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Biotech Science

Is Ethanol the Answer to the Energy Dilemma? 342

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-love-the-smell-of-alternative-fuel-in-the-morning dept.
n0xin writes "According to Fortune, "The next five years could see ethanol go from a mere sliver of the fuel pie to a major energy solution in a world where the cost of relying on a finite supply of oil is way too high." In an effort to meet fuel-economy standards, automakers already have 5 million ethanol-ready vehicles on the road. Supporters are optomistic that "we can introduce enough ethanol in the U.S. to replace the majority of our petroleum use in cars and light trucks." Are SUVs included in this category?"
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Is Ethanol the Answer to the Energy Dilemma?

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  • Well, you see, I can find some a lot better uses for ethanol than using it as a fuel...
  • by NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) <john DOT oyler AT comcast DOT net> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:48PM (#14564064) Journal
    We'll just turn all of south america and africa into big ethanol farms, the people living there be damned. Who cares if it takes an absurd amount of our infrastructure for the renewables, as long as it's "environmentally friendly"?
    • by KiloByte (825081) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:54PM (#14564113)
      We'll just turn all of south america and africa into big ethanol farms

      Or, we'll turn most of Russia into a big ethanol farm... oh, wait...
    • The answer to the question is no, because this is just a half-way measure at best, even given a lack of morality with regard to the people in foreign. As you pointed out, we can turn the Third World into our ethanol-farming slaves (but it's not ACTUALLY going to be very environmentally friendly), and we'll have to start getting bananas, coffee, cocaine, and other important crops somewhere else.

      The great thing about ethanol, if it replaced oil, is that we would no longer have to support evil dictatorships l
      • One thing to remember is that african and south american nations desperately want open agriculture markets, and crop-generated ethonal is one way undo the European, American and other developed nation's tarriff and exchange barriers. It's not like we're forcing them into farming (you might argue that American agricultural subsidies are forcing them OUT of farming). Farmers in 3rd world countries are no more slaves to farms than the American white collar class slaves to the office.

        Reguarding dictatorships, I
      • If the question isn't energy generation (ethanol is fermented grain, which derives energy from sunlight), then it is just about energy storage... what form can it be in that's close to being as convenient as oil/gas/petrol.

        Hydrogen has its flaws here. I'm thinking we need to move away from such a dependence on portable stored energy. More light rail, less cars. Even so, can't eliminate it completely, so we probably need something revolutionary in solid state energy storage. Just no clue what it could be.
      • The house of Saud would be SOL in 10 years if the US withdrew its support.

        I'd give them 10 days if they also pulled out the expats who run the computer systems for the military and police.
  • SUVs (Score:2, Informative)

    by Nerd-o-mancer (665180)
    Yes, the government tallies SUVs under that "light trucks" category, because they are (or used to be) built on truck frames. The only difference was they had cabs that went all the way back.
  • No (Score:3, Informative)

    by PorkCharSui (583216) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:50PM (#14564081)
    Ethanol would take up too much of our ag land that we need to sustain our food supply. Check the movie The End of Suburbia (http://endofsuburbia.com/ [endofsuburbia.com] for a preview of our sad future.
    • Re:No (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Fatchap (752787)
      In that case why does the EU pay farmers to set aside their fields rather than grow things that contribute to the surplus? Why is surplus food routed to Africa (lowering the price for whatever domestic produced grain there is)?

      Perhaps there just needs to be a change in focus, especially if you can ferment the non edible parts of food crops for fuel (such as the stalks on grain crops) and waste vegetable matter it could be a win win.
      • Re:No (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Bing Tsher E (943915)
        Shipping food to Africa and the third world is a form of economic warfare. It deflates the price of grain and food products in the places where it is shipped, and thus discourages the people in those countries from growing more of their own food. It creates an economic dependence in said countries for regular shipments from the 'benevolent' countries who contribute the food.

        Would *you* want to plant a crop of corn if it were likely that people from another country were going to dump their surplus crop int
    • by Guppy06 (410832)
      "Ethanol would take up too much of our ag land that we need to sustain our food supply."

      Considering the glut of corn-based junk foods out there, that actually might be a good thing.
      • Re:No (Score:2, Funny)

        by misleb (129952)
        Indeed. I'd sure like to see high fructose corn syrup powering cars rather than making people fat and diabetic.

        -matthew

         
    • Re:No (Score:3, Informative)

      by realilskater (76030)
      Actually, producing ethanol does not take up our agricultural land. Ethanol that is currently produced in the corn belt is produced from the waste of farming operations. The ears of corn are harvested and sold to the usual buyers. The stalks that are normally made into feed for livestock are first sent to an ethanol plant where the sugars are extracted and made into alcohol through fermentation. After the sugars are extracted the stalks are made into feed for livestock as they would have before. The pr
      • Most corn based ethanol produced now is produced from corn, and not field trash. The corn is reduced to a "distillers grain" in the process which is a higher protein animal feed than the corn from which it is derived.

        Production of ethanol does not take up more land. The land is already producing corn. What the production of ethanol does is to make use of the corn closer to where it is produced and to convert it into a form (a liquid) that is easier to transport and use.

      • Re:No (Score:4, Informative)

        by AndersOSU (873247) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @09:39AM (#14566563)
        That's not what I've read. EtOH isn't produced from waste because of pitfully low yeilds, kernal is used because it has a high card (fermantable) content. The waste is waste because its mostly fiber, not good for eats or anything else.

        The stalks aren't made in to feed, the seed is, again for the same reason - low carb content. And I really hope you mean the cob and not the stalk, because if you've ever driven by a corn field you can clearly see that they don't even bother to pull up the stalk.

        The production of EtOH has been increasing, but the appropriate question to ask is would it be cheeper than gas if the EtOH subsidies were removed. It wouldn't have two years ago, but we may be getting close to the point where it is now.

        However, if a farmer is going to sell a portion of his crop to EtOH production, that is all it would be used for.
  • Very interesting (Score:4, Informative)

    by mendaliv (898932) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:50PM (#14564083)
    It looks like there's finally a use for all the grass clippings coming out of suburban neighborhoods and non-office paper that gets thrown away instead of being recycled.

    From the article:
    Instead of coming exclusively from corn or sugar cane as it has up to now, thanks to biotech breakthroughs, the fuel can be made out of everything from prairie switchgrass and wood chips to corn husks and other agricultural waste.

    This biomass-derived fuel is known as cellulosic ethanol.
  • Growing corn takes a lot of pesticide/machinery/etc.. Ethanol is NOT environment-friendly. Globally reducing our energy consumption is.
    • Re:No it's not (Score:5, Informative)

      by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:13PM (#14564234)

      Ethanol need not be produced from corn...From TFA:
      Instead of coming exclusively from corn or sugar cane as it has up to now, thanks to biotech breakthroughs, the fuel can be made out of everything from prairie switchgrass and wood chips to corn husks and other agricultural waste. This biomass-derived fuel is known as cellulosic ethanol.


      Cellulosic ethanol requires little far machinery and no pesticides. From Renewable Energy Access [renewablee...access.com]:
      We can't remember how many times we've been asked the question: "But doesn't ethanol require more energy to produce than it contains?" The simple answer is no-most scientific studies, especially those in recent years reflecting modern techniques, do not support this concern. These studies have shown that ethanol has a higher energy content than the fossil energy used in its production. Some studies that contend that ethanol is a net energy loser include (incorrectly) the energy of the sun used to grow a feedstock in ethanol's energy balance, which misses the fundamental point that the sun's energy is free. Furthermore, because crops like switchgrass are perennials, they are not replanted and cultivated every year, avoiding farm-equipment energy. Indeed, if polycultured to imitate the prairies where they grow naturally, they should require no fertilizer, irrigation, or pesticides either. So, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, for every one unit of energy available at the fuel pump, 1.23 units of fossil energy are used to produce gasoline, 0.74 of fossil energy are used to produce corn-based ethanol, and only 0.2 units of fossil energy are used to produce cellulosic ethanol.
      Between its lesser environmemtal impact (up to 80% reduced emmisions) and its cost-efficiency, cellulosic ethanol is far more environment-friendly than fosil fuels.
      • Re:No it's not (Score:3, Interesting)

        by hsoft (742011)
        Well, I didn't know. I guess I should have RTFA. However, I have hard time believing that culture like switchgrass would not require fertilizer. Prairies don't require fertilizers because grass dies and decay right there and animals eating it defecate and die and decay right there, thus keeping the eco-system intact. However, take that prairie, cut all the grass, produce ethanol and burn it. Do it for a couple of years, and without fertilizers, you shouldn't have any more grass growing there.

        Of course, I'm
        • Most of the nutrients in the soil come from the rain, not from bio-degrading material.

          Think about it for a second, if all of the nutrients in the soil came from other plants and animals that bio-degraded, then the ecosystem in that area would be unsustainable over the long haul.

          • Oh great, thus we can all tell the farmers to stop putting fertilizers on their fields, and tell all organic farmers to stop putting the excrements of their animals on their fields, because it's useless: most nutrients come from the rain.

            Anyway, I give up. I don't want to say that the article is wrong because I don't have the knowledge to say so. Maybe that the kind of culture they are speaking of would only need nutrients that come from the rain to be a sustainable culture, but I'm skeptic.
    • Re:No it's not (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @11:40PM (#14564777)
      Growing corn takes a lot of pesticide/machinery/etc.. Ethanol is NOT environment-friendly
      Ethanol makes sense if it's a byproduct of something else or produced by a less intensive farming method - Brazil is using it successfully but they can't make enough for everyone without using a lot of oil to make fertilizer and defeating the purpose. Methanol makes more sense from some plant material. Methane makes a lot more sense from waste products.

      Where ethanol has the advantage is that conventional car engines can run well on it without much work and it's easier to ship around. Methane can run in diesel engines without much work - but due to the high sulphur content of US oil there aren't a lot of diesel vehicles currently in the USA and as a gas it makes more sense in fixed installations than vehicles. Biodiesel makes sense so long as it's made out of waste products - specificly growing Canola for it is burning oil to make fertilizer to make biodiesel and is a losing prospect.

      There's no one true energy - even for vehicles. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something or has swallowed a sales pitch.

      • Re:No it's not (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TykeClone (668449) *
        Biodiesel makes sense so long as it's made out of waste products - specificly growing Canola for it is burning oil to make fertilizer to make biodiesel and is a losing prospect.

        Corn -> Ethanol + distillers grain

        distillers grain fed to animals -> "fertilizer" + meat

        "Fertilizer" + corn ground -> more corn

        • distillers grain fed to animals -> "fertilizer" + meat
          I can understand the simplistic misconception, but what you are describing is "organicly grown" corn and is a lot more expensive and difficult than using artificial fertilizers - plus there are obviously a lot of losses in the system.
          • manure makes a good supplemental fertilizer. Rotating between corn and soybeans also does a great deal to help reduce the amount of fertilizer required.

            Both of those methods add nitrogen to the soil. As near as I've seen, the bulk of the fertilizer applied to corn fields is anhydrous ammonia - nitrogen.

            The production of anhydrous ammonia is where a great deal of fossil fuels (natural gas, I think?) is expended.

  • Ethanol seems best (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:52PM (#14564094) Homepage Journal
    Ethanol would be a lot cheaper than trying to deploy hydrogen. With the hydrogen route, we have to redeploy our entire fuel infrastructure. Which isn't going to happen as long as most people drive gasoline cars. Ethanol, OTOH, can work in a standard gasoline engine with a few modifications, and can be supplied from the existing fueling stations.

    With gas prices being so high, all that's standing in the way of Ethanol is this constant argument over whether or not it's energy positive or not. Of course, this completely ignores the issue that hydrogen isn't energy positive either. You need powerplants upstream to crack hydrogen, just as you'll need upstream energy to supply farming equipment. Even in Ethanol isn't energy positive (which I don't believe for a minute), it's still a better option than hydrogen.

    What we really need for Ethanol to take off is a proper hybrid vehicle [blogspot.com] capable of burning both gasoline, ethanol, and various blends.
    • by acidblood (247709) <decio&decpp,net> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:12PM (#14564227) Homepage
      What we really need for Ethanol to take off is a proper hybrid vehicle capable of burning both gasoline, ethanol, and various blends.

      These are all over the place here in Brazil. Last I heard, something like 80% or 90% of small cars were sold with hybrid ethanol-gasoline engines (nicknamed Flex around here). Many shops (even small ones) already have the technology to convert an ordinary gasoline engine to a hybrid, and it isn't that expensive either.

      I should remark that Brazil was a pioneer in the usage of ethanol for car fuels, but in the last decade or so it was getting out of fashion. With the advent of hybrid engines we're seeing a revival of sorts, particularly given the lower price (which unfortunately has been rising though).

      For my part, I believe the future is biodiesel, not ethanol, though.
    • by brunes69 (86786)
      Regardless of what crop is used to produce it, ethanol requires areable land, and lots of it.

      To produce enough ethanol to sustain the US alone, would require hudreds of thousands of acres of crops. Regardless of the sustainability of the crops, it is a huge management issue in and of itself to control all that production.

      Hydrogen, on the other hand, can be produced readily in a power-plant type fashion.

    • Like this Ford? (Score:2, Informative)

      by sonofagunn (659927)
      • Re:Like this Ford? (Score:3, Informative)

        by AKAImBatman (238306)
        It runs up to 85% Ethanol. Which sucks. And blending the fuel types on your own can result in unexpected timing problems. Using a Stirling, OTOH, allows you to burn any mixture of fuel without concern for timing issues. In fact, such an engine could burn just about any fuel, including hydrogen.
    • Actually, there are much bigger things standing in the way of "everyday ethanol". They are:
      a) a massive 10's of Billions of dollars of Fossil Fuel investment (dating back to the 60's) - You'll have to do your own homework but the keywords here are: President Regan, GH Bush (Cia Director), Noriega, Iran, Panama, Bush (41), Iran, Iraq, Bush (43), Saudi Arabia, Sept. 11th, Fox News, Iran, War on Christmas, Iran, Iran.

      b) Hydrogen is the future, but no new energy can come about without the approval of item a)
      • This is a defeatist argument. The change over will be slow, it will be difficult, but it is coming whether anyone likes it or not.

        Why not try to help it along? The national security reasons ought to be enough in themselves.
    • by The Fink (300855)

      Of course, oil isn't energy positive either.
      Okay, sure it's energy positive from the time we extract it from the ground, but any fair consideration needs to take into account the amount of energy that, once upon a time, was required to create that oil, since essentially what we're required to do is replace the whole supply chain (or, wait a few hundred thousand years -- or more! -- for the supply chain to replenish the stocks we've taken).

      I'm led to believe that the figure is approximately 24 tonnes of [eurekalert.org]

  • Of all the asanine things I've seen on Ask Slashdot...

    Isn't this something better solved with a quick Wikipedia search [wikipedia.org] and a quick Google query [google.ca]?

    All the biologists and physicists I've spoken to say no. It's a fuel source, yes, but not a viable replacement for oil. It has a much lower fuel efficency, and it is still non-renewable. It might solve SOME of the pollution problems, but that's still a "might". It won't solve the growing energy need, and it won't solve the issue of non-renewability.

    If you'

    • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:59PM (#14564140)

      All the biologists and physicists I've spoken to say no.

      Really? All of them? Care to provide a list of these sources?

      It has a much lower fuel efficency, and it is still non-renewable.

      Wrong and wrong. From Renewable Energy Access [renewablee...access.com]:
      We can't remember how many times we've been asked the question: "But doesn't ethanol require more energy to produce than it contains?" The simple answer is no-most scientific studies, especially those in recent years reflecting modern techniques, do not support this concern. These studies have shown that ethanol has a higher energy content than the fossil energy used in its production. Some studies that contend that ethanol is a net energy loser include (incorrectly) the energy of the sun used to grow a feedstock in ethanol's energy balance, which misses the fundamental point that the sun's energy is free. Furthermore, because crops like switchgrass are perennials, they are not replanted and cultivated every year, avoiding farm-equipment energy. Indeed, if polycultured to imitate the prairies where they grow naturally, they should require no fertilizer, irrigation, or pesticides either. So, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, for every one unit of energy available at the fuel pump, 1.23 units of fossil energy are used to produce gasoline, 0.74 of fossil energy are used to produce corn-based ethanol, and only 0.2 units of fossil energy are used to produce cellulosic ethanol.
    • If you're looking forward towards a sustainable, rewnewable, efficient fuel source, they should be looking at wind, solar, nuclear, or hydrogen, to name a few.
      Nuclear is renewable?? Who knew?




      ... my guess is that it's probably not even rewnewable, and I say that as a fan...
  • As a North Dakotan (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alexwcovington (855979) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:57PM (#14564129) Journal
    I'm proud to say I drive my 1993 Mercury Topaz on 40% ethanol. Hand mixed by yours truly with a fly-by-night flip of the regular and E85 pumps. And it runs GREAT.
    • I dug up some articles through google the last time ethanol was mentioned and basically, they said that:

      Cars can handle 10% ethanol with no modifications

      20% ethanol eats away at various gaskets and other plasticy/rubbery parts.

      So you can run your car on a 40% ethanol blend, but I wouldn't expect it to last a long time. And maybe you should keep one of those ABC fire extinguishers [survivalinstinct.com] in your car... just in case one of the gaskets give up & your engine catches on fire.
  • by Yonder Way (603108) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @09:57PM (#14564131)
    Part of the reason we're in such a pickle is because we depend so completely on just one fuel source. Haven't we learned that diversity will make us more robust?

    • yeeaaaah riiiiight ...

      I am looking forward the day when every wheel in the car will have its own size, when there will be 234 different types of DVD, of course mutually incompatible, and i could finally write my /. posts in southeastern italian dialect !!!

      cant wait ...
  • Cost? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xanthines-R-yummy (635710) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:00PM (#14564153) Homepage Journal
    The article says that attitude is the major barrier, but I still think it's cost right now. This page [cockeyed.com] is obviously out of date (although the girl is still cute!), but I think it still makes the point that gasoline is still a pretty cheap liquid by comparison. Oil is around $1.20 per gallon right now. I'd be lucky if I could find a cup of coffee for that price! Ethanol is still expensive and will be until the demand is high enough to start using it. Sure, mass-production plants have yet to be built... but those things aren't cheap, either. I feel like (no basis in fact!) the price of oil/gasoline is going to have to increase much, much further for ethanol to be a realistic alternative. Just my 2 cents.
    • In my neighborhood fuel station here in Rio de Janeiro, gasoline is R$2.50, ethanol is R$1.80


      Oil is around $1.20 per gallon right now. I'd be lucky if I could find a cup of coffee for that price!


      Brazil also produces coffee. A cup is R$0.50 regular, R$0.75 espresso.

    • "This page [cockeyed.com] is obviously out of date (although the girl is still cute!),"
       
      She is soooo into you. In your MIND!!!
  • by narftrek (549077)
    This will get modded Flamebait and/or Troll, especially coming from me, but JEEESUS I have already read five comments griping about this technology not solving X problem, causing Y problem, etc. THIS IS BETTER! One guy complains that it won't fix the greenhouse gas problem--it won't make it any worse. Another complains it's gonna use up all our land. Another complains it's gonna poison the environment with pesticides. Look people, will nothing make you guys happy? The main things this tech will do for
  • Since the government won't have to subsidize the corn industry by charging duties on sugar, maybe you americans can get all the Fructose crap out of your soda and use real sugar.

    Trust me, it tastes WAY better.
    • Agreed! I hate HFcorn syrup for anything other fluid flow experiments. (:) )

      I really like what Brazil has done with EtOH. But as a chemical engineer, I'm much more fond of biodiesel. Both for the engine technologies, performance characteristics and overall robustness of infrastructure. It can be transported in any kerosine/diesel/gas truck no sweat. And it keeps engines a lot cleaner than fossil derived fuels.

      Ethanol makes sense for brazil, but bio makes more sense in a lot of places. Just think: to make et
  • by Herger (48454) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:38PM (#14564390) Homepage

    IIRC ethanol can be blended into regular fuel up to 15% and be used in cars already on the road in the USA, while an 85% ethanol/15% gasoline (E85) can be used in "flex-fuel" vehicles that can be purchased from most manufacturers on request. It's only a stopgap, because ethanol is currently expensive to produce. This may change with biotech to improve fermentation, as well as a shift in US trade policy to facilitate the import of sugar cane, a much better starting material for fermentation (or just import the ethanol!)

    Still, I believe the biggest limitation is, even assuming moderate improvements in conservation and efficiency, there isn't enough land available to produce the corn/beets/sugarcane needed. Plus, the biggest consumers are commercial (i.e., diesel) vehicles -- we might be better off investing in carbon-neutral catalytic solutions like Changing World Technologies [changingworldtech.com] or AlphaKat [alphakat.de], which can use a wide variety of biomass as input and produce diesel fuel.

  • by dido (9125) <dido@NOsPAm.imperium.ph> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @10:52PM (#14564500)

    A look at a small table [eroei.com] of energy return on energy invested figures gives ethanol from corn a 1.3, ethanol from sugarcane something like 0.8 to 1.7 (meaning it could possibly be a net energy loser!), and ethanol from corn residues 0.7 to 1.8. Compare that with petroleum's EROEI, which is today something of the order of 23, and had once been higher than 100. Even at the maximum efficiency level, it would probably take dedicating all of the arable land in the United States to grow corn for conversion to ethanol to allow business as usual. Also, mechanized farming techniques are so heavily dependent on petroleum-based (and natural gas based) fertilizers and pesticides. Here's a good article [fromthewilderness.com] on how to properly evaluate these schemes for alternative energy, and ethanol doesn't fare very well.

    No, the only real solution to the energy crisis is to abandon the grossly wasteful American way of life, and take steps towards serious conservation efforts.

  • Yes! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ethanol (176321) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @11:22PM (#14564678)
    Yes, by golly, I AM!
  • The fallacy that petroleum can be replaced as an energy source.

    This time, it's with alcohol.

    Well, farming the corn necessary to fuel the US will need far more land than there is in the US... And processing the corn needs energy, too.

    Forget SUVs, it's not sure that hybrids could be powered!!!

    Petroleum rules for a very good reason: it has the highest energetic density, which was attained through millions of years of insolation used to grow the plants that became oil.

    When oil runs out, cars will have to g

    • The premise of the post is a fallacy, but everything you wrote is as well.

      The post is wrong for the same reason people who hype hydrogen as the solution
      are wrong. Ethanol and hydrogen are storage mediums, not energy sources. It's
      true that ethanol is traditionally dervied from fermentation, but in this case
      the energy source is *biomass* not ethanol. It's technically no different than
      tossing logs into the boiler of a train.

      >Well, farming the corn necessary to fuel the US will need far more land than
      >the
    • > Well, farming the corn necessary to fuel the US will need far
      > more land than there is in the US

      Source?
  • by johansalk (818687) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:12AM (#14564931)
    Desertification is a mounting threat to many regions around the world due to soil exhaustion. I can only imagine that large-scale ethanol farming would add to this problem.
    • Desertification is a result of poor farming technology. Rich farmers growing ethanol crops would use high levels of technology to reduce the risk of desertification. It is much more of a problem in poor countries where small farms grow subsistence crops.
  • A horse or mule?
    After reading these posts it seems like NOTHING will work.
    Not enough land, Not enough oil....

    No ice cream! No cake! happy birthday.
  • If it has such a high energy content, what about building a powerplant surrounded by fields of this grass, and just burn it and use a steam turbine to generate electricity? Then use this technique [slashdot.org] to take care of the smoke emissions. If you compare the electrical transmission losses with the amount of energy lost by fermenting it and making alcohol and then transporting that, I wonder which is more efficient?
  • Seaweed (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mattite (526549)
    Why not use kelp (seaweed)? Doesn't that stuff grow around a foot a day? Since this new process can use cellulose, and has a net energy gain, just grow kelp in the middle of the ocean. I can think of a few benefits:

    - Current agriculture remains unaffected, thereby also unaffecting most food supplies.
    - Kelp is a weed that grows without any special help: just make sure it gets enough sunlight.
    - Kelp grows in the ocean where, last time I checked, few people (if any) live. No issues with taking up land.
    - Maybe
  • We'll never know.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr@mEULERac.com minus math_god> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @08:57AM (#14566310) Journal
    If ethanol is a viable fuel, remove all the subsidies and tax manipulation, and it will stand on its own. So far, it's nothing more than a massive corporate-welfare program for Archer Daniels Midland (price fixer to the world).

    -jcr

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