up my claim. I gave two completely different possibilities for the statements he makes. Lester's statements are similar to others, and they are made by both shills of big oil and misguided environmentalists. Thank you for proving that Lester is one of the latter. It was to late last night to spend a lot of time worrying about which one it was.
     
  10. cdru

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    Acre for acre. some forms of microalgae can produce 30x the output of ethanol then what corn can produce.
     
  11. jonstad

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    A bit of hyperbole perhaps.:sure:

    But some rough calculations have been done.

    A quick google brought me this. I'm sure there's more. More up to date and more to your liking credibility-wise.
    http://www.rattlesnake.com/notions/energy-alternate-essence.html#fn-1

    But I don't quite get your point. Are you suggesting ethenol IS a panacea for all our current and future energy needs?:shrug:
     
  12. Bogy

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    Let's get down to what the subject of this thread is supposed to be. Are people going to starve because grain that would have been used for food is now being used for fuel. The answer is no. Iowa, the largest producer of ethanol grows a huge amount of corn. Most of this corn is not anything you would be interested in eating. Cows and hogs, however, like it just fine. But they also like the corn after the starch that produces ethanol has been removed.
    http://www.ethanolrfa.org/resource/facts/agriculture/
    They USED to grow sweet corn and other crops humans like in this area. For decades Ackley was the home of a canning factory, and there was a market for these crops. But now the canning factories have been closed and the vegetables you eat from cans are grown in other countries and canned there. Jobs from canning factories and farmers in those countries have jobs and grow food. In Iowa they grow field corn and soybeans as livestock feed. What ethanol production does is allow farmers to be even more productive, still feeding tasty animals high quality food, while producing a fuel source that has little impact on the current use.

    The real breakthrough will come when cellulosic ethanol production becomes viable. I thought again today as I drove between thousands of acres of corn, that if the entire stalk was used, currently standing 5 to 7 feet tall in most fields around here, instead of just the corn from the cobs on those stalks, the potential for production would be incredible.

    What is incredible to me right now is how many individuals and groups seem to be very afraid that somebody in a state like Iowa or Illinois might make a few bucks from a source of energy. Right now most ethanol production is being done by farmer cooperatives. In other words, the guys growing the corn are investing their own money, in plants in their own backyards. Guess why getting these plants isn't a problem around here? There were a few stumbles along the way, but guys who come from families who have been farming the land for over a hundred years have no desire to foul the land. Perhaps thats why people don't trust the idea of ethanol, its little guys who have been producing it so far. But don't worry, the guys you trust, like Exxon/Mobile and Archer/Daniels/Midland want in. Big oil owns/controls everything from the oil in the ground to the nozzle you stick in your car. The big boys want to do the same thing with ethanol. They are trying to buy farmland in Iowa. If they can accomplish this, all of a sudden those guys you trust will become big fans of ethanol. They just don't like anything they don't control.
     
  13. DonLandis

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    jonstad you are so full of... Here is something right up your alley to use in your arguments-
    Global Warming has caused absolutely no rainfall on the entire continent of Atlantis for thousands of years!

    Bogy- I feel the whole notion in this thread is silly. Reason is similar to the idea that if you have a hundred dollars to spend and Gas now costs $100 per tank full you will starve to death because you won't have any money left to buy food. What nitwit would think society would starve to death to feed his gas tank as opposed to his stomach? The nitwit referenced in this article does. Like I said the idiot who thought up this nonsense is, well why waste my time, you get my point.

    I know you are liberal and that's OK but some liberals are so full of sh!t they believe these idiots and think it will be all or none when in reality the farm industry will produce a balance of crops to feed both his tank and his stomach. The idiot who wrote the claim is probably politically motivated to build scare tactics but those tactics will only work on people like jonstad. The rest of the world doesn't fall for such nonsense.
     
  14. DonLandis

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    jonstad- Please spend some valuable time reading everything I have said about E-85, ethanol. Read it several times. I never said it was a panacea.

    But if you don't, reread what I have said then at least read this summary- I said it is the best opportunity for Americans to get independent of foreign oil in the quickest way and utilize the existing transportation infrastructure of cars, refineries, and solve the farm industry crises by building an additional market for it's crops, as well as reducing greenhouse gas production and reducing the resultant Global warming (contribution) that GHG causes. I said while there are other options being suggested such as Hybrids, electric, NG, fuel cells, etc, none of these are as far along in ability to supply a solution to our foreign oil dependency as is ethanol and E-85 blend specifically. I said while the government is thinking it will be 25 years before we can make a significant difference, I felt it could be done in 3 years if the governemtn would make certain changes immediate, such as a requirement of all gas stations to stop selling the middle grade gasoline and replace with E-85 at all pumps nationwide.
    I said I felt the quantity sold of middle grade gas should be replaced by the E-85 product and this would begin to increase as more cars are produced and cars converted with the $300 estimate cost of the kits per car conversions. That about sums it up. However, I also stated that ethanol could be developed into an E100 burning ICE (internal combustion engine) that would use ethanol totally, but this technology has yet to be developed, is the future subject like hydrogen powered cars of the future. Of course I also stated that while E-85 has a BE point based on cost of gasoline at the pumps that is slowly going down, last referenced at $1.70 per gallon, that if the oil price setting authorities decide to reduce Gasoline cost at the pumps to a price below the BE point then E-85 would lose it's fascination except for the pollution factor. I also said that if pollution reduction is the only advantage of E-85 then it will not be pursued by the public.
    None of the above spells panacea! Ethanol only has the best position to solve many of our problems simultaneously the quickest and easiest to implement.
     
  15. jonstad

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    I luv u 2!:kisscheek :p ;)

    But are we liberals(how shall I phrase this delicately?) any more full of sewage effluent:D then say conservatives who latch onto any minor anomaly in data collection and/or "climate projections" straight from the labs of Exxon or the National Coal Institute to reason human influences on our environment "need more study"? Or who claim weaning ourselves from an ultimately finite energy resource whose costs keep spiraling upwards is a plot by a cabal of socialist scientists to destroy our economy and capitalism along with it?:sure:

    Look, I got no problem with ethanol. Let's steam ahead full tilt and worry about the starving masses later, just like we do now.:blush: If we can meet all our energy needs, or even a good chunk of them, as a byproduct of corn or rice straw or sugar cane bagasse and corn stover(whatever they are):scratch: or even switchgrass, that's FABULOUS!

    As for the starving masses, I'm assuming they'll be pretty much in the same position they are today, starving and massive. They don't HAVE any "tanks" to fill up at $100 a pop. And with any luck their fields and pastures won't be being "desertified". At least not as fast as they are today.

    I'm just saying that the energy needs of this planet are gargantuan and growing. And to meet those needs exclusively with biomass is a daunting challenge. I understand that this is not necessarily what you, or Bogy, is proposing. The technology certainly seems promising, especially if we can remove the energy and still use the residue for other applications. But promising technology sometimes doesn't live up to its "promise". Various glitches and unforeseen consequences can arise. Basically Murphy's Law at work.

    So sticking with the agricultural theme, let's not put all our eggs in one basket. Feeding cows and pigs cornmash with all the starch removed may be all well and good. But I'm not looking forward to consuming my Chef Salad through a straw.:ewww: At least not until I'm confined to the rest home.:alterhase

    But once more, let's go for it! I don't think we got anything to lose. Unfortunately the number one cash crop here is probably pakalolo, although I understand hemp may also be an excellent renewable resource in a multitude of areas.:grin: No, really!

    Bogy-
    The ethanol movement in your area sounds exciting. As I understand, at least some of these efforts are co-ops of what might be described as "smaller farmers". Is there still such an animal as "smaller farmers"?:scratchin Anyway, they need to be aware that if this thing takes off, some of the big city boys are going to show up to try to get a piece of the action. They should be prepared to be razzled and dazzled. Tell them to wear sunglasses and keep one hand on their wallets!:yesman:
     
  16. markh

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    Before the current boom in ethanol many farmers used dried distillers grain as a protein supplement for cattle. Distillers grain won't completely replace corn in animal rations because the energy in the feed has taken out. With all the distillers grain that should be available with the ethanol plants going into production, the cost should come down. If corn prices do go up, then farmers will just look for substitutes.

    Bogy, the loss of the canning factories in the upper Midwest is one of the things that has contributed to more soybeans and corn being grown. It's probably not as big a factor in the over supply and low prices as increased yields are but it all adds up. We used to grow sweet corn and peas for the local canning company. If you had a good crop, it was more profitable than field corn or beans. Plus you got to keep the check they gave you. There weren't any drying or storage bills that came later.

    ADM is already pretty big in ethanol and they are big proponents it. Cargill, another grain giant, has little to do with ethanol and I heard a Cargill spokesman on the radio the other day say that ethanol would never be a significant fuel source. Go figure.:) I think you're right about the oil companies, if they controlled ethanol from seed to fuel nozzle, they'd be all for it. Why would they want to pay farmers for something when they could keep the money themselves?
     
  17. Richard King

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    And, according to their website, the country's largest single producer.
     
  18. Bogy

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    The definition of "small farmers" has changed from what it used to mean, but at least the farmers in my area who are involved still go sit on a tractor on a regular basis. They aren't sitting in a board room in New York City.

    The big city guys are allready showing up. However, don't be completely worried about the country hicks getting completely razzle-dazzed by the city slickers. Many of the farmers I know have at least a four year degree in ag, engineering, or business, if not a Masters. There are a whole lot more farmers with MBA's out there than you might realize.
     
  19. Danny R

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    Acre for acre. some forms of microalgae can produce 30x the output of ethanol then what corn can produce.

    And as an added bonus, you can filter the exhaust from coal/oil burning plants into such algae farms, and not only get the ethanol to sell, but also drastically reduce CO2/nitrate emissions.
     
  20. markh

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    Don, there isn't enough corn to replace gasoline. Even if we use every bit of garbage, corn stalks, rice straw, or anything else I don't think that gas will be 100% replaced. This is all 100% IMHO. There will be older engines that will be to difficult to convert to burn pure ethanol or even E85. Some people will just never accept ethanol as a fuel. I hear wild claims when this is discussed on a local Madison radio station. One guy was convinced that he got 25% less fuel mileage and was ruining his engine when he put E10 in his car. I'm not sure how that works out. He was totally convinced and nobody was going to chantge his mind.

    I agree with you that an engine designed to run on pure ethanol would be more efficient. While there is less energy in ethanol than gas, ethanol has a higher octane rating which would let you increase the compression ratio and that increases efficiency. Check out the Indy Racing League next year. They are planning on running straight ethanol in the cars instead of methanol. www.indycar.com/news/story.php?story_id=4102
     
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