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Transportation Science

SwiftFuel Alternative To Alternative Fuels 725

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-about-pedals dept.
TheDawgLives writes "PBS has an article by Bob Cringely about the best route to end our dependence on oil and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of replacing all our expensive cars with even more expensive hybrids or electric cars, his suggestion is to use a cheap drop-in replacement for gasoline called Swift Fuel. It is derived from Ethanol, but doesn't require any modification to older cars to prevent corrosion. It can be mixed with gasoline in any amount and can even be distributed using the same network as gasoline, including being pumped in the same pipes and shipped in the same trucks. It is truly a drop-in replacement for gas, and it is real. It is being tested by the FAA for certification in propeller aircraft. It also happens to be about $2 a gallon cheaper than gasoline."
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SwiftFuel Alternative To Alternative Fuels

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  • Food prices (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xaxa (988988) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:24PM (#23758295)
    Where does the ethanol come from?
    • Re:Food prices (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:28PM (#23758347) Journal
      Switchgrass [slashdot.org]
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by xaxa (988988)
        You still need land to grow it on, which might otherwise be used for growing food.
        • Re:Food prices (Score:5, Informative)

          by Mr2001 (90979) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:39PM (#23758461) Homepage Journal
          It's not the same land or farming resources, though. Switchgrass grows on a wider variety of soil and climate, meaning it can be grown in places where you couldn't grow food crops, and doesn't require much seeding or fertilizer.
          • Re:Food prices (Score:5, Insightful)

            by sleigher (961421) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:43PM (#23758493)
            Your right that it can be grown on land that is not used for food and grow very well there. I think the problem is that the people who do grow food might stand to make more money growing switchgrass so then the land for food will be used anyways. I know if I was a farmer and had a chance to make more money growing a weed I would be all over it. I might be wrong in that. It might not make them more money it is just the first thing that popped in my mind.
            • Re:Food prices (Score:4, Insightful)

              by MacDork (560499) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:50PM (#23758561) Journal
              Plowing up new land creates *lots* of CO2 via soil oxidation too, and quite possibly at a faster rate than the fossil fuels they are "replacing." And since oil is a fungible commodity, the oil you "replaced" will simply be sold off and burned by someone else... Biofuels just make oil a little cheaper than it would otherwise be by decreasing demand ever so slightly. So, it's quite likely that the biofuel initiative is actually make the problem a lot worse. The biofuel initiative is also creating a giant dead zone in the gulf of Mexico due to fertilizer runoff. But don't try to tell any of this to the cult of global warming. They don't like facts interfering in their religion.
              • Re:Food prices (Score:5, Informative)

                by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:04PM (#23758655)
                Hmmm, does Brazil have these same problems?
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by Anonymous Coward
                  Don't know, but 144,000 people are about to lose their jobs in Brazil thanks to biofuel:
                  http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_resources/article4083137.ece [timesonline.co.uk]
                  • Wait wait wait (Score:5, Insightful)

                    by Calledor (859972) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @12:34AM (#23759633)
                    Are you actually advocating that brazil not mechanize the nearly 500 yearold process of sugar cane harvest? Are you nuts? Was industrialization something you found "quaint"?
                    • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:4, Insightful)

                      by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:25AM (#23759907)
                      'Progressives' always oppose progress if they think it benefits the capitalists more than the workers. Even when the workers still come out vastly ahead, just not as much ahead. And to head off the incoming replies, the median income in the US adjusted for inflation is seven times what it was a century ago, and several orders of magnitude above pre-industrial revolution levels (or for that matter, Brazil's current median income). So yes, industrialisation made everyone better off, even though all those farm laborers lost their jobs.
                    • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:4, Insightful)

                      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2008 @07:19AM (#23762325)
                      "So yes, industrialisation made everyone better off, even though all those farm laborers lost their jobs." So those farmers were better off because they had to uproot their lives and move to the city? They had to go through emotional issues of having the ground swept from underneath them? I think they would not have been so quick to praise the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution merely widened the gap between the "haves" and "have nots".

                      I think we are fooling ourselves if we think things are as rosie as ever. I remember when I was a kid my mother didn't have to work and my father earned a slightly better than average wage. The house we lived in was brand new, in a new estate on the shores of the largest saltwater lake in the southern hemisphere. The house cost my father 3 times his yearly wage.

                      I am at roughly the same age now, I have a new but fairly average house in a new estate and I earn about double the mean wage. My house is over 6 times my yearly wage. Are we really better off? Yes we have more gadgets but that is not what is best in life. We have been fooled into being hooked on consumerism.
                    • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:5, Insightful)

                      by Xenogyst (1052270) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @07:21AM (#23762355)

                      "So yes, industrialisation made everyone better off"

                      Some of that is because we just changed where our poor are. The minimum wage in the Guangdong province, China (2004) is about $50-100 dollars a month, assuming 40 hours a weeks, is about $0.63-0.31 an hour. Which is about 12% of the current US minimum wage; roughly 8 times less.

                      The 3rd/2nd world is our real labor class.
                    • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:5, Interesting)

                      by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @08:08AM (#23762703) Journal
                      There is one line in this entire post that is very telling:

                      The industrial revolution merely widened the gap between the "haves" and "have nots".
                      So, it doesn't matter that the "have not" have MORE than they did before? This AC is pissed because someone increased the amount they have MORE than others, even though everyone ended up with more than they started? Are we so afraid that someone may have more than we do that we will accept poverty as long as there are no winners? What kind of crap is that?!!?

                      I'm reminded of an experiment someone did a while back (don't care to find the link), where people were allowed to play a gambling game where you could see you winnings and everyone else's. The game was rigged of course and set up so that the player would win some, but could also see that other people won less or even lost and some people won more. At the end of the game, they were given the option to reduce the winnings of the top winners and give it back to the "house", but it would cost the player a smaller percentage of their winnings. An overwhelming percentage of people (75% or something) chose to reduce the winnings of the top winners, even though it did not benefit them at all, and even actually cost them some of their own winnings. Maybe it's human nature to want poverty over prosperity as long as everyone suffers equally.

                    • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:4, Interesting)

                      by ArcherB (796902) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @08:33AM (#23762945) Journal
                      Found a reference to the experiment I was talking about above... and forgive me if this seems OT, but there is a point to be made here. People suffer from envy. I feel this is what has led to our reluctance to drill for oil, for example. I believe that many environmentalists are afraid that someone may make money off of it. Before Global Warming, drilling was banned in ANWR. The excuse given was that it may harm the porcupine caribou, as the area to be drilled was in the path of their annual mating migration. It didn't matter that the porcupine caribou had been actually doing better since starting another area of drilling in Prudhoe Bay, along the same migration path. Which leads me to wonder, if not because of the environmental concerns they were citing, then why the resistance?
                      Here [psu.edu]may be an explanation (it is the study I mentioned in the post above... and PDF warning):

                      We design an experiment where subjects can reduce (âoeburnâ) other subjectsâ(TM) Money. Those who burn the money of others have to give up some of their own cash. Despite this cost, and contrary to the assumptions of economics textbooks, the majority of our subjects choose to destroy at least part of othersâ(TM) money holdings. We vary experimentally the amount that subjects have to pay to reduce other peopleâ(TM)s cash. The implied price elasticity of burning is calculated; it is mostly less than unity. There is a strong correlation between wealth, or rank, and the amounts by which subjects are burnt. In making their decisions, many burners, especially disadvantaged ones, seem to care about whether another person âdeservesâ(TM) the money he has. Desert is not simply a matter of relative payoff.
                      To bring this back on topic, I fear that the REAL motivation behind some (not all) of th environmental concerns are part of this. How often do you hear the argument that drilling for new oil would "line the pockets of big oil CEO's"? So what? Why do I care if some big oil CEO if it will save me and everyone else $0.25 a gallon? I still end up ahead! What difference does it make if someone else ends up further ahead than I do? I understand that there may be legitimate environmental concerns, then why bring up how much money someone may make?

                      Anyway, the GP post is upset that even though workers will be better off, and environmental concerns are addressed, the "haves" will do better than everyone else.

                    • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:4, Insightful)

                      by spune (715782) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @08:43AM (#23763061)
                      'Progressives" inherently back progress. Throughout the past century progressives have been fighting to bring social justice, equality, and higher standards of living to people who were being exploited without restriction by large businesses and the rich.
                      The increase in American's standard of living is a testament to the labor movement, the women's right's movement, and the civil rights movement, all of which were part of the progressive movement. Before the progressive movement started, the benefits of industrialization were enjoyed only by a very small minority, the super-wealthy capitalists. Progressives spread these to the workers.
                    • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:4, Insightful)

                      by CAIMLAS (41445) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:01AM (#23764183) Homepage
                      'Progressives" inherently back progress.

                      Uh, yeah. And "Conservatives" inherently back conservation.

                      I've got news for you: progressives have only existed for a scant couple of years. Before that, they were self-identified as liberals, socialists, even communists. As those names became tarnished by their activities and policies, they moved onto the next most convenient label.
                    • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:5, Insightful)

                      by AshtangiMan (684031) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:24AM (#23764585)
                      I suppose that for me the really infuriating thing about the oil company CEO is that he is raking in my tax dollars in the guise of subsidies. I'd rather the oil market was unsubsidized and deal with that reality, where if I don't like it I can choose not to support it. But now even though I chose not to buy oil (in the form of gasoline) the bastards still have a hand in my pocket. I'm not sure why that doesn't infuriate you too, though there have been some experiments which examine that phenomenon.
                    • Re:Wait wait wait (Score:4, Insightful)

                      by demonbug (309515) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @03:49PM (#23770147) Journal

                      'Progressives" inherently back progress.

                      Uh, yeah. And "Conservatives" inherently back conservation.

                      I've got news for you: progressives have only existed for a scant couple of years. Before that, they were self-identified as liberals, socialists, even communists. As those names became tarnished by their activities and policies, they moved onto the next most convenient label.
                      Don't tell that to the Progressive [wikipedia.org] party. Pursuing such image-tarnishing activities as universal suffrage and the breakup of the Southern Pacific Railroad monopoly in California.

                      But yeah - obviously only a newly-invented label to hide the iniquities of those evil liberals.
                • Re:Food prices (Score:5, Informative)

                  by sleigher (961421) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:16PM (#23758749)
                  Brazil grows sugar cane and started back in the 70's. It is only in the past 5 or 10 years that they became energy independent so it took them decades. I am sure they had all sorts of growing pains but they should be commended for doing it. We should be doing it for the same reasons. Better to use a renewable fuel where we can and save the oil for what we really need it for. Moms SUV is not really a need to me. She can have ethanol or swift fuel.
              • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:07PM (#23758677)
                It's not a religion. Religions are based on faith. This is based on hysteria.
                • by Calledor (859972) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @11:25PM (#23759245)
                  This is based on an economic consequence. The infrastructure of America is built around the car, and not just any car, but a car that had 60 years of dirt cheap fuel. Our cities and towns are modeled around this. More importantly salaries are also adjusted for a much cheaper transportation cost. You have several options and none of them are particularly appetizing, and none of them have anything to do with global warming. You can produce your own fuel through biofuels, switch to electric cars, or produce more oil from costly hard to access oil reseviors which represent the last of your domestic supply. Nothing else is feasible despite all the fairy farts, adament denials, and heartfelt praying that might be offered. If you don't want to live where public transportation can be possible, then do not expect people to cry for you when something clearly predictable damages your ONLY source of personal transportation.
                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by Bruha (412869)
                    So you're telling me to uproot my family in Dallas where the cost of living is cheap, and move out to California where the cost of living is 4x what it is here. While I can transfer through work out there I will not get a salary boost and as such will be pretty much broke out there.

                    Public transportation is nice, but like you said cities were built around cars not busses and trains. There is NO public transportation where I live that would take me to where I work. I can not live near work because the cost
                  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                    by mpe (36238)
                    This is based on an economic consequence. The infrastructure of America is built around the car, and not just any car, but a car that had 60 years of dirt cheap fuel. Our cities and towns are modeled around this. More importantly salaries are also adjusted for a much cheaper transportation cost.

                    Changing all this would probably take rather longer than the 10 year estimate for changing all cars in the original article. Consider that fuel in the US is still considerably cheaper in many other places.

                    You hav
              • Re:Food prices (Score:4, Informative)

                by Burz (138833) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @11:59PM (#23759451) Journal
                Parent is trolling but I'll reply anyway.

                And since oil is a fungible commodity, the oil you "replaced" will simply be sold off and burned by someone else...
                So all substitutes and methods of reducing emissions are futile, eh? Or had it occurred to you that they are not being developed in a vacuum; that they just might be effective with a global cap-and-trade system?

                And FYI, switchgrass and other cellulose feedstocks are being developed in order to address the land use and runoff problems.

                I'll stop 'preaching' to you now and let you get back to your "facts".
                • Re:Food prices (Score:4, Informative)

                  by Z34107 (925136) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @08:54AM (#23763197)

                  So all substitutes and methods of reducing emissions are futile, eh? Or had it occurred to you that they are not being developed in a vacuum; that they just might be effective with a global cap-and-trade system?



                  Not what parent said; if we don't burn a barrel of oil because we have Magic Fairy Dust (tm), that barrel will just get burned by someone else. At least for the foreseeable future.



                  And "global cap-and-trade"? Are you kidding? Good luck getting every nation in the world to agree to that system. Good luck getting just China to agree to that system. Good luck getting everyone bound by that system to stop bickering over what their caps should be. And good luck having such a system function as it's actually intended to.



                  Getting the entire world to agree on a complicated system simultaneously is not a good way to solve world problems. Even if that problem would actually be solved by them doing so. The US has made greater progress on its would-be Kyoto goals than any Kyoto nation - and we didn't even sign the thing.



                  Now, biofuel is great and whatnot - biofuel and politics have killed a large chunk of the world economy. We subsidize corn ethanol to make the corn belt farmers happy. In the meantime, we have a huge tariff on imported ethanol - we can't buy alternative fuels from Brazil, for example, but we can buy crude oil from the Middle East. The result is a lot of corn diverted for ethanol production.



                  All this legislated corn-ethanol nonsense raises the price of corn - that's a side effect of doubling demand for it overnight. So, of course, some food prices go up too, but that's just for starters. The prices of other grains rise as well - they're "substitute goods", things people will use instead of the now-prices corn if they can. With the costs of every grain rising, livestock feed becomes more expensive, meaning practically everything you buy in a grocery store is more expensive. Meats, soda (corn syrup, remember) - all of it rising in price.



                  But it doesn't stop at just food, either. Soap is made in part from waste fats from slaughtered animals. As it becomes more expensive to feed livestock, even something as simple as soap becomes more expensive. We in America can generally deal with the rising food costs, but our Big Ag special-interest political games in the name of the "environment" come at the expense of the rest of the world.



                  Biofuel is great... If it happens on its own, and not when huge tracts of our economy are forcibly shifted so politicians can win the farm vote.

              • by Calledor (859972) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @12:42AM (#23759681)
                prior to the biofuels initiative or that you are against agriculture in the midwest that produces huge amounts of untreated runoff every year and has been since probably the mid 50s if not before. Remember at one point in time, before gasoline was discovered to be perfect for the combustion engine, ford considered ethenol. As it happens he chose gasoline because it was dirt cheap and they were dumping it straight into the Mississippi (I honestly cannot fathom how that must have smelled) since it was a by product. Mind you I'm not trying to justify this as a perfect circle or some other kind of historical asshatery but I find your most compelling arguement not only contrary to your final statement about global warming but also tangential to the issue.ãã Additionally, while oil will always be sold and burned off by someone else, decreasing the demand will decrease the price and also reduce the incentive for people to tap costlier reseviors.
              • Re:Food prices (Score:5, Insightful)

                by TapeCutter (624760) * on Thursday June 12, 2008 @12:54AM (#23759729) Journal
                "But don't try to tell any of this to the cult of global warming. They don't like facts interfering in their religion."

                Your post started of by making a good deal of sense, but then you brought politics into it and fucked it up. I am assuming you have done this because it's a popular US pastime to bash environmentalists and not because you have actually done any reasearch into climate science.

                The AGW 'cult' have been telling the neo-cons that corn to ethonol is a bad idea since before the first government subsidy cheque was cut. Yes the 'giant dead zone' is caused mainly by fertilzer run-off, but how about pointing out it existed well before the corporate welfare crowd started sponsering hairbrained biofuel schemes?

                OTOH, lets not let facts stand in the way of yet another contorted excuse to bash environmentalists, most of whom would agree with your stance that corn for fuel is an exceptionally bad idea.
              • Re:Food prices (Score:5, Insightful)

                by hedwards (940851) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:12AM (#23759817)
                And that's been seen before. It's the paradox of efficiency.

                Say we're only using domestic fuel and none can be exported. Yes, that's not realistic, but it makes things less complicated.

                As fuel efficiency is raised, the demand for oil dips, as the demand dips the price or supply must do so as well. Oil companies don't want to settle for less money so they're not going to lower production until they need to.

                The result is that in general people start to driver farther than they were, and the savings in efficiency disappears.

                In a scenario like this the government would step in and introduce a tax on the fuel being sold, to keep the price from dipping.

                In terms of the real world, you'd have OPEC reducing the supply to keep the fuel price from dropping and the incentive for people to be more efficient. Realistically, OPEC knows perfectly well that the oil will eventually dry up completely, and it's really in their interest to keep the rest of the world hooked as long as possible.
                • Re:Food prices (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by misanthrope101 (253915) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @07:18AM (#23762307)
                  Yes, but moving to alternative fuels lowers your dependence on oil, and when it dries up:
                  1. Everyone who didn't plan is screwed
                  2. You are not
                  If we don't plan ahead by investing heavily in alternatives, we'll have to figure it out at a time when resources are more scarce, energy is vastly more expensive, foreign firms have already patented things out the wazoo, and our society is struggling to reinvent itself on short notice.

                  Surely it isn't controversial to say that you should generally plan ahead for a big, ugly change that you already know is coming. I'm not the smartest cookie, but even I know that.

              • Re:Food prices (Score:5, Insightful)

                by misanthrope101 (253915) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @07:15AM (#23762283)
                Many, many environmentalists and left-wingers have been criticizing corn-based ethanol for some time. If you don't like food-based fuel for cars, then argue against that, and you might be surprized to find that a lot of people with different backgrounds, to include the crunchiest of the granola-heads, agreeing with you.

                But if you want to just heap contempt on liberals without actually trying to help... well, continue what you were doing.

              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by dmsuperman (1033704)
                In my first class in college, we learned about logical fallacies. One such fallacy is the "if there's no perfect solution, do nothing" fallacy. I swear, if you had only posted this a few years ago so that I might be able to use it for an example I might have gotten a better grade in that class.
            • by FiloEleven (602040) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:50PM (#23758997)

              I know if I was a farmer and had a chance to make more money growing a weed I would be all over it.
              Yeah, I tried that. You go to jail.
            • Re:Food prices (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Mr2001 (90979) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:48AM (#23760035) Homepage Journal

              I think the problem is that the people who do grow food might stand to make more money growing switchgrass so then the land for food will be used anyways. I know if I was a farmer and had a chance to make more money growing a weed I would be all over it.
              Well, why do you think farmers aren't doing that already? Why don't they all just switch to growing the single most valuable crop their land will manage?

              One reason is diversity. There's some risk in putting all your eggs in one basket. If the weather is wrong, or if your crops get hit by disease, planting two crops instead of one means you'll probably have something left instead of nothing.

              Another is the market. If a significant number of farmers stopped growing food crops in favor of switchgrass, the price of switchgrass would go down and the price of food crops would go up, and then it'd be profitable to switch back (or start new farms). So even if some farmers do switch, it'll balance out.
            • Re:Food prices (Score:5, Interesting)

              by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @02:52AM (#23760487) Journal
              If you was a farmer, would you be growing dent corn or regular corn? If you answered dent corn or I don't know, then you most likely wouldn't be growing food. The vast majority of corn grown is dent corn which isn't use for food except maybe starches and animal feed.

              On another note, Farmers usually plant 20,000-60,000 (Even as high as 80,000) corn plants per acre. Typically, 35 - 40k is common, at least in my area. With a 40,000 plant population, you are going to get around 200-210 bushels of corn which translates into about 28 tons or 25 metric tons (tonne) per acre (65% moisture). Now, according to this site [sciam.com], you can get about 5.2 metric tons of switch grass per hectare (around 7 acres). So that is around 175 tonnes for corn compared to around 5 tonnes for switch grass. You don't need to plow and seed switch grass, I assume it is the typical 2-3 cuttings a year like with hay though so some bailing and repeated cutting passes would probable make up for the plowing and seeding and it would probably be equal in fuel usage because fuel rate is calculated by PTO work.

              Now the interesting part, you get around 28% product above what it costs to make the ethanol (the article says 25%) with corn. With the switch grass, you would get around 540% (per the article). Now the article is considering using the pulp as fuel for the refining process with switch grass but I assume that using silage from the corn crop could produce similar results if it wasn't ground up and left in the field. But you would likely gain around 49 tonnes of potential energy using the corn compared to 28 tonnes of potential energy going with switch grass in it's place. Now assuming the end product is going to be worth the same amount and the costs would be adjusted to reflect this in the pricing which means it would be better off to plant the switch grass on marginal lands in flood planes or other non-tillable and poor producing lands. Specking Soybeans in it every so often could possible take care of the nitrogen problems but a lot of the low lying marginal lands are already run off filters for existing crops which means they get carryover from fertilizers already in use.

              I really don't think it would be beneficial to plant that instead of an existing crop unless the land is already so poor that it doesn't yield right on existing crops like corn. I don't see too much difference between silage and switch grass so an added benefit of planting corn might be a small amount of usable cellulose material that could be sold in addition to existing crop prices. You wouldn't want to do it every year but every other or maybe even every 3 years in between the last rotation might be a considerable source of product. It would take some work to store it but you might get about the same amount of material as if you harvested switch grass. There should be about 1 ton of silage ( metric tonne) for every 5 or 6 or so bushels of corn which translates to around 40 tons (about 36 tonnes) per acre (280 tons and 256 tonnes per hectare) which surprisingly is more then a crop of switch grass and is currently a by product tossed on the ground (it serves more of a purpose then waste though).
    • Re:Food prices (Score:4, Informative)

      by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:37PM (#23758435) Homepage Journal

      Where does the ethanol come from?

      According to TFA, while they can make it from almost any plant, they're starting with sorghum:

      "...sorghum, which isn't a typical U.S. crop, can produce six times the ethanol per acre of corn, turning on its head the argument that ethanol production consumes more energy than it produces. China, the third largest producer of ethanol after Brazil and the U.S., is switching entirely to sorghum for its ethanol production."
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        ...sorghum, which isn't a typical U.S. crop, can produce six times the ethanol per acre of corn...

        Factor of six sounds high. I admit these figures [journeytoforever.org] are old, but...

        Yield of 99.5% ethanol per acre from:
        Sorghum cane: 500 gallons
        Corn: 214 gallons
        Grain sorghum: 125 gallons

        ...turning on its head the argument that ethanol production consumes more energy than it produces.

        Only David Pimental believes that, and he's in the pay of the oil companies.

        • by Facetious (710885) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @10:29PM (#23758831) Journal
          My sense from the Cringely article is that the "six times" number refers to net energy. Then again, I read the article Friday and my memory is subject to exponential decay.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Alsee (515537)
          Corn is a pretty bad crop selection for making ethanol. The water, fertilizer, direct and indirect energy requirements for growing corn are quite high. Pessimistic estimates put corn ethanol as a net negative production, but even optimistic estimates put the costs at a large fraction of the gross output. For ever gallon of corn ethanol you make you need to burn away most of that gallon to make the next gallon of corn ethanol.

          According to this source(*) [checkbiotech.org] on sweet sorghum:

          yields between 500 to 800 gallons of e
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zaatxe (939368)
      This food price increasing because of ethanol is pure bullshit. Brazil produces ethanol from sugar cane since the 1970's and never experienced food price rising BECAUSE of this. My father has an ethanol-only 1989 Ford Belina, I have a flex Renault Clio (flex cars in Brazil runs with any mixture of gasoline and ethanol and I've been using only ethanol since I bought it about 2 years ago) and I also had a ethanol-only 1992 Ford Escort. So, if ethanol was the only cause of food price rising, food would be expe
  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:26PM (#23758329) Homepage Journal
    It also happens to be about $2 a gallon cheaper than gasoline for the next five minutes."

    There. Fixed it for ya.
  • Oil != Gas (Score:4, Informative)

    by corsec67 (627446) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:30PM (#23758363) Homepage Journal
    Even if they use ethanol from algae, hemp, switchgrass, or sugar cane, this might reduce our need for oil, but it can't replace oil used for other things like plastic.

    If this is made using ethanol from corn, then diesel is used in the production of this, and it causes food prices to increase.

    What is wrong with using a vegetable oil in a diesel engine? That is a bio-fuel with low processing requirements.
    • Re:Oil != Gas (Score:5, Informative)

      by linzeal (197905) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @09:50PM (#23758553) Homepage Journal
      Corn based plastics [csmonitor.com] are just the tip of the iceberg, we will be seeing dozens of new plant based plastics in the decade. Just because oil has been used for a 100 years doesn't mean that they will even need it in another 100.
      • Re:Oil != Gas (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PatrickThomson (712694) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @05:49AM (#23761655)
        It's not just plastics, lots of things depend on ground-sourced chemicals that are extremely uneconomical to make from plants. I always stay out of oil debates because there's a temptation to repeatedly scream "OIL IS NOT JUST FOR CARS!". I'm biased though, being a pharmaceutical chemist. Everything I handle every day is sourced from oil, and it's only going to get more expensive. Ethyl acetate would be a rare exception, but for the fact that it's made from inorganically-sourced ethanol! How's that for irony.
  • by ayjay29 (144994) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:39AM (#23759993)
    There's been so many articles on what fuel, or what car is going to be big in the next few years. Seems to me we have had the answer [cannondale.com] around for a number of years.

    I usually cycle to work in the summer, in Stockholm its quicker than driving or taking the subway, and parking is not a problem. It's easy to stay fit cycling and, provided you find a good route, probably a lot safer than driving.

    There's bound to be a bunch of excuses about not having a great route to work, or living too far from work etc. But it's something to think about if you re-locate or change jobs. I have not owned a car for over 10 years, and for 9 of them i have commuted on an old city bike a got for $60. I've probably spent another $50 on maintainance in that time. Add in all the health benifits, and money saved, and it does seem to be a pretty sane option to consider.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday June 12, 2008 @01:44AM (#23760011) Homepage Journal

    Everything we make Ethanol from is based on soil.

    All mass agriculture is based on petrochemical fertilizers. The tomatoes that you buy at the local supermarket are fertilized with oil! Oh sure, not directly...

    Here's the biggest lie, though: "It also happens to be about $2 a gallon cheaper than gasoline." In reality, the true cost of both this fuel and gasoline are much much higher than what you see (or would see, in this case of this fuel) at the pump.

    See, the cost of gasoline is human lives. Whatever you think about the reasons for our current military activities, we have definitely gone to war for oil. Not to steal oil, of course, but simply to increase its value. See, when oil goes up anywhere in the world, it goes up everywhere in the world, because it's a global commodity.

    Interestingly, so is corn, which is where we get most of our Ethanol. While in theory we can produce cellulosic ethanol from things we would normally burn, releasing the CO2 into the atmosphere for no reason and without benefit, it really hasn't turned out to be that profitable and so it has gone largely unexplored. Of course, that corn is fertilized with oil, so when it comes right down to it, Ethanol as we use it in America today is a fossil fuel.

    Really, this is the ultimate rub with all topsoil-based fuels: while through careful management it is possible to fertilize fields simply through rotation and the use of your own shit, we actually waste our humanure instead of growing plants with it. Consequently the plants must be fertilized with non-human byproducts (e.g. blood meal, bone meal, animal shit, et cetera) in the case of organic farming, or with petroleum-based products (typically, anyway) in the case of mass factory farming (the so-called "Green Revolution".) Taking this thought a step further, as we're currently not feeding the soil that our food comes from, how do we plan to feed the soil that we're going to feed our cars from? I don't know if you've noticed, but they have rapacious appetites. It might be because they weigh an order of magnitude more than a human, and have an engine under 25% efficient, but what do I know? I'm not a physicist. I could be wrong.

    I found your comment unrefreshingly naive when you said "Or is it just some evil price fixing conspiracy to make their 5% profits worth more?" The oil companies are making record profits right now, vastly more than 5%. On top of that, yes, yes it is just an evil conspiracy. Keep in mind that any time two or more people get together to screw at least one other person, it's a conspiracy. Conspiracies to fuck you out of money really are everywhere. This should not be a revelation by now, either.

    Anyway, one more time: The only liquid fuel technology which does not have some horrible defect that makes it at least as bad as what we're already doing is algae-based biodiesel. It still has nasty emissions compared to anything you actually want to breathe (so does vegetable oil, honestly - though it's different) but it is actually potentially better than carbon neutral.

    See, essentially all the carbon plants are made of (and it is their primary building block of course) is harvested from the air. Once you separate the lipids from the rest of the algae, the remainder is useful as fertilizer, high in nitrogen. You know, so you don't need ANFO, which makes a better bomb than a soil food. Oh, it's an OK plant food, but it's no good for the soil. Without healthy soil (soil is not just some mineral dust, it is a community of living organisms AND mineral dust AND the organic but decomposing remnants of organisms past, and should be at least 60% organic material) you cannot grow a proper plant.

    The Amazon is on the verge of collapse, Brazil is about to become an incredibly shitty place to live (aside from the Favelas, which are already incredibly shitty.) Topsoil-based fuels

  • by McWilde (643703) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @03:09AM (#23760605) Homepage
    These guys [sapphireenergy.com] are promising a biofuel that is exactly like fossil crude oil [greencrudeproduction.com]. It could be mixed in with the petro crude and refined into any currently available fuel.
  • by BucketOfLard (928627) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @07:03AM (#23762191)
    Problem: We're running out of cheap oil.
    Solution: Kill more dinosaurs.

    That was easy.
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @08:06AM (#23762683)
    Electricity != Combustion Fuels

    Th reason why we use combustion fuels is because the energy density is amazing. OK, so we use gasoline very inefficiently, and could double our efficiency without altering the shape and size of vehicles, but it is still a very efficient power to weight ratio.

    Batteries are inefficient and costly as well as an environmental disaster to produce and recycle.

    Maybe if we can make giant low leak capacitors, that would be better, but battery or capacitor, gasoline is still more stable than shorted high current wires in a car crash.

    Even with a hybrid, you still got gasoline.

    The answer, I think, has to be a clean burning fuel, maybe some form of alcohol. Seriously, in new england at least, we loose every leaf on most of our trees every year. If we were to rake that all up, press the oil out of it and ferment the available sugars, that may be some real energy for combustion.

    Wind turbines in every house. Solar panels on the roofs. DC appliances. LED lighting. solid state refrigeration. symbiotic appliances, i.e. refrigerators that extract heat and aid the the devices that produce heat. Like a water heater that is aided by the hot side of the peltier device of the fridge.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken

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