« Ethanol: Immortal & Immoral | Main | Our Future »

Friday, December 10, 2010


Donald Pay

If nuclear no longer had subsidies, not only would new plants not be built, but the current plants would shut down almost immediately. No one would operate a plant that had no guaranteed governmentally imposed liability caps.


I discovered Robert Rapier's blog "R Squared" a number of years ago and I find his take on biofuels refreshing and evenhanded especially from someone who works in the biofuel industry. He doesn't like corn based ethanol at all mostly due to it's dependence on "cheap" fossil fuel inputs. Here's a YouTube video interview of him on peak oil. If you go to the end (about 11:10) he has some interesting comments on the fallacy of "renewable" corn ethanol.


And here's his blog:


George Mason

KB; An observation and some more questions. If what the ethanol people keep telling us was true there would be no reason for a subsidy. The question is who burns ethanol to produce ethanol? What farmer burns ethanol in his tractor to plant corn? What farmer burns ethanol in his combine to harvest corn? What grain truckers are burning ethanol to haul corn to the ethanol plant? What ethanol plant burns ethanol to process corn into ethanol? What tanker trucks burn ethanol to haul ethanol to the gas station? Everyone knows the answer. Ethanol does not reduce our demand for fossil fuels, it increases it. As a result it puts pressure on the price of these fuels. To compound the problem ethanol cannot be imported. This prevents the people who blend ethanol with gasoline from purchasing ethanol at the best price. It also puts pressure on the price of food. The most efficient method to produce ethanol is with sucrose whose source is cane and beet sugar. The government limits who can produce sugar beets and prohibits the importation of sugar. This increases the price of both ethanol and snickers.

larry kurtz

South Dakota is already a chemical toilet. Huron wants to be a rail center. Here is a technology that could use impounded James River flood water as a process medium: http://www.physorg.com/news192736676.html

larry kurtz

Yep, pure heptane.

The spontaneous ignition of the beetle-killed pine in a 100-yard radius would be measured in megatons. Now consider that there are 70 million acres of collapsed pine forest in the United States alone.

Turpentine distilled from the California pines such as Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Gray Pine (Pinus sabiniana) yield a form of turpentine that is almost pure heptane. When producing chemical wood pulp from pines or other coniferous trees with the Kraft process, turpentine is collected as a byproduct. Often it is burned at the mill for energy production. The average yield of crude turpentine is 5–10 kg/t pulp.

In 1946, Soichiro Honda used turpentine as a fuel for the first Honda motorcycles as gasoline was almost totally unavailable following World War II.

The BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico brought emergency to the abuse of Earth to make plastics while ecoterrorists Halliburton, Koch Industries, and Exxon Mobil reap record profits.

This story aired recently on KCRW's To the Point:

"25% of the world now bans plastic bags, and Los Angeles County is one of a growing number of US communities getting on board. Will the limits of cloth bags like Grandma used to carry require thinking about what goes in them?"

So, here's the part that nobody wants to talk about publicly:

For parts of the West this is as much a reduction in the threat of weaponized wildfire than an economic development opportunity. Harvesting timber is diesel fuel intensive. Just paying for pine removal after the collapse of the housing market has exacerbated the potential for catastrophic conflagrations.

Keystone, Hot Springs, Custer, Pringle, Hill City, Rochford, Nemo, Silver City, Deadwood, Lead, Newcastle, even Rapid City, Piedmont, Sturgis and Spearfish are at extreme risk from the tactical use of wildfire.

Just six strategically-placed improvised fuel air explosives (FAEs) deployed during red-flag conditions have the potential to create a firestorm that would be virtually unstoppable. Repeated discussions with the Forest Service, law enforcement, fire department officials, even the Rapid City Journal, elicit smirks and suspicion from their representatives.

Explosive, heptane-rich ponderosa pine infests Black Hills and Rocky Mountain forests historically populated by aspen, chokecherry, and hazelnut.

Ponderosa pine has remarkable properties to remediate marginal ground and serves as cover for numerous wildlife species. Get the doghair pine off the Black Hills and begin planting it out on the prairie:



Reduce consumption and use the technology we have to increase the efficiency of all machines. Plan what we would do in an energy shortage and start implementing some of the steps now so as to get us used to a return to a more sensible way of living. If not, yes, focus on using the waste.


It's disappointing that there is very little reliable information on the energy input/outputs related to the growth of corn and energy production. From what I can tell, it looks as though ethanol as a transportation fuel accomplishes one goal, the redistribution of wealth to agricultural states, at the expense of decreasing dependence on fossil fuels. What bothers me is that so-called economic conservatives such as Congressperson elect Chrisy Noem are completely complicit in this scheme. Representative-elect Noem herself is the beneficiary of over 3 million in farm subsidies. If she wants to fix the US's budget issues as she claims, her first step out to be revising agricultural policy in general and more specifically ending the subsidies to the production of corn and the production of ethanol.


Larry, perhaps you should invest in that turpentine production process and make yourself a fortune. That is how it works. You take a risk and if it plays out, it pays out. Rather than relying upon other people solving the problem of energy for our country, you could be a hero.

Michael (Constant Conservative)

When it comes to ethanol and its subsidies, it pays to follow the money. As has been noted above, if the ethanol industry believed it could survive without the subsidy IV, as it were, then it would not be making so much noise right now, when the subsidy appears to be in jeopardy.

At the same time, if the ethanol subsidies were taken away, the necessity of making things work with less money might just be the impetus needed for inventing the process that would allow ethanol to compete in the marketplace. I'm not saying that it is probable--but I believe it to be possible.

However, if we do not allow ethanol to fail (or almost fail, as the case may be) then we have simply established another group which is quite glad to receive taxpayer funds for doing something which is of dubious value to the taxpayers in general. One could make the argument that such acts go against, rather than support, the "general welfare" clause of our Constitution.


We have more agricultural land aavllabie in the world than needed to provide food for all the population. Most of it is currently being wasted due to mismanagement, price cartels and ofcourse, agricultural subsidies. Land is one of the primary resource that developing countries have to earn revenue and foreign exchange. They are not able to do that currently due to stupid agricultural subsidies. The argument that biofuels produce food shortage has no water at all.


As if all these bad effects didn't haeppn in the course of normal agriculture My grandpa can remember so many varieties of bananas some of which are permanently lost to us. So we lost many species of bananas when cultivating bananas all the while ! And how about rice? We had so many varieties of rice which are now lost to us.


It is good work even if their are some other areas of research that need to be puesrud to make it feasible. When burned as fuel the CO2 and H2O are expelled and so collecting these ingredients for the ethanol process will involve a mixture of capturing technologies probably from C02 producing industries in the early stages since filtering the stuff out of the air is currently a less than efficient prospect. That may change.There are various ideas for ethanol, biodiesel and such and some of them would be complimentary like how making biodiesel produces glycerol which, they have found, can be fermented into ethanol and since new techniques for filtering ethanol instead of distilling could make production far more energy efficient, it would make sense to combine the production facilities. This is even more evident when one sees that often organic stocks have different components that are better for one fuel than the other and that they both often have protein byproducts that can be used as animal feed, so close proximity helps save on shipping costs.I am not convinced that one of these fuels has the biggest niche in the energy market or even if they are answers to transportation needs but I can not imagine any future where ethanol is not at least a major industrial chemical and all energy technologies should be puesrud. The industrial technology spin-offs alone justify the efforts and I think that our ability to prioritize these emerging energy technologies is not sufficient at this point.


True enough. In fact, many gnmernveot actions damage the environment. Subsidizing water for agriculture leads to the bizarre result of growing rice in California's central valley. We end up growing all sorts of crops not really suited for their particular climate, which has negative side effects. Further, when subsidies end, as they inevitably must, economic dislocation causes real pain to decent hard working people.


I agree that ethanol is a poor sustuitbte for fossil fuels, and probably does not do anything for the environment. It may even make things worse. But there is an incredible benefit to the following that is being ignored my most everyone:Increased demand for the grain helped boost food prices by 4.9 percent last year, the most since 1990, and will reduce global inventories of corn to the lowest in 24 years, government data show.Scarce resource plus high demand spells higher prices. But the resource is only scarce for the time being. Those high prices should attract more suppliers into the market, dropping the prices dramatically. And the most likely new suppliers will be in developing countries who are basically shut out of the market now because of high tariffs and agricultural subsidies in rich countries (e.g. the US and the EU). If the market were left undistorted by government intervention with respect to the PRICE and the SOURCE of grain, the current push for more ethanol should translate into higher incomes for poor farmers. Developing nations would be able to rise out of poverty. And despite the immediate effect of either being neutral or worsening the environment (depending on who you believe) it's uncontested that richer countries have cleaner environments. At least on some level, therefore, the environment stands to gain.

The comments to this entry are closed.