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Response to Green Algae Strategy Review

I have received a response from Mark Edwards, auther of Green Algae Strategy: End Oil Imports And Engineer Sustainable Food And Fuel. I reviewed the book here recently, and as I indicated in the conclusion of the review I would gladly post any of Mark’s comments. So, here they are in full. I have added clarifications, such as to indicate when Mark is quoting me [e.g., RR quote]. I have otherwise tried to keep the formatting consistent with what Mark sent me. No further response from me.

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Response to Green Algae Strategy Review

Thank you for the review and the opportunity to respond to your thoughtful comments. Your observations are right on target for someone focused on algal oil as a liquid transportation fuel.

Remember that food energy is actually more important to humans that liquid transportation fuels. We can survive without transportation assistance but we starve quickly without food energy. I see no way to produce algae economically purely for liquid transportation fuels. The only way production makes sense will be to grow massive amounts of algae biomass, harvest the lipids for transportation energy and use the protein and carbohydrates to produce additional forms of energy, including especially food and feed.


RR quote: “Either Mark Edwards is dead wrong, or I am dead wrong.”

On the future of any topic, especially science, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Skeptics abound in the algae space and the leading skeptic, Dr. John Benemann, speaks at all the algae conferences and stands in stark contrast to many other equally experienced scientists who do not share his natural pessimism. John revels in his reputation for pessimism. Other scientists engaged in the Aquatic Species Report have a completely opposite view. Several are working for companies that are producing algae for fuel. Professor Milton Sommerfeld at ASU and a co-author on the Report, has been producing algal oil for jet fuel in the laboratory and a field setting for several years.

Speculation on cost per gallon of algal oil is useless until we see actual field production. The good news on this front is that I have seen the following:

• Cost reduction of algal oil production — one order of magnitude in the last two years
• Cost reduction on algal extraction — two new methods promise two orders of magnitude
• Cost reduction on energy for mixing — one order of magnitude in the last two years

These cost reductions will be reflected in various producers’ cost models. American scientists and engineers are exceptionally talented at taking costs out of production.

The real question is not the cost of algal oil per gallon but the value of the total culture. The best production models I’ve reviewed have only about 30% of the algal biomass value going to fuel. That means 70% of the biomass produces other coproducts from the protein and carbohydrates. Those many coproducts are examined in analyzed in Chapters 7 and 10 in Green Algae Strategy.

Green solar energy captured in algae creates a portable energy source and grows biomass with solar energy stored in forms that may be used for a variety of purposes:

• People – organic protein in food
• Animals – organic protein in fodder
• Fowl – natural protein for birds
• Fish – natural protein in fish feed
• Land plants – organic nitrogen fertilizer
• Fire – high energy algal oil for cooking and heating
• Cars – carbohydrates refined to gasoline for transportation
• Trucks and tractors – high energy clean, green diesel
• Trains, boats, barges and ships – high energy clean diesel
• Planes – high energy, clean aviation gas and jet fuel

Algae also offer low energy and low cost pollution solutions to clean waste, brine or salt water, sequester CO2 from coal fired power plant plumes and recover abandoned soils. This presentation will highlight the status of the algal industry with a focus on food and energy.

RR quoting a study that I cited in the review: What about the value of sequestered carbon in algae-based biofuels? In short, there isn’t any. Atmospheric carbon is only sequestered for a short time until it’s burned in an engine. Under existing biofuels mandates in most industrialized countries, there will be no opportunity to sell carbon offsets unless fuel production is additional, or beyond such mandates.

This criticism ignores the fact that algae-based biofuels recycle atmospheric carbon and every gallon displaces a gallon of fossil fuel. When algal production occurs with no fossil energy, the production is carbon neutral because the carbon dioxide is simply being recycled. In contrast, cropland-based biofuels such as ethanol emits more carbon than burning natural gas directly due to the huge amounts of fossil fuels needed to produce corn.

I recently presented a paper demonstrating our work with Desert Sweet Biofuels where we produced carbon negative algal biomass by using a gasifier and creating bio-char. The gasifier burned biomass in a oxygen starved container creating hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The hydrogen was burned for energy to create electricity while the carbon dioxide was flued into algal ponds to produce algal biomass. Our calculations showed that we sequestered only about 10% of the total carbon — the bio char that was scratched into fields. The University of Arizona is currently conducting research to see what percentage of that bio char stays in the soil and for how long. Other research suggests that much of the bio char stay sequestered for decades.

Several countries are financing gasifiers in the U.S. for algal oil production for carbon trade off-sets.


RR quote: Edwards falls prey to the Vinod Khosla fallacy on cellulosic ethanol: This is simply too important and there are too many companies working on this to fail.

Vinod Khosla gave an excellent keynote at the 2009 Algal Summit in Seattle where he outlined his reasoning for not investing in algal production. His primary points were that he needed to see actual production before making investments and that the industry needed to do a better job at conveying the value proposition for algae.


RR quote: He is sufficiently skeptical about the near term prospects for cellulosic ethanol, and is harsh in his assessment of corn ethanol (even more so than I have been).

My prior book, Biowar I: Why Battles over Food and Fuel Lead to World Hunger examines the entire ethanol fiasco including energy and cost models. BioWar I is available for free PDF download with color speaker notes at http://greenindependence.org/. Every claim made for ethanol has turned out to be false. Consider that 2009 production of ethanol produce about 9 billion gallons of ethanol (the DOE Target) and will consume:

• 40 million acres of prime American cropland
• 2 trillion gallons of fresh water for irrigation
• 5 billion gallons of diesel fuel for corn production

The 2009 ethanol production will create severe pollution of air, water and soils while reducing imported oil by about 3%. Algal production, when commercially viable, could produce far more ethanol or other higher energy fuels using no or minimal cropland, fresh water or fossil fuels.

BioWar I covers the research on cellulosic ethanol which, for litany of reasons including that it takes too much fresh water and energy, makes no sense for biofuel production. Cellulosic products may turn out to be an excellent source of carbon for the production of algal oil. BioWar I concludes that our best policy is to end subsidies for ecologically destructive production such as ethanol and big oil and to shift subsidies to ecologically friendly production such as algal biomass. Subsidies played a key role in the review.


RR quote: He blames the lack of progress for algae on lack of funding, which is blamed on corn ethanol. This, he argues, was the politically favorable biofuel that sucked up all the R&D funding (and subsidies). He later writes “If corn ethanol makes sense, the market will reward it without taxpayer monies or protectionist tariffs.” Can’t we say the same about algal fuel?

Making corn whiskey, ethanol, is a 200-year-old technology. Subsidies are useful for changing consumer behavior and supporting new technologies. Subsidizing corn and the many inputs for growing corn for ethanol make no sense and are ecologically destructive. Algal production does not need protectionist tariffs but does need public monies to develop the knowledge base to grow massive amounts of biomass. The two top threats I see to the algal industry are subsidy-based. Lack of government subsidies, which began in the 1990’s at the end of the Aquatic Species Program led to: (Subsidies were shifted to corn ethanol.)

a. No support for academic, institute or government algal research. As a consequence, the US has few algae labs, nearly no American algal professors and very few students trained in algal production. Lack of trained scientists and graduate students put the U.S. at severe disadvantage in algal production.

b. An algal industry constrained by vertical markets. Each algal company jealously protect its intellectual property and does not share bubble research or breakthroughs. Even the scientific meetings are full of statements that the scientist cannot share real numbers because they have signed on disclosure agreements with their employers or grantors.

The R&D necessary for successful algal production will take more money than is available from private investors. Who wants to invest $500 million on R&D. Investors want a fast return and are not willing to fund sufficient R&D. Failing government subsidies, the industry will sputter for decades. Then, when humanity desperately needs sustainable food and energy solutions, we will discover that the intellectual property for production is locked up by a very few producers who monopolize production to the detriment of all humanity.


RR paraphrase: To commercially grow them in the Midwest –pipedream.

Watch. Within 10 years, most the farms in the Midwest will use algal production to:

a. Recover and recycle energy in agricultural waste streams, especially manure
b. Recover and recycle nutrients in agricultural waste streams
c. Reduce the ecological damage and carbon footprint for agricultural production

Yes, many producers may use greenhouses and geothermal energy for algal production. However, cold tolerant algal species may flourish in the Midwest especially during the normal growing season.


RR paraphrase: Energy return not covered.

Correct. No one can credibly address energy return until production specifications and costs are determined. However, the production of algal biomass using solar, wind and geothermal energy avoid the issue of fossil fuel use. Two new extraction technologies promise significant reduction in energy requirements. One method uses simple air flocculation and another uses ultrasonic waves to break up the algal cells and separate the oil from the other biomass. The ultrasonic solution allows the oil to flow to the top where it can be skimmed off at very low cost.

RR paraphrase: Casually dismiss technical challenges

The technical challenges are treated with seriousness and focus. True, most are not solved in the book. An entire chapter examines each technical challenge and what needs to be done to successfully produce algal oil. In addition, the table in the last chapter provides a summary of the technical challenges and the R&D needed.


RR quote: Page 13: As a criticism of using food crops for fuel, he states that massive planting of corn leads to high humidity because the leaves transpire water. This leads to thunderstorms and potentially tornadoes. That large areas planted in corn can increase the risk of tornadoes is something I have never heard before.

Neither had I before doing the research for BioWar I and Green Algae Strategy.


RR quote: Page 150: When writing that algal fuel mimics fossil fuels without fossilization, he writes “Skipping the fossilization step not only saves 200 million years of pressure and heat, but lowers production costs significantly.” I can’t really comprehend this one.

Consider the true cost of production for fossil fuels. Failing government subsidies, fossil fuels would cost around $15 a gallon and that’s ignoring their ecological cost. Oil fields must be found and developed at huge cost. Extraction and transportation add significant additional costs.

Imagine growing algae locally for fuel production when the inputs are only sunshine, carbon dioxide and wastewater.


RR quote: Page 179: He cites a claim by Aurora Biofuels that their process creates biodiesel with yields 125 times higher and 50% cheaper than current methods. I am going to presume that this was supposed to read 125% higher and not 125 times higher.

You are correct.


RR quoting from the book: Page 204: “When someone invents a carbon capture filter for vehicle exhaust pipes, there will be a nearly limitless supply of low-cost CO2 for growing algae.”

I think this is a great idea. A Brit has developed the vehicle exhaust filter. This is only one of many new and some recycled ideas presented to spur algal production.

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June 15, 2009 - Posted by | algal biodiesel, DOE, green diesel, john benemann, Mark Edwards

29 Comments

  1. Green solar energy captured in algae creates a portable energy source and grows biomass with solar energy stored in forms that may be used for a variety of purposes:• People – organic protein in foodSOYLENT GREEN ENERGY IS PEOPLE!!!Sorry, I just had to say that…

    Comment by Anonymous | June 15, 2009

  2. The bottom line is it took about 300 million years of algae and phyto-plankton growth to produce the oil we've burned in a little more than 100 years.Obviously, it is possible to make liquid fuel from algae, Mother Nature has shown us that. The question is how we could ever scale up production to compress those millions of years into a matter of a few months?And how can we handle the logistics of the billions of tons of algae it would take to produce the 31 billion barrels of oil the world uses per year? (2006)The question isn't the process. The question is the scale and time compression needed.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | June 15, 2009

  3. Hmmm, you lost me at $15 a gallon.Unless I'm mistaken, the U.S. oil industry is extremely profitable at $50/barrel ($1.19/gallon).Not only that, it is a NET tax payer.Meaning that it pays tax. Sure, it might get a few tax breaks here and there, but it still pays tax.So are we to belive that there are costs somewhere else amounting to $580/barrel? (15-1.19 x 42 gallons/barrel)If US production is 5 million barrels a day then the daily cost of this subsidy is $2.9billion/day.'Cmon, not even the Iraq was is that expensive.Pull the other one, its got bells on it.Andy

    Comment by Andytk | June 15, 2009

  4. If algae is a promising source of liquid fuel, our nation's very vibrant venture capital community would pounce on it. Why we still require government-backed algae labs, at this late date, is beyond me. Unless, algae (sadly) is just a no-go. Believe me, the global market for liquid fuels is gigantic. I can hardly think of a larger market. You don't think the VC boys would kill to make algae oil? My memory is that a several VC outfits have poured money into algae oil, and it hasn't happened. Meanwhile, the gas boys in Louisiana have uncovered incredible huge supplies of NG without any government help.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | June 15, 2009

  5. How can I take anything he says seriously? His numbers regarding ethanol are so far out of reality (ex. he's off by an order of approx 70 when discussing diesel fuel use – 70 Million Gallons vs. 5 Billion Gallons) that he, obviously, is just blowing smoke, and trying to sell books.Another example: We're raising an extra 14 million acres of corn, NOT 40 Million Acres.Only 56,000 acres of that was irrigated. Is he saying we poured Two Trillion Gallons on 56,000 Acres? What is that? About 40 Million Gallons/Acre?Wow!Looney Tunes.

    Comment by rufus | June 15, 2009

  6. Um, that should be 560,000 irrigated acres. About 4,000,000 Gallons per Acre.

    Comment by rufus | June 15, 2009

  7. Beaten to it!Soylent Green occurred to me too.

    Comment by PeteS | June 15, 2009

  8. "Remember that food energy is actually more important to humans that liquid transportation fuels. We can survive without transportation assistance but we starve quickly without food energy." I don't think I'd survive too well without transportation fuels bringing me food from the farms, even if I had a productive back yard garden. Is algae supposed to replace corn as the basis of our food supply? Replace corn feed for our animals, replace corn syrup in our beverages, etc? An interesting idea."Watch. Within 10 years, most the farms in the Midwest will use algal production to: a. Recover and recycle energy in agricultural waste streams, especially manureb. Recover and recycle nutrients in agricultural waste streamsc. Reduce the ecological damage and carbon footprint for agricultural production" Is Algal production better for this than anaerobic digestion of manure for generating power from the biogas while converting the methane to a less potent GHG, and returning the phosphorus nutrients in the remaining slurry the to the soil? Would algal production take up less space, be cheaper, less complicated or more efficient than anaerobic digestion?"Correct. No one can credibly address energy return until production specifications and costs are determined. However, the production of algal biomass using solar, wind and geothermal energy avoid the issue of fossil fuel use." You could claim the same thing about the alleged 5 billion gallons of diesel needed to produce corn ethanol in 2009. Replace the diesel with biodiesel and avoid the issue of fossil fuel use. Would the solar, wind and geothermal energy be better used directly, or is there additional benefit to be gained in recycling it into algae biomass?

    Comment by Clee | June 15, 2009

  9. RR wrote: That large areas planted in corn can increase the risk of tornadoes is something I have never heard before.Edwards wrote: Neither had I before doing the research for BioWar I and Green Algae Strategy.Care to share your sources for that, or is it confidential?

    Comment by Clee | June 15, 2009

  10. Ben,The International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles claims there are some 9.5 million nat. gas vehicles on the road world-wide.http://www.iangv.org/John

    Comment by Anonymous | June 15, 2009

  11. Cited study: What about the value of sequestered carbon in algae-based biofuels? In short, there isn’t any. Atmospheric carbon is only sequestered for a short time until it’s burned in an engine. Under existing biofuels mandates in most industrialized countries, there will be no opportunity to sell carbon offsets unless fuel production is additional, or beyond such mandates. Edwards: This criticism ignores the fact that algae-based biofuels recycle atmospheric carbon and every gallon displaces a gallon of fossil fuel. When algal production occurs with no fossil energy, the production is carbon neutral because the carbon dioxide is simply being recycled. If the point is that you don't need to sequester carbon to sell carbon offsets, I can agree with that. But if the point is to say that something that is (or could be) carbon neutral and displaces fossil fuel therefore sequesters carbon, then I can't agree. Nobody pretends that solar, wind or geothermal energy, while displacing fossil fuel usage is "carbon sequestering", and burning algae biodiesel in a car engine isn't carbon sequestering either.Biochar is interesting. Sequestering 10% of the carbon is something, though obviously it's not 100%. On the other hand, you can make biochar using any biomass, and it makes no difference if the 10% carbon sequestered came from a coal plant smoke stack or the air in a forest or cow manure.

    Comment by Clee | June 15, 2009

  12. Consider that 2009 production of ethanol produce about 9 billion gallons of ethanol (the DOE Target) and will consume:• 40 million acres of prime American cropland• 2 trillion gallons of fresh water for irrigation• 5 billion gallons of diesel fuel for corn production.Can that be right?If it is, it means that you need about 0.93 BTU of diesel fuel for every BTU of corn ethanol you produce. Even before one factors in the natural gas used for distillation. That seems overly pessimistic. RR?

    Comment by Optimist | June 16, 2009

  13. john-Thanks for that tip. I think we can sfaely say that CNG vehicles are a proven technology, and sfae to use. Can they be commercial? I don't know. Kinu raises some tough q's. But the fact that we have seemingly limitless supplies of NG, and can drive CNG cars means that doom scenarios just don't hold water. Life may slightly less convenient, though our air will be cleaner. I cab live with that trade-off. And, I suspect, over time designers will find ways to make CNG easier to use. TOD=The Oracle of Defeatism.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Coile | June 16, 2009

  14. Optimist, after allowing for distillers grains you will get in the neighborhood of 700 gallons of ethanol per acre. It requires about 5 gallons of diesel to farm an acre of corn. So, figuring 10.5 Billion gallons of ethanol this year, that would be 15 million acres X 5 gal = 75 million gallons of diesel. 5 billion gallons? Lunacy.

    Comment by rufus | June 16, 2009

  15. This deep into the corn ethanol controversy, it's disheartening to see such distorted numbers about the basics. Clearly Dr. Edwards forfeits any presumption of him being a knowledgeable or unbiased observer of either algae or corn ethanol when he can't even get a few obvious key ethanol statistics right. He seems to be as goofy as Dr. Pimentel. I can't say I'll waste the time to read the rest of his algae analysis. And Rufus knows those numbers are wrong, but I don't understand where he gets his numbers either. The facts are not hard to come by: 2008-2009 planted corn crop =~86 million acres, and about 30%+ for corn ethanol, so about 26 million corn ethanol acres. Even RFA says over 10% of US corn is currently irrigated, and USDA says 17% was irrigated in 2002, so that means 2.6 – 4.42 mil irrigated corn acres. Probably about 15 inches (1.25 acre ft) of water needed for average irrigated system, so that does come to 400,000 gallons (not 4 million, Rufus) per acre (~2000 gal/bu, or about 700 gal per gallon of ethanol produced, as shown by several peer-reviewed studies this year and last). Even if only 10% of ethanol is from irrigated corn, that 700 gal/gal spread over entire ethanol pool still means ~70 gallons of water for every gallon of US ethanol. Of course, Edwards' diesel fuel number is also horribly distorted, since it's probably closer to ~0.03 gal diesel per gallon of ethanol, so maybe ~0.2 bil gallons, using USDA 2005 numbers of ~10 gal/acre combined diesel / gasoline. That's just the liquid fuel for tractors & trucks, not diesel equivalents for fertilizer, pesticides etc.

    Comment by OxyMaven | June 16, 2009

  16. Rufus, how on earth do you get 700 gallons ethanol per acre, 'allowing for distillers grains'?? Please share your math on that. 150 bu /acre x 2.8 gal per bushel = 420 gallons / acre, plus about 1.2 tons of DDGs. How do the DDGs give you more ethanol?

    Comment by Anonymous | June 16, 2009

  17. Oxymaven, it's figured that only 4% of the corn that actually goes into ethanol is irrigated. Just because some corn in Texas is irrigated does NOT mean it's going into ethanol, for example.Okay, here's the figures, Anonymous. You get back 40% of your cattle feeding ability in the form of distillers grains. This is Very Important. This means that if you're growing corn for cattle feed (over 60% of corn is used for this purpose) you only have to grow another 0.6 of an acre to get your 420 gallons of ethanol.420/.6 = 700Ethanol opponents Scream when I post this, but, reality is reality.BTW, the odds are pretty good that the yield this year will be closer to 160 bu/acre. It was 154 last year, and millions of acres had to be replanted because of the floods.

    Comment by rufus | June 16, 2009

  18. And, again, Oxymaven, if you put 400,000 gallons of water on corn that will be turned into Ethanol, AND DDGS, you must charge 40% (160,000 gallons) against the Distillers Grains. BTW, most of the irrigation water does NOT come from the deep aquifers, but, instead from fairly shallow riverbed supplies. And, of course, most of it goes right back in. Some is transpired out to fall in the next county, or state. It's not nearly as big a thing as it's made out to be, sometimes.That nat gas frac'in uses a fair amount of water, also. As do Oil Refineries, and old oil wells.

    Comment by rufus | June 16, 2009

  19. There was one comment among many by algae author Mark Williams which caught my attention. And it is the most basic of facts in the global fuel equation which people still seem to miss and miss again.{One method uses simple air flocculation and another uses ultrasonic waves to break up the algal cells and separate the oil from the other biomass. The ultrasonic solution allows the oil to flow to the top where it can be skimmed off at very low cost.}Algae cultivation at whatever high costs still produces oils. And all oils still float on this planet's water bodies. That is why these algae oils can be skimmed off the surface of water after being hit by microwaves as mentioned and forced out of the algae mass itself.Finished biodiesel produced from green algae oils is clarified using water. What a waste! And this same substitute biodiesel can be produced from cultivated algae, soy, palm or recycled vegetable oil greases or animal fats. Each and every variety of oil including petroleum crude still floats on water. This is the most basic problem which everybody seems to miss!The incomplete combustion of hydrocarbon oils (or hydrocarbon coal) – whether refined petroleum-based oils, recycled french fry grease, other oil-bearing crops like jatropha, soy or palm oils – this incomplete combustion of OILS is what we see and breathe as brown urban smog.And my belief is that smog is globally so intense now that it blows between continents affecting six billion-plus people and all other living creatures. This airborne oil phase separates from the planet's atmosphere of water vapor. We term it "smog' and this is what is driving climate change phenomenah let alone making people and animals sick with various forms of respiratory distress.All of these OILs, whether petroleum-based or agri-based – are missing that Oxygen Atom in their end-product fuel recipe. If Oxygen derived from steam were introduced, then these oils would become water soluble, oil soluble, coal soluble, AND biodegradable alcohols instead! See it now? Anybody?This is the game changer. Not busting oils out of intensively farmed algae with microwave flocculation techniques.Then, why grow algae via extremely intense farming with water raceways, waterborne nutrients plus sunlight and CO2? Why chop down rainforest to grow new acres of palm oil? Why plant and water any agri-based corn or soy or switchgrass crop simply for it's carbon (fuel) content when so much waste carbon is available in ground tires, biomass woody leftovers, garbage, sewer sludge, petroleum coke and even CO2 is readily available for recycling?The refined, finished algae oils only contain hydrogen and carbon, ie: basic hydrocarbon like the best refined petroleum hydrocarbon. Add one Oxygen Atom derived from boiling water into steam and presto – alcohol is produced instead.I think people are missing this basic chemistry involving Oxygen which is so simple. However, I agree, that the "next-gen" focus here in alternative fuels has recently switched massively towards algae. A few short years ago the focus was on compressed hydrogen fuel cells. Last week we were discussing compressed natural gas.There needs to be some paradigm shifts in feedstock processing methods – ie: thermal steam as the front-end process driver. Batch fermentation using acidic enzymes and yeasts or nasty ecoli biobugs isn't the process answer here. RR thank you for your latest book review. And thank you Mark Edwards for your thoughtful and very insightful comments as well. So much for my online college class today. Just my 2¢ worth.Cliff

    Comment by Anonymous | June 16, 2009

  20. OT/BTW:Of late there have been a few futurists proclaiming the ned of global trade, as oil will cost too much. I did a little 'net search, and evidently there are plans afoot to build ships propelled by natural gas. Curiously, there are also "CNG" ships that could capture "stranded natural gas" and re-sell it. RR might know what that means. In any event, since the globe looks flush with NG for decades, it is probably premature to sing about the collapse of shipping just yet. Never bet against man's ingenuity in free, well-capitalized societies.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | June 16, 2009

  21. Optimist ~ "If it is, it means that you need about 0.93 BTU of diesel fuel for every BTU of corn ethanol you produce. Even before one factors in the natural gas used for distillation."Optimist,Have you seen any farmers ready to give up their diesel-powered ag equipment in exchange for alcohol-powered farm equipment?Corn farming is diesel fuel intensive. Take away that diesel fuel (and the natural gas used for fertilizer and distillation) and there would be no corn ethanol industry.

    Comment by Rocket 88 | June 16, 2009

  22. after allowing for distillers grains you will get in the neighborhood of 700 gallons of ethanol per acre. It requires about 5 gallons of diesel to farm an acre of corn.With all due respect, Rufus, those numbers do not sound even remotely realistic. You have a source for those numbers?Probably about 15 inches (1.25 acre ft) of water needed for average irrigated system, so that does come to 400,000 gallons (not 4 million, Rufus) per acre (~2000 gal/bu, or about 700 gal per gallon of ethanol produced, as shown by several peer-reviewed studies this year and last).OxyMaven, you neglected to take into account the water required for the fermentation stage, as well as cooling water, etc. required during distillation.Okay, here's the figures, Anonymous. You get back 40% of your cattle feeding ability in the form of distillers grains. This is Very Important. This means that if you're growing corn for cattle feed (over 60% of corn is used for this purpose) you only have to grow another 0.6 of an acre to get your 420 gallons of ethanol.420/.6 = 700Ethanol opponents Scream when I post this, but, reality is reality.That's pretty shameless manipulation, Rufus!What you neglect to mention is that we need far more oil than DDGS. Exhibit #1: We are already exporting DDGS, apparently having exhausted the local market. More ethanol will further flood the DDGS market, until DDGS have no monetary value. See Exhibit #2: The Glycerine Market for more on that.At the end of the day I remain convinced that converting Food into Fuel is a Crime against Humanity. Regardless of whether the food is corn, edible oils or whatever. Only low value feedstocks, as opposed to low priced feedstocks (So long, and thanks for all the subsidies), should be considered.

    Comment by Optimist | June 16, 2009

  23. "What you neglect to mention is that we need far more oil than DDGS. Exhibit #1: We are already exporting DDGS, apparently having exhausted the local market. More ethanol will further flood the DDGS market, until DDGS have no monetary value."You are correct. At full scale ethanol production, there would be piles and piles of DDGS sitting around that no one would want. Ethanol plants would like like old coal mines ~ but instead of slag heaps, the waste piles would be heaps of DDGS.There would be so much DDGS sitting around, that ethanol plants would be forced to burn the stuff as a source of energy just to get rid of it.

    Comment by Rocket 88 | June 16, 2009

  24. Ben — a couple of news items….————————————-1.Hyundai Motor Co. will receive pre-launch orders for its first hybrid electric vehicle from today, the company said yesterday.The price of the car will be disclosed before its launch on July 8, it said.Based on the compact sedan Avante, the car is powered by a 1.6-liter liquefied petroleum gas engine and electric motors powered by lithium polymer batteries.—————————– 2.The new Ford Fiesta is now being offered with a factory-installed LPG option in Europe. This is the fourth Ford model that uses this technology and allows the car to run both with unleaded gasoline and LPG, similar to the new Golf Plus Bi-Fuel. The base model Fiesta uses a 1.4-liter gasoline engine. In the conversion, the spare tire is replaced with an additional 42-liter tank for the LPG. This model has an engine output of 92hp. Since the gasoline tank is left untouched, the Fiesta LPG has a total range of 1,200 km when burning the both fuels. Prices start at €15,490, which already includes the €1,990 conversion cost. The conversions are performed at the Ford's brand new facilities.John

    Comment by Anonymous | June 16, 2009

  25. Come on, fellas, think it through. If you're making more ethanol you're using more corn. This corn will be replaced by . . . . wait for it. . DDGS. Also, more and more ethanol refineries are moving toward fractionation. This means that the coproducts will be corn oil, and Corn Meal. Corn meal is much more versatile than Distillers Grains. As for "exporting" DDGS: Well, yeah. If you had a product you would want to "build a market," right? And, DDGS have an advantage over corn. They have a higher protein/weight ratio. In other words, if you're a Mexican Dairy it's cheaper to import DDGS than it is to import corn.

    Comment by rufus | June 16, 2009

  26. "Corn meal is much more versatile than Distillers Grains." Sure, you can make corn bread and Fritos out of corn meal. Maybe Frito-Lay will buy up the excess. Of course that is corn meal that has had all the starches and sugars sucked out of it to make ethanol, so I'm not sure I'd want to eat a Frito made from ethanol plant waste product. "They have a higher protein/weight ratio. In other words, if you're a Mexican Dairy it's cheaper to import DDGS than it is to import corn."A higher protein/weight ratio because all the sugars, starches, and other nutrients have been sucked out. Perhaps it would be better for those Mexican dairy farmers to just feed their cows grass.

    Comment by Rocket 88 | June 17, 2009

  27. I don't know, Rufus. You are counting on a lot of different markets to stay in balance for your scheme to work. Seems highly unlikely that all of it stays in balance…

    Comment by Optimist | June 17, 2009

  28. Just for the record, Rufus is still completely wrong on irrigated corn acres. He clings to the 4% figure that is only mentioned passingly in a fairly obscure article by a DoE NREL staffer. There are many USDA statements and data, many of them cited in recent papers on ethanol water use, but Rufus fails to acknowledge that any have any merit. I like ethanol, even corn ethanol, but I like Facts even more. Even the National Corn Growers Association says it was 13% of corn acres in 2006, and they are never one to give an inch on these kinds of parameters.http://ncga.com/files/pdf/TenMyths4-09.pdf (see myth #8)

    Comment by OxyMaven | June 18, 2009

  29. Thanks for a highly interesting debate with some obviously knowledgable algae fuel skeptics. I am quite neutral to the whole thing as of yet but would like to get your perspectives on the fact that some rather big companies like BP and Exxon are investing in algae fuel companies?Regards,Editorwww.algaehub.com

    Comment by Editor | August 25, 2009


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