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Strange Bedfellows Fight Ethanol Subsidies 552

Posted by kdawson
from the no-way-to-energy-self-sufficiency dept.
Reader Actual Reality sends us to Business Week for a tale of the strangest political coalition to be seen in a while — greens, hippies, libertarians, and livestock producers uniting to get ethanol subsidies reduced or killed. The demand for the alternative fuel is driving up corn prices and having big impacts on other parts of the economy. Not many other issues are capable of getting left-leaning economist Paul Krugman and the Cato Institute on the same side.
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Strange Bedfellows Fight Ethanol Subsidies

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  • Business advice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:48AM (#18412351) Journal
    But he worries that they'll face mounting pressures in the industry, particularly because of the soaring price for corn, which the business depends on to feed the livestock. In the past year, corn prices have doubled as demand from ethanol producers has surged.

    Start growing corn then.
    • Consumer Reports (Score:5, Informative)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:54AM (#18412395)
      recently came out and said that, even with only a 15% ethanol/85% gasoline mixture - your mpg (due to ethanol's lower power density) gets reduced to the point that $3.20 gallon of pure gas becomes a $3.99 of the mixed type.

      So financially and environmentally, it is good to fight the push for ethanol.
      • by changling bob (1075587) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:00AM (#18412413)
        Y'see, in the UK we pay approximately $6.40 a gallon of petrol. I don't think you have that much of a right to complain.
        • by GundamFan (848341) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:29AM (#18412599)
          That's really beside the point isn't it?

          I think everyone getting screwed here is entitled to complain, and especially since the US and Brazil seem to be looking to form an ethanol monopoly not to mention use a more expensive and potently more polluting in the way of exhausted farm land and what ever they plan to burn to heat the still.

          If we aren't careful we will end up slaves to new masters and little more.
          • Wouldn't that be an oligopoly? But that is besides the point, because such oligopoly is not possible. Brazil can at most supply 20% of the fuel used on the world nowadays, more than that, it would need to reduce other crops. USA is on a much worse situation, it can't even supply 10% of the world needs, even if it adopts modern crop technologies, what seems unlikely nowadays. Those are 2 huge players, but far from supplying the majority of the market.

            The situation is even better because there are LOTS of co

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by AvitarX (172628)
            Brazil grows ethonal from sugar cane.

            Sugar can produces 8 times the energy consumed while corn produces 1.5 times the energy consumed. Also with current petrol prices sugar based ethonal can be cost effective.

            The problem is not ethonal, it is the subsidies causing it to be artificially competitive (in the US)and the laws requiring it to be put in gas requiring the subsidies to be in place (so people don't realize the cost of the "summer blend").
        • by Detritus (11846)
          Those are largely self-inflicted wounds.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by kabocox (199019)
          Y'see, in the UK we pay approximately $6.40 a gallon of petrol. I don't think you have that much of a right to complain.

          Hey, you just need a successful domestic tax rebellion, and then you can complain about it all you want.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by QuantumPion (805098)

          Y'see, in the UK we pay approximately $6.40 a gallon of petrol. I don't think you have that much of a right to complain.

          Yeah, but how much of that is tax? A quick google search came up with this [bbc.co.uk] (somewhat outdated yet informative) article. From the look at the graphs, the cost of fuel has only increased marginally (due to increased global demand and international conflicts), while the proportion of tax has has increased substantially. Part of the reason for the price increase was "...designed as a means b

          • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @11:45AM (#18416573) Journal
            While you limey's might be content to waste your hard earned money subsidizing bloated socialist government policies, we in the US are not (for the most part).

            Forcing people to pay for their own externalities is not socialism. Subsidizing certain activities by making others pay for the externalities is.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sumdumass (711423)
          In the UK much of that is taxes that go to funding services. Not having a right or much of a right to complain when you are seeing the benefit of higher priced gas is an unfair assessment.

          I have alway know gasohol (the old 15% methanol mixture)yielded less fuel economy and performance. People never believe me. Although, the car makers and engine makers have known this too. They have ways to tune the vehicles in order to mitigate these deficiencies. And because Ethanol is considered cleaner burning, they can
      • Re:Consumer Reports (Score:4, Interesting)

        by CapsaicinBoy (208973) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:32AM (#18412619)
        Are you sure about those numbers? I don't have a consumer reports subscription so I can't double check but I think you may have transposed the 2 numbers.

        E10 (E10% EtOH/90% gasoline) and E85 (85%EtOH/15% gas) are the common blends sold in the US. The first can be used in any conventional spark ignition engine while the latter requires a flex-fuel vehicle. Some states require that all gasoline sold is actually E10 - if I remember correctly CT, NY, HI and MN are some that come to mind.

        Anyway, yes, E85 contains about ~30% less energy per gallon than straight gasoline, so yes, it requires more to go the same distance. However, E85 also has an octane rating of 105, meaning you can tune the engine to run on E85, as Saab did with the 9-5 Biopower. It has a 2L turbocharged inline 4 producing 180hp optimized to run on E85.

    • Re:Business advice (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Technician (215283) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:17AM (#18412515)
      Start growing corn then.

      Maybe we can finaly stop paying farm subsidies. Quit growing tabacco and grow corn as a cash crop. Maybe a farmer can make a living again. The beef industry hates it of course because of higher costs. Expect prices to rise at the local hamburger joint due to rising costs.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultural_subsidie s [wikipedia.org]
      • Re:Business advice (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TykeClone (668449) <TykeClone@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:40AM (#18412683) Homepage Journal
        Cattle do just fine with distillers grains - the leavings after ethanol is made. Hogs and poultry don't - they like corn.

        I think that we may see a shift in the production of livestock in the United States. Much of the existing beef production takes place outside of Iowa, while much of the ethanol production takes place within the state. Iowa is also a major producer of pork - I expect that many of those operations will switch to feeding out cattle instead of hogs - especially if they can get distillers grains at a decent price compared to the corn that hogs require.
        • by wytcld (179112) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:41AM (#18414075) Homepage
          Cows don't digest corn well - not too surprising since it was never a part of their ancestors' natural diet. They digest it so poorly that they become prone to all sorts of intestinal diseases. The only way to feed cows corn and not have them sicken is to add large amounts of antibiotics to the feed to hold down the diseases that digesting corn makes them prone to. This leads to widespread antibiotic resistance that makes many diseases harder to treat in human beings.

          As for human beings, the older among us can recall how much better food tasted when it was all sweetened with sugar rather than corn syrup. There are some pretty strong concerns about corn syrup not being so healthy for you either - although it's probably not as bad for us as corn is for cows.

          Ethanol is a boondoggle, and I'll prefer any presidential candidate who stands firmly against subsidizing it. But corn too is subsidized - has been for decades - and that leads to it being used in other ways that are already seriously screwing things up. Plus, agriculture is not infinitely renewable, not the way we practice it. The US has lost something like half its agricultural topsoil, on average, over the last century or so. Long-term viability requires us to take more agricultural land out of production, rather than exploit our land more extensively for short-term gain. Over the long run, in many locations, agriculture is just another form of strip mining - at least until we develop technologies we don't currently have to replace millions of tons of topsoil that current practices have allowed to be washed away and otherwise depleted. Soil is more precious than oil.

          There's no easy fix here. And corn shouldn't even be a candidate.
      • Re:Business advice (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @08:19AM (#18413067)
        Yeah, because "Ethanol subsidies" are so much different than "farm subsidies".

        How about if farmers just get off the welfare?
      • by kabocox (199019)
        Maybe we can finaly stop paying farm subsidies. Quit growing tabacco and grow corn as a cash crop. Maybe a farmer can make a living again. The beef industry hates it of course because of higher costs. Expect prices to rise at the local hamburger joint due to rising costs.

        Burger joint? We eat hamburger help twice a week or other meals that require beef, chicken or pork in them. This corn prices don't just affect beef. They affect chicken and pork prices as well. For those with the belief that the US should s
  • Oh, good (Score:5, Funny)

    by LarsWestergren (9033) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:54AM (#18412393) Homepage Journal
    Not many other issues are capable of getting left-leaning economist Paul Krugman and the Cato Institute on the same side.

    I'm sure all Slashdot posters will quickly reach a friendly consensus too, it being an environmental and economical issue that also mentions left vs right wing politics. I'm looking forward to the thoughtful and informative debate.
    • by swb (14022) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:56AM (#18412827)
      While I occasionally enjoy Krugman's columns, it's only window dressing that Krugman and the Cato institute are on opposite sides. They really represent a duopoly of opinion that relies on "the other side" to give "their side" some sort of validity.

      Periodic ideological alignment is necessary to demonstrate that both "sides" are willing to engage in creative problem solving and aren't just part of an ideological game.
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @06:59AM (#18412411)
    This was never about reducing oil dependence it was about subsidizing one of the most powerful lobbies the corn lobby. Corn alcohol requires large amounts of energy to produce so it actually increases the use of coal and oil. The current administration is also fanatical about hydrogen because most hydrogen is produced from fossil sources. Yes it can be produced by electrolysis from wind or solar but it won't be. It's like "clean coal". Yes coal can be burned more cleanly and the CO2 sequestered but there isn't a single clean coal plant in operation. There are better sources for alcohol but they lack powerful lobbies.
    • by sckeener (137243)
      Yes coal can be burned more cleanly and the CO2 sequestered but there isn't a single clean coal plant in operation.

      For me, I think it comes down to whether I want pollution in a single place (the plant) or multiple places (cars.) I think I'd prefer it in a single place far from me.
    • and the CO2 sequestered

      Q; Please tell me more. Where does it go?

      A; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_capture_and_st orage [wikipedia.org]
    • by bigdavex (155746) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:35AM (#18412647)

      Corn alcohol requires large amounts of energy to produce so it actually increases the use of coal and oil.

      Corn isn't especially good for this purpose, but I believe this claim is false. Berkley's study [berkeley.edu] computes the whole process at a 1.3x net fuel gain.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by marcosdumay (620877)

        "Corn isn't especially good for this purpose, but I believe this claim is false. Berkley's study computes the whole process at a 1.3x net fuel gain."

        Now compare that with the 10x net fuel gain of canae...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jonwil (467024)
      Remember also that an increasing chunk of that corn is Genetically Modified corn.
      And even where farmers don't want to grow GM corn, companies like Monsanto are using dirty tricks to get them to grow the GM corn anyway. And if that doesn't work, Monsanto heavies raid the farm and "find" GM corn that the farmer hasn't paid for (some of the things Monsanto heavies do would probably make the BSA look good)

      Why do you think the US is the only country in the world that uses corn sweetener instead of sugar (beet or
    • There are lots of foreign sources of ethanol, namely South America, but we levy huge tariffs on their import. They should ditch the tariffs on ethanol import, which would give us an instant supply.
    • by gatzke (2977)

      Yes it can be produced by electrolysis from wind or solar but it won't be.

      Right, this is a stupid way to go since electrolysis is very inefficient, on the order of 10-15%.

      We can generate clean H2 using chemical high temp nuclear cycles (not electrolysis) and keep a high efficiency, but nuclear scares people.

      Plus H2 storage densities are low and the infrastructure is not there.

      Old-school electrochemical batteries are probably the best way IMHO. Plug-in hybrids and full electric with drag-along IC trailers for long distance.

      Batteries, the technology of yesterday, today!

  • by CmdrPorno (115048) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:04AM (#18412429)
    Why not lobby to drop all farm subsidies, not just the ones for ethanol? It would take the same amount of effort and do even more good, as large, corporate farms are the ones who mainly benefit from them.
    • by Undertaker43017 (586306) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:23AM (#18412559)
      Why stop at farm subsidies? Lets get rid of all corporate subsidies. Governments shouldn't be giving tax payer money to any corporations, if corporations can't make it on their own, then maybe their business plan wasn't as good as they thought.
      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @08:38AM (#18413265) Journal

        Governments shouldn't be giving tax payer money to any corporations, if corporations can't make it on their own, then maybe their business plan wasn't as good as they thought.
        And while we're at it, why don't we make sure that any laws that affect some businesses in different ways than others (thus providing an indirect subsidy) get stricken from the books.

        And then, let's get rid of personal rights, since they hamper some businesses more than others.

        I agree that most subsidies are not a good thing. However, in order to stimulate economic activity and the general welfare, sometimes it's necessary for government to aid industries. Note that the farm subsidies, for example, were intended to help the small family farmer, during times of low demand when the corporate farm economies of scale were killing them. I won't judge whether it's worth it for government to try to preserve "the American way of life," since that is what was intended.
        • by Undertaker43017 (586306) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:15AM (#18413723)
          "And while we're at it, why don't we make sure that any laws that affect some businesses in different ways than others (thus providing an indirect subsidy) get stricken from the books."

          Totally agree.

          If the small family farmer can't make it in their business of choice, then they should find a business they can make it in. It's no different than if I can't make it in the career I have chosen, I don't sit around and bitch about out it and expect the government to help me out, I find something else to do. It is never appropriate for governments to interfere with the markets.

          The government preserves the "American way of life" by staying out of the way and allowing people to make their way in the world. Giving people/corporations handouts when things don't work out the way they planned, doesn't create a strong "way of life" it creates a dependent "way of life".

    • by dylan_- (1661) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:30AM (#18412607) Homepage

      Why not lobby to drop all farm subsidies, not just the ones for ethanol?
      Because food is cheaper to import than produce locally so all the farms would go out of business. And you don't want to depend on other, potentially unstable, countries for food.
      • by rlp (11898) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:54AM (#18412801)
        And you don't want to depend on other, potentially unstable, countries for food.

        Or energy
      • by bigdavex (155746)

        Because food is cheaper to import than produce locally so all the farms would go out of business. And you don't want to depend on other, potentially unstable, countries for food.

        I think that's very unlikely. There's a price of land at which American farmers can compete. Farm subsidies keep the price of land high, because owning land is way to collect subsidies.

        Farmers are often (but not always) land owners, so a sudden drop in subsidies would be very painful. But don't get the idea that without subsidies

        • by dylan_- (1661)

          I think that's very unlikely. There's a price of land at which American farmers can compete
          I'm not really sure what the price of land has to do with it. If there was an open, unsubsidised food market, American farms simply wouldn't make enough money to keep going. Food is too cheap. You either need to raise the price of food (with tariffs, for example) or subsidise the farms.
      • Because food is cheaper to import than produce locally so all the farms would go out of business. And you don't want to depend on other, potentially unstable, countries for food.

        Exactly, well said. And the same is of course true for energy. The point is that cost is not the only factor, even though these things are commodities. There is also the question about whether their sources are reliable, can be expected to continue selling at current prices, and so forth.

        In other words, it may make sense to spe

  • by alexhard (778254)

    Not many other issues are capable of getting left-leaning economist Paul Krugman and the Cato Institute on the same side.
    How about killing babies?
  • by endersshadow7 (972296) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:08AM (#18412459)
    ...just because it's alternative. Ethanol has the only advantages that it's not oil and that it's renewable. Environmentally and financially it's foolish, as a previous poster pointed out. But one shouldn't be all that surprised to find us Libertarians aligned with anybody. It's the Party of Principle for a reason: Libertarians do their best to stay out of partisan politics and make public policy about what's actually best (gasp!).

    In this case, Libertarians are against any and all forms of government subsidies, and it's rather obvious why if we're absolutely pro-free market. Nobody should read this article and say, "Wow, that's surprising that they're working together!" Rather, they should read it and really wonder why these different groups oppose subsidies for ethanol and whether or not ethanol is a viable choice for an alternative fuel.

    After all, alternative != better.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:11AM (#18412477)
    ... as the Scientific American special on the environment a few months ago concluded.

    Ethanol production does not save anything, because current production methods, storage and distribution use as much energy (mostly natural gas, and fuel) as it saves.

    The money would better be spend on R+D into new forms of ethanol production than buying votes in the mid-west ...
    • mod parent up, there has to be alternatives to corn for ethanol production, sugarcane, sugarbeets, sawdust/wood pulp, lawn clippings, whatever, i agree with the point that raising more corn would help but raising the price of corn will have a bad effect on many peoples, even the price of corn tortillas has doubled in Mexico = lots of poor hungry people down there that need to eat...
  • There's no justification for what s essentially an income transfer program from the poor to the rich (the most money always goes to the biuggest producers while prices supports driving up the prices of bread and milk) that damages the environment, screws taxpayers and benefits the most politically well-connected. All agribusiness subsidies should be eliminated immediately, not just ethanol, though that's certainly a good place to start. I guess poor little Fortune 500 companies like ADM will just have to ma
  • We're all trapped in entropy, but as long as we're going down the drain, we should just be as efficient about it as possible.

    That said (and sorry for the downer message so early in the morning), the articles (follow the links) are correct- that it should be up to the markets to pick the winner, and not by politicians seeking favor and higher office.

    • Problem is the market isn't always informed and can take far too long [re: never] to come to its senses.

      Not that I'm a fan of reactionary policies, nor do I think politicians are always on the ball. Couple that with I don't really know the stats on ethanol vs. standard gasoline efficiency and well there ya have it.

      I think ethanol should be promoted as an alternative, but not at the cost of the existing farming market. On the otherhand, they already use corn for sugar substitutes already, usually with crap
      • In this particular case the market is informed about ethanol and they know it's a bad deal (too costly to produce and the result, due to lower power, is that it costs more than gasoline). This is why the government needs to subsidize it (force the market), if ethanol were the right choice, it wouldn't need subsidizing.

        The money spent on subsidizing ethanol could be better spent finding the right solution.
        • Agreed. But researching how to make ethanol work could lead to a solution.

          Though yeah, forcing reactionary policies doesn't help.

          Tom
  • Feed prices (Score:5, Interesting)

    by imrec (461877) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:21AM (#18412543) Homepage
    Holy crap, an "I work there" situation for ME!
    Working for a corn refiner, I can tell you that though there is an increasing demand and price for corn due to ethanol plants spinning up, the glut of distillers grain/feed from their spent corn will be putting tremendous downward pressure on the animal-nutrition side of the market. In a wet mill, we depend on our co-products (corn hull, fiber, gluten, spent germ, everything but the starch really) prices rising and falling with the price of corn. Now we're having competition in the feed market from ethanol plants whos business models don't typically include needing to sell their feed. Granted, distillers grain is kind of gnarly (not as finely tuned as a wet mill's products) but typically farmers more interested in lower cost nutrition. And they're going to get it.
  • by wiredog (43288) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:28AM (#18412591) Journal
    Of the tortilla crisis in Mexico [bbc.co.uk].
  • Ethanol Subsidies (Score:4, Informative)

    by MrCopilot (871878) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:37AM (#18412655) Homepage Journal
    Ethanol Subsidies should be exclusive of corn subsidies. If you get federal money for corn you are ineligible for ethanol credits.

    Problem solved. Of course we would have never got the subsidies in the first place it wasn't for the ADM lobbyist. Now that we got them making them exclusive solves the issue.

    Research has shown ethanol produced from corn is less efficient and carbon positive. Alternative stock materials that require less fertilizing planting, etc. are the answer.

    Growing food is hard. Growing grass is hard not to do.

  • by Tofof (199751) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:48AM (#18412753)
    This isn't surprising. Among all the many other reasons mentioned here, let me add one more. Corn-based ethanol is not a solution to the issue of depleting nonrenewable resources. Simply put, midwestern topsoil is being depleted at a faster rate than the supply of oil and coal. I can't find the study by the Illinois EPA that I learned this from, but it's not hard to find sources [fs.fed.us] explaining that "On human time scales, fertile topsoil is not a renewable resource."
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @08:37AM (#18413257)
      Irrigation water and water for production of the ethanol is soon to be in short supply in many of these regions (of the US). Many of them teeter on the edge of drought every year, and the aquifers, stable for many years, are being depleted at a rapid rate once the stills (ethanol plants) are built.

      This is on top of the propane used to make the fertilizer (corn is very hard on the soil), the natural gas to cook the mash, the electricity to turn the big drums, the diesel to run the tractors and combines, the diesel or gas to truck the corn to the still and transport (by train usually) the ethanol to (close to) the point of sale (it has to be mixed in locally, not at the refinery).

      All in all, it makes slightly more sense than just paying the farmer not to grow the corn. It makes no sense whatsoever compared to bio-diesel (beans fix nitrogen), ethanol from sugar cane, or even burning through the cheap gas now while bringing more nuclear on line.
    • Topsoil (Score:3, Informative)

      by mdsolar (1045926)
      This method of producing biofuels looks as though it might enhance soil as well. Looks a bit like a bison ecology: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/31 4 /5805/1598 [sciencemag.org].
      --
      Graze the Sun: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
  • If you cant produce corn at a profit without the government paying you, you should produce something else that CAN turn a profit.

    If there were no farm subsidies in this world, the world would be a better place.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by uncleFester (29998)
      If you cant produce corn at a profit without the government paying you, you should produce something else that CAN turn a profit.

      remember that when you're sitting there starving because your imported grain is suddenly cut off because of some crisis or turmoil external to your country.

      i grew up on a family farm. i helped my dad through college until he retired. all the small/medium farmers work their ass off at great risk (you live or die by the weather.. try basing your livelihood on that as a variable) and
  • Corn Prices (Score:5, Informative)

    by hsmith (818216) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @07:50AM (#18412779)
    Corn prices are fucking OUT of control. They were ~$2/bushel, but they have gone up a dollar or more since the bush admin enacted the fucking ethanol mandates. Ethanol is highly inefficient when mixed with gas, so you lose efficiency in your MPG, so that causes you to buy more fuel, so it is a nasty little cycle.

    My great uncle is a corn farmer, he is salivating at the lips at the prospect the gov't is going to build all of these ethanol plants, a nice payday for him off our backs if it goes through. That is all it is, a payday, it isn't worrying about the environment. Sugar ethanol is much more efficient, 4x much so I believe. We aren't using that because we have subsidies and trade protections for the sugar farmers. HA!
    • I have often wondered how much more efficient Cane Sorghum [uga.edu]would be to convert over to ethanol than corn. It is easier to grow than Cane Sugar, and could be planted in a lot of areas in the United States. Its sugar content is high, and seems to me would make a great candidate for feedstock..
      Anyone have any thoughts on this?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LothDaddy (169765)
        You have an excellent point and I've looked into this myself.

        What I learned upon speaking with a sorghum breeder is that most sorghum previously grown in the U.S. had sweet stems. However, they bred this characteristic out to increase grain yields. Folks are looking at going back to high sugar sorghum for ethanol production, but this germplasm is not well adapted to the regions of the U.S. where sorghum is most widely grown (i.e. the Southern and Central Great Plains). It doesn't compete well with the curre
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shadowlore (10860)
      Ethanol is highly inefficient when mixed with gas, so you lose efficiency in your MPG, so that causes you to buy more fuel, so it is a nasty little cycle.

      Saab (GM) has a vehicle that runs anything from 100% gasoline to 100% Ethanol. It gets better MPG on 100% ethanol or E85 than it does 100% gasoline. How does that fact square with your assumption? It isn't a matter of the mixing making things inefficient, it's the assumption made when designing the engine and powertrain. Consider this: a smaller engine th
  • From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Krugman [wikipedia.org]: "From 1982 to 1983, he spent a year working at the Reagan White House as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers".

    I think you're confusing "willing to criticize the Bush administration" with "left-leaning".
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bmajik (96670)
      Haha.

      I was going to comment on this also.. but in a slightly different way.

      Are there any left-leaning economists? Economics is the study of choice, and the left hates choice. Economics is a science, with definite consequences when those who choose to ignore its principles craft policy. Willful igorance of economics is Leftist Politics 101. (Of course, the right has been following their lead for a while now :/)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MarkPNeyer (729607)

      Krugman changed after bush got elected, and he's now suffering from bush derangement syndrome. He's no longer nearly as reasonable as he once was.

      From the wikipedia article you apparently read:

      "A November 13, 2003 article in The Economist [2] reads: "A glance through his past columns reveals a growing tendency to attribute all the world's ills to George Bush...Even his economics is sometimes stretched...Overall, the effect is to give lay readers the illusion that Mr Krugman's perfectly respectable persona

  • by tetrahedrassface (675645) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @08:16AM (#18413035) Journal
    Yeah, don't forget cellulosic ethonal. There were some stories last week about the DOE or some arm of the government handing out 380 million to build 6 cellulosic ethanol plants.

    If cellulosic becomes attainable, and it will, then the pressures on corn will decrease tremendously.

    Link to article about the program [mongabay.com] And then there are those wacky ORNL researchers making both ethanol and hydrogen from algae.. [ornl.gov]

    The future seems bright enough for ethanol production, with new ideas popping up all the time. Its pretty fun to drink too... :)

    • by Alioth (221270)
      Algae is probably the most promising thing to develop (can be done on industrial land, using industrial methods rather than using up valuable, fertile land that's needed for food crops), as well as cellulosic ethanol (can be made by growing any invasive weed on marginal land).

      The thing with algae - you can make a potential of something like 10,000 gallons per acre of algae plant. Ethanol from corn is on the order of 150 gallons per acre.
  • 1. Stop producing and eating meat. Especially now that we're encountering the issue of the extremely dangerous quinolone family of antibiotics being approved for use on livestock. The meat in this country is and has been poisoned for decades.
    2. Ethanol is not economically or technically feasible. We can't produce enough corn to produce fuel to meet the demand AND feed people.
    3. We need improved mass transportation with more flexibility and a clean up of the problem riders (insane, violent, etc...)

    I'm op
  • Why ethanol? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 386spart (725207) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @08:38AM (#18413269)
    Why not biodiesel, which works in all current diesel engines, and is much easier, cheaper and energy efficient (compared to ethanol) to produce? Long story short, you can get vastly more biodiesel per acre of land than you can ethanol, the diesel will run your engine for (at least) twice as long compared to ethanol, and you don't need a specially built environment-engine to run it. Almost any car model has a diesel engine option already. So why is everybody talking about ethanol? Why do ethanol cars get Eco-benefits? (Your own conspiracy theory goes here).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ranger (1783)
      Corn based ethanol is a very bad way to go. Biodiesel is better. It still takes petroleum based fertilizers, pesticides, and petroleum fueled tractors to grow it and then there's all the water required to process the corn and coal used to power the ethanol plants. Then you can't transport ethanol in the same infrastructure as gasoline because of water. It corrodes pipes and sucks up water. The energy density is lower than gasoline.

      Butanol [wikipedia.org] does have it's own problems but is far more promising biofuel than
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RabidMonkey (30447)
      because there is already an ENORMOUS investment is gasoline powered vehicles. To go and say 'umm, sorry, you need to go buy a new car if you want to use a renewable fuel" would drive away most people.

      Ethanol is attractive, in some ways, because it replaces some of the volume of gasoline used, which helps reduce the need for the refinery time, etc.

      don't get me wrong here, I love biodiesel, I use it in my car (TDI Jetta) which I bought simply because I wanted a diesel for the fuel effiency and it's environme
    • Yields (Score:3, Informative)

      by mdsolar (1045926)
      I've listed some representative yields for ethanol and biodiesel production here: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/02/photosynthesi s .html [blogspot.com] along with where they come from. From what I can see the ethanol yield is substantially higher on a gallon per acre basis. This makes some sense since plants tend to produce more sugar and starch than oil. But, it may well be that biodiesel production is more effective since the squeezed soy or peanuts still contain useful proteins that are incorporated in food and fe
  • Lets see...you take a big land hungry plant to produce a few ears of corn per plant, which in fact are mostly cob. You end up with a few ounces of actual corn per plant, then loose even more in the fermentation process. At least when you use corn to feed livestock, you can generally make use of the entire plant, cellulose and all. Growing corn for fuel is arrogant, wasteful, and can only compete because tax money is being thrown at it. Any politician supporting ethanol subsidies needs to pull their smal
  • by Madman (84403) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @08:50AM (#18413403) Homepage
    While biofuels are going to be important in the future, they aren't the answer. There isn't enough arable land, and more importantly water, to grow enough biofuel to satisfy the US's transport needs, which means we'll have to go elsewhere and then we'll just be trading one energy dependency for another.

    The Department of Energy did a study that showed there was enough wind in North Dakota alone to fill the entire US's ENERGY needs, not just transportation. Nanotech in battery technology is showing huge promise in being able to store transport energy and be able to charge in seconds instead of hours. So why aren't we building windfarms and electric cars instead of encouraging South America to slash and burn their entire rainforest to grow sugarcane?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stonecypher (118140)
      Wait, let me get this straight. You want to cover an entire state with essentially no infrastructure or population in a wind farm that takes so much energy from the atmosphere that it can power the most energy hungry nation on Earth, and you think that's better for the environment than the current system?

      An energy sink that large in one place would throw our weather system into chaos. The biosphere in the area would be ruined. The metal supply is tremendously inadequate for such a large construction job.
  • Renewable fuels (Score:3, Informative)

    by bigkahunafish (708759) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @12:56PM (#18417833)
    As usual, Slashdot tends to have individuals that think they know everything posting a lot of crap. Since there seems to be some ignorance with respect to agribusiness, I thought, being a 7th Generation farmboy in Indiana, I might weigh in.


    --Addressing the subsidy issue. Yes, our farm receives them, on occasion. Generally speaking they are set up if prices do not reach a set point for a season. Many say they should be eliminated, and in principle I agree with them. However, there are some costs that are unique to farmers, that, well, hurt. One is property tax. Farmers generally do not benefit from abatements like corporations do, and therefore bear the full brunt of tax. In areas with increasing housing pressure, that drives up land values, which can really sting with respect to taxes as a viable single family farm generally isn't less than 350Acres (here in IN due to good soil) X 3-4K per acre = ~$1-1.5Millon. Farmers also cannot control their prices. Whereas a factory can sell lots of widgets for less money a piece, or a few widgets for more $, farmers must take what they can get on the market. Farmers also cannot fully control their production. Agriculture is dependent on weather conditions completely, and poor weather for a year can put a small farm out of business. Subsidies are supposed to help small farmers in those bad years, but are greatly abused by commercial "gipsie farmers." It kind of gives a bad rap to the whole system.


    --Bio-fuels.... Yes, we farmers know that rapeseed and sugarcane and all these other exotic crops are better for ethanol than corn. But, not many are willing to take the gamble to grow these exotic crops and not have a market for them. Most farmers around here take their grain to an elevator less than 50miles from their fields. Its generally not feasible economically to go farther than that. Do I know of any elevators in that range that take anything exotic; no. These crops are just too risky for a business that already has so many factors that we cannot control. I mean, think. What if rapeseed does not grow well in certain soils in Indiana? What available chemicals are there to control weeds in these crops? What equipment must I purchase? (for small seeds, probably new drill attachments, and special harvesting equipment, also very expensive). We all know that corn grows well in Indiana. We all know that there are markets, cheap chemicals for weed control, and hey, I already have all the equipment to plant and harvest corn. Hmm, I think I'll stick with corn.

    With respect to corn ethanol plants, they have the potential to be very efficient. Imagine this: Ethanol plant takes corn from nearby farmers and produces ethanol and distillers grain. Attached to the ethanol plant is a large confined beef cattle feeding operation which consumes the distillers grains. The cattle operation produces beef and manure. The manure is then placed in a digester, which produces methane and residuals (inorganics, etc.)The methane is used to augment the fuel to power the ethanol plant, and the residuals are used in fertilizer production for the corn fields. Nice and efficient. Too bad this has yet to be implemented.


    As for biodiesel (virgin biodiesel that is), its made from soybeans, a crop planted on years opposite corn. It has its issues, such as gelling issues in higher concentrations when temps are low, but from a farmer stand point, we fully support it.


    I could go on, but I'm sick of typing...

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