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The Questions I Didn’t Ask

I have been asked to submit a video question on ethanol policy that will be potentially answered in a video blog by someone who is very well-known in the energy business. I will keep the details quiet for now, including the question I did submit. (I thought I would be able to record my question with stunning Hawaiian scenery in the background, but alas it has been raining for two days).

I really had to brainstorm on exactly which question I would ask. I made a short list, and finally honed it down to one that I think is fair, but tough. But I had a number that I decided not to ask, either because I already knew how it would be answered (even if I disgreed with the expected answer) or the questions/answer to the question was so complex that it couldn’t be answered in a short video clip.

Here I discuss what I didn’t ask, but it really gets to the heart of the issues I have with U.S. ethanol policy. First, a bit of framework. I believe that I am, and have always been objective, and a realist. I don’t believe that we are ever going to have a moment where government leaders say “Let’s abandon this ethanol pathway.” We had an example of that with MTBE, but there was clear evidence that MTBE was getting into groundwater and lingering.

The issues around ethanol are more complex. Corn ethanol has been U.S. policy for the past 30 years, and it will be policy for the next 30 years. It is too embedded in agriculture policy, and I think it would be devastating for Midwestern economies if we changed direction on corn ethanol. Thus, I think we continue down that path, for better or worse.

I am not pro-ethanol nor am I anti-ethanol. In one of my earliest essays in this blog, over 3.5 years ago, I talked about some of the things I would like to see happen in the grain ethanol industry, mostly aimed at improving the energy balance. I came out in favor of the approach of E3 Biofuels, who were trying to build a highly integrated ethanol complex that minimized fossil fuel inputs. I have endorsed such approaches on multiple occasions.

My concerns are, and have always been: What are the long-term consequences? I don’t limit this to ethanol; this is a question that I ask of all energy options. Dependence on oil has some significant long-term consequences. The most serious of which, for me, is the potential for building a world that is only sustainable as long as oil production continues to expand. I see significant risk there, so it has always been my position that we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels in general.

With respect to ethanol, consider this thought experiment that I posed following one of my previous essays: Would you consume 2 BTUs of natural gas to produce 1 BTU of ethanol? I think most people would conclude that this would be foolish; that your natural gas supplies would stretch much further if instead you simply use the natural gas in CNG vehicles (acknowledging of course that there are lots of things you have to evaluate in that scenario). For those who would answer “Yes” to that question, I would argue that your view of ethanol is entirely one-dimensional. You probably only care that it is homegrown, and you don’t worry much about the long-term consequences.

Of course the truth is more complicated than the example above. It doesn’t take 2 BTUs of natural gas to produce 1 BTU of ethanol. Estimates vary, but it is still safe to say that most ethanol operations in the U.S. continue to have substantial fossil fuel inputs. That is the way they were built, and that is the way they will continue to operate. Over the long-term, there is potential to change that equation by using biomass boilers, but those are more expensive to operate than a standard natural gas boiler.

So on average the ethanol industry does still have a heavy fossil fuel dependence, albeit largely domestic coal (for electricity) and domestic natural gas – with some petroleum inputs for trucks, tractors, etc. (One thing to note is that more than 50% of our fertilizer supplies – derived from natural gas – are in fact imported). So what if the question was “Would you spend 1 BTU of natural gas to make 2 BTUs of ethanol?” If you are doing a holistic analysis, the answer should be “It depends. What are the other impacts?”

There are those who wrap U.S. ethanol policy in patriotism and the American flag, and who would rather not get into those questions. These questions are hand-waved away with clichés like “I would rather support American farmers than Saudi sheiks.” I try to look at it from the perspective of an engineer, a scientist, and an environmentalist. I want to stack the columns up and figure out what is really happening as a result of our ethanol policy and subsequent rapid expansion of corn production. I want to look at it from the perspective of “What is going to be the impact on the world my children will inherit?”

Just a few of the key questions for me are the following:

  • Are we depleting fossil aquifers as a result of the expansion of corn in areas requiring irrigation – putting future food supplies at risk?
  • Are we at risk of contaminating water supplies with herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer run-off?
  • What has been the measurable impact on our oil imports – the generally stated reason for our ethanol policy?
  • What is the long-term impact on soil as a result of erosion and pesticide usage?
  • What is the risk of major weather events impacting the corn crop, and subsequently causing a shortage of corn for ethanol and driving food prices much higher?
  • What are the other risks of closely linking together food supplies with fuel supplies?
  • In a nutshell, I want to know if we are compromising the future relative to other options, and/or relative to the status quo. These sorts of issues are generally ignored by most advocates. They believe our ethanol policy is the right thing to do, and then nothing else matters. I have debated people like this before, and they are simply not interested in the holistic picture. Often, it is because they are vested interests.

    Chief ethanol lobbyist Bob Dineen isn’t going to be at the forefront, trying to determine the answers to these questions. His job is to promote ethanol, period. He will get involved when one of these questions becomes persistent enough and loud enough, and his position will typically be that of defense attorney: Deflect the question if you can, and try to raise doubts that the question even matters.

    But I am not a vested interest dug into a bunker. If our ethanol policy is better than the status quo, then I am all for it. But you can’t know that unless you take a really comprehensive look. I would like to see an independent analysis of all of these issues, now that we are some 11 billion gallons per year into this experiment.

    The problem is finding an independent agency to do such an analysis. The ethanol lobby hires their consultants, who conclude, “It’s all good.” Big surprise there. (By the way that is the same guy who wrote a paper stating that ethanol with the energy value of 64 million barrels of oil displaced 206 million barrels of oil).

    Energy policy in general is a complicated issue, and it is wrapped up deeply in politics. I doubt we will ever get the independent review I would like to see – and even if we did the lobbyists would immediately go to work trying to discredit the study. But I hope you can see why I decided not to ask that question. It might take 10 minutes to ask it, and then an hour to answer it – and I don’t think the answer would really get into the fine details that I am interested in.

    You will have to stay tuned to see the question I did ask.

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    December 5, 2009 - Posted by | energy policy, environment, ethanol, farm policy, politics

    201 Comments

    1. WE're doing 11,900,000,000 gal/yr, now. The construction is in place to increase that by about 20%. And, that's it.BTW, the Increase this year was covered, it looks like, 100% by increased yields. Interestingly, these increased yields came at a time when farmers were cutting back on their use of fertilizer. Figures are all over the place, but it's probably safe to say that less than 10% of the corn used for ethanol comes from "irrigated" fields. Irrigation is another interesting subject. It seems, most irrigation is from shallower groundwater, not "aquifers." I think I read, somewhere that the area of Nebraska where most of the corn irrigation takes place is the area where the Ogallola (sp?) aquifer is, actually, increasing.Remember, when Kansas City takes water out of the aquifer it releases the water into the River, whereas when the farmer takes water out of the ground it's sprinkled back onto (and into) the ground.Water IS important; but it seems to me like the subject has been demogogued to death by some anti-ethanol folks.Erosion is another interesting subject. When the "white man" arrived they found that the Indian word for the Mississippi was "Big Muddy River." Synonymous with "Big Eroding River. That's what rivers do. They wash topsoil to the sea. They've been doing it for millions of yrs. The Yangtzee, the Amazon, the Niger – they all have a couple of things in common. They are muddy, and they have hypoxia zones at their mouth.That having been said: We are eroding our corn land much less, today, than just a few years, ago. No-Till, Low-Till farming is having its effect. The hypoxia zone (a very big percentage of which is caused by our cities, btw) was something like 40% smaller in 2008 than 2006, I believe. The important question, I believe, though, is: "what" is the best way to keep our population Fed, Employed, and Safe in the year 2025? The corollary to that would would be: What energy source can we utilize "today" to accomplish this?

      Comment by rufus | December 5, 2009

    2. Rufus would seem to be the kind of hand-waver the essay referred to. No references, lots of claims, no admission that there are any serious issues in play. He would appear to be an ethanol lobbyist who has been assigned the task of responding to any critical ethanol questions on this blog.

      Comment by Anonymous | December 5, 2009

    3. Yep, it's that "Big Ethanol" money at work.

      Comment by rufus | December 5, 2009

    4. The punch line from an old joke goes: "I don't have to outrun the Bear; I just have to outrun You."Ethanol doesn't have to outrun "spindletop;" it just has to "outrun" the Marginal Producer. The "Marginal" producer is The Tar Sands.

      Comment by rufus | December 5, 2009

    5. Rufus says,It seems, most irrigation is from shallower groundwater, not "aquifers." I think I read, somewhere that the area of Nebraska where most of the corn irrigation takes place is the area where the Ogallola (sp?) aquifer is, actually, increasing.Another illustration of rufus either not understanding or not honestly dealing with the downsides of ethanol.1. The ogallala is an aquifer.2. The ogallala level is dropping because corn irrigation is pulling out water out of the aquifer faster than it can recharges. 3. States have paid farmers to permanently plug irrigation wells to reduce the load on various aquifers.4. This is another illustration of the insanity of using limited resources (in this case water) to produce an inferior gasoline substitute.Duracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 5, 2009

    6. Try again, Kit. Criticisms are always welcome. Criticisms peppered with insults – even if you do say "to be fair" – are not. They merely degrade the level of debate, and you aren't going to do that here any longer. If you want to make a claim, back it up. Claiming to be an expert while denigrating others – especially given your anonymous nature here – isn't the way to have your posts hang around for long.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 5, 2009

    7. 82% of the cities in that 5 state area of the Ogallala get their Drinking Water from the Ogallala. Most people didn't really understand the hydrology of aquifers until a couple of decades, ago. Since then, the Ogallala is being "managed" much better. In Fact:In the more humid areas water levels have actually risen since 1980 (i.e., eastern and central Nebraska and south of LubbockOverall, the Ogallala has given up about 8% of its water in the last 50 years, but, probably most of that in the 1950 – 1990 timeframe.Ogallala Aquifer

      Comment by rufus | December 5, 2009

    8. I'm as patriotic as the next guy,but my support of ethanol has more to do with the reality of peak oil. We're just a few million bpd from your own estimate of peak production Robert. Do we just sit on our collective butts and do nothing because ethanol isn't perfect? Every gallon of biofuel we produce delays the inevitable. I think subsidies were the wrong way to go on biofuels. A $75 tariff on imported oil would double the price of gas,and make just about every biofuel competitive. I'm willing to pay $5 a gallon to become energy independent and avoid the worst of peak oil.

      Comment by Maury | December 6, 2009

    9. Another illustration of the utter idiocy of using a limited water resource to produce ethanol.Signs pointing to return of droughtS. Platte flow estimates cut by half; snowmelt down due to winds, heatWhen the 2002 drought struck, cities and farmers who relied on the river's surface supplies sued the state over its management of the wells, which pull from the same shallow aquifer that supplies the river.In 2003, after months of bickering in the legislature, a strict new law was passed that requires well owners to put more water back in the river to compensate for the use of the wells.Since then, nearly one-third of the wells have stopped pumping, their owners certain they couldn't find or couldn't afford to buy the water needed under the new law.Water officials believe the shutdown of 440 irrigation wells two weeks ago is simply the most visible sign that the South Platte is a river under siege, one where the competition for water is fierce and the regulatory battles long.Duracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 6, 2009

    10. Maury said,Every gallon of biofuel we produce delays the inevitable. Maury you need to put on your engineers / accountants hat when evaluating ethanol. Every gallon of ethanol produced depletes our energy supply and accelerates the inevitable if ethanol does not have a strongly positive life cycle energy balance.Duracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 6, 2009

    11. Duracomm, you do realize you posted a link for water in MAY, in DENVER(!,) Right?If you're worried about depleting nat gas, you just have to ask yourself: Which will take me further, 76,000 btus of ethanol, or 30,000 btus of nat gas (plus 5,000 btus of diesel?)Saw an interesting commercial while ago. Seems there is 35 gallons of water in a cup of coffee.

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    12. Perhaps we should start with a more basic question — are government energy policies necessary or useful?The human race's energy sources progressed from slavery to beasts of burden to wind & water power to wood to coal to oil & gas WITHOUT government policies. What makes a government policy necessary now? (And yes, I know that the British Navy led the switch from coal to oil for ships; but they did not impose that on commercial shipping).The most interesting part of Robert Bryce's rather pedestrian book "Gusher of Lies" (reviewed by our host, incidentally) is the 4-page long Appendix A, listing essential materials ranked in descending order according to the percentage of US needs met from imports. Starts with Arsenic at 100% imported, ends with Copper at 43% imported. Oil is at the bottom of the third page. Does it make sense to rely on China for all essential rare earths — the same China that has illegally occupied Tibet for 60 years, launched several cross-border attacks on India, and is building a military which is intended to be able to go toe-to-toe with the US? Is that any smarter than relying on the Saudis & the Nigerians for part of the US oil needs?If we are going to have a government energy policy, what are the objectives? Since we don't have clear objectives at present, we end up with a whole lot of rent-seeking by special interests — which cannot end well.And does it make sense to have a long-term policy for energy when the Political Class has no plan at all for what to do when the actuarially-inevitable implosion of the Social Security Ponzi scheme occurs within 15 years?

      Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 6, 2009

    13. "Rare earths" really aren't all that rare. China captured the market through low prices. We're getting ready to reopen our California mine, now. Also, virtually all "rare earth" functions can be accomplished with other materials, and means.Arsenic? Oil.Oil? Arsenic.hmmShould the government be involved? Can you think of any way to get them "uninvolved?"

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    14. Wouldn't it seem reasonable that, in fifteen years, the government just raises SS taxes, or lowers benefits, or a little of both?It would seem easier than have an "Implosion!"

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    15. "Every gallon of ethanol produced depletes our energy supply and accelerates the inevitable if ethanol does not have a strongly positive life cycle energy balance."That's so wrong in so many ways Duracomm. Using natural gas to produce ethanol doesn't hasten peak oil….even if the energy balance were negative by a factor of millions. By the same logic you guys apply to ethanol,PHEV's are a horrible idea. They'll also increase our use of natural gas. Creating and transmitting electricity is less efficient than burning liquid fuel. It will take more btu's to move a PHEV than a similar sized gas burner. They aren't perfect,so let's throw our hands up and abandon the concept. I don't think so….

      Comment by Maury | December 6, 2009

    16. It takes about the same amount of NG to produce a gallon of fuel from ethanol or tar sands. A gallon of tar sands fuel requires 200 lbs. of bitumen be processed,and the use of 4 gallons of water. A gallon of tar sands fuel produces 300 gallons of toxic sludge. The EROI is no better than for ethanol. It could even be negative. So,if the energy balance is no better,and the environmental damage is so much worse….why no daily chorus of rants against tar sands? Nary a peep,in fact.

      Comment by Maury | December 6, 2009

    17. rufus said…Duracomm, you do realize you posted a link for water in MAY, in DENVER(!,) Right?Rufus could you please explain what you are trying to say? Your comment does not make any sense.The article showed that 440 irrigation wells were forced to stop pumping because of declining water levels. At some point the dream of replacing petroleum with ethanol is going to crash into the wall of limited land and water resources.Unfortunately the damage when this happens will not be limited to the ethanol sector of the economy.Duracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 6, 2009

    18. Maury said,So,if the energy balance is no better,and the environmental damage is so much worse….why no daily chorus of rants against tar sands?Because tar sands are in Canada.But mostly because the US government is not mandating and subsidizing the production of oil from Canadian tar sands.If ethanol use was not heavily subsidized and mandated by the US government there would be no ethanol controversy.Duracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 6, 2009

    19. Maury said,Using natural gas to produce ethanol doesn't hasten peak oil….even if the energy balance were negative by a factor of millions. If ethanol production just required natural gas that would be a reasonable point, however it also requires coal and oil.It also does not account for using natural gas as a direct substitute for oil without going through the inefficient and wasteful ethanol production process.Lets look at the problem in another way.Suppose someone is getting low on dollars and they want to increase their supply of dollars or find a good dollar substitute.So they stop by the dollar substitute institute which says they replace dollars with something equally as good.They describe their dollar substitution process this way. You give us two dollars and we return to you 100 cents.They explain cents (ethanol) is a perfectly good substitute for dollars (oil).No consumer with common sense is going to take that deal.No market would take the ethanol deal so the government subsidizes ethanol and forces consumers to buy ethanolDuracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 6, 2009

    20. "Because tar sands are in Canada."That's like saying we can't discuss the merits of the Toyota Prius,because it's a foreign car. The fuel produced goes into American cars,just like ethanol. Produce enough ethanol,and tar sands oil won't be needed.But then,American farmers might benefit. I think some of you guys would rather choke on excrement than have that happen.

      Comment by Maury | December 6, 2009

    21. "Wouldn't it seem reasonable that, in fifteen years, the government just raises SS taxes, or lowers benefits, or a little of both?"Unwinding a Ponzi scheme is very difficult — lots of people are going to get hurt. There is nothing surprising about the coming Social Security implosion — it is all simple arithmetic, and the literature is huge. Social Security taxes alone rising to 80% of income? Or old codgers getting thrown out in the streets?The link to the current topic is that the Political Class created an unsustainable Ponzi scheme in Social Security, and they have no plan for solving the problem that they created. Now we want to let the same losers take on the much more complex topic of human energy use?The chance of the Political Class getting it right is close to zero.

      Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 6, 2009

    22. Maury says,But then,American farmers might benefit. I think some of you guys would rather choke on excrement than have that happen.That is the crux of the issue. If ethanol was not a way of subsidizing corn producers we would not have our current ethanol policy. If you evaluate ethanol policy on any other basis it makes zero sense.Ethanol is a horribly inefficient method of shoveling money from the less well off taxpayer to the more well off farmer. It would be more efficient and cheaper to give taxpayer money directly to the corn growers.But ADM and the other ethanol producers wanted to get some of that sweet, sweet, taxpayer money. They could not get it if money was given directly to the farmer and here we are.The myth that ag subsidies have been good for farmers or consumers is an interesting one.The bulk of the ag subsidies go to and help out the very large farms.They harm every other sector of the ag economy by causing overproduction and artificially forcing up land prices. This makes it almost impossible for anyone new to get a start in agriculture and kills innovation dead.This means there are fewer people farming which has an add on negative impact of decimating the rural economy that used to be supported by a diverse population base of ag producers of various sizes.The subsidies that were supposed to help farmers has caused immense amounts of damage to them and every other sector of the ag economy.Duracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 6, 2009

    23. We'll just keep raising the retirement age Kinuach. My mother is still working at 74. Not because she needs to,but because she's bored at home. My granddad runs a large RV park. He's 92. People are living longer,healthier lives than was envisioned when Social Security was established.

      Comment by Maury | December 6, 2009

    24. The ethanol-hating oil lobby always overlooks one very important fact.You can go a lot farther on a gallon of ethanol than you can 30,000 btus of nat gas. Even when you add in the 5,000 btus of diesel it's still "no contest."

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    25. The average farm is a little over 500 acres. It's a "small business," thus it's incorporated; but it's still a "family farm."The average farmer makes a little over $26,000.00/yr from his Farm.

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    26. The earned income credit costs 10X as much as ethanol subsidies and recipients don't produce food OR fuel Duracomm. In fact,they're paid to produce babies,which leaves us in need of even more food and fuel.Not that I expect you to stop hating farmers,or to hate babies 10X as much Duracomm. Maybe your farmer hatred is genetic. Or maybe a bunch of farmers made your life miserable. A bad radish can leave a lasting impression.

      Comment by Maury | December 6, 2009

    27. Not going to spend much time on this because RR just deletes my posts. My POV fuel has up to 10% ethanol in it. This energy policy is successful and 50% faster than required by congress in 2005. Hopefully, this time nest year it 15% ethanol. Furthermore, I can not find any well documented problems associated with the policy. Lot of negative opinions. Lots of blaming Indiana farmers for Ogallala Aquifer issues. EROI is not an engineering term or an environmental term. At least not in any of my engineering text and about 40 years energy industry. It is a political science term.Our job in the energy industry to supply energy when and people need it. Regulations require it be done without hurting employees or the public. Regulations require the environmental impact is required to be insignificant also. The US energy industry does a near perfect job too. However, our customers are not so careful. There is a lot of death and destruction associated with the use by consumers of energy. In a not so perfect world, it is hard for the energy industry to find meaningful improvement, ethanol is an example of doing better than just 3 years ago. Spectacular.

      Comment by Kit P | December 6, 2009

    28. Do we just sit on our collective butts and do nothing because ethanol isn't perfect? Every gallon of biofuel we produce delays the inevitable.You have missed the entire point of this essay. Do you know why I asked you the question of whether you would spend 2 BTUs of natural gas to produce 1 BTU of ethanol? It wasn’t a red herring, as Rufus suggested. It is an example of how the end product – the biofuel – contains more important elements than the fact that you are producing biofuel. In that case, you are not delaying the inevitable, you are hastening it. There are questions that need to be asked, beyond peak oil. If I delay peak oil by a few years and ruin my water supplies, was peak oil really all that mattered?You seem to think the issue here is that because ethanol isn’t perfect, then that’s why some people are opposed. That’s not it at all. Consider this example. Your house is burning down. You can sit around and do nothing. Or you can try to put the fire out with liquid that is available. Do you care what that liquid is? Is throwing gasoline onto the fire better than doing nothing? After all, you didn’t just sit on your collective butt. You did something!RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    29. The U.S. subsidized Fossil Fuels over renewables by $72 Billion to $29 Billion from 2002 – 2008, according to the Environmental Law Institute.

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    30. •The vast majority of subsidy dollars to fossil fuels can be attributed to just a handful of tax breaks, such as the Foreign Tax Credit ($15.3 billion) and the Credit for Production of Nonconventional Fuels ($14.1 billion,Of the renewable fuels tax credit, only half went to corn ethanol.

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    31. ANY ENGINEERS OUT THERE?A gallon of ethanol will take my Chevy Impala about 20 miles.How far will 30,000 btu of nat gas take it?

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    32. American farmers might benefit. I think some of you guys would rather choke on excrement than have that happen.That is the patriotism and flag-waving bit that I talked about. Why on earth would you think anyone has a problem with farmers benefiting? I am actually for taking steps to make sure that farmers stay in business. I don’t want to outsource our ability to produce food. But I also don’t want to incentivize farmers to do something that isn’t in the collective best interest of future generations.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    33. The ethanol-hating oil lobby always overlooks one very important fact.More flag-waving. Of course Rufus can be excused, because he has never been interested in figuring out what the overall impacts of ethanol really are. He knows it’s good, and therefore he searches for data in support of his position. Contrary data are just data that need to be discredited.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    34. Not going to spend much time on this because RR just deletes my posts. The only posts you have ever had deleted were those in which you peppered gratuitous insults. Shall I repost the insults here from the post I deleted? I do not think RR is very knowledge about energy and the environmentRR draws universal conclusions from very limited knowledgethere is this example of false logicThe first is just a gratuitous insult. The 2nd and 3rd are that, but they were also simply wrong. No universal conclusions were drawn (a question was asked; how does one draw conclusions from posing a questions?) and you don’t seem to understand what false logic is. So when you not only thrown in your insults – but then get your facts wrong – your posts will be deleted. Simple as that.If you really have that much trouble trying to understand what is and is not acceptable manners of communication, then you need to prepare yourself for having many more of your posts deleted. Furthermore, I can not find any well documented problems associated with the policy. Lot of negative opinions. We also know that you are not remotely an expert in the field. So there are negative opinions? Should your positive, laymen’s opinion carry any more weight? No.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    35. ANY ENGINEERS OUT THERE?A gallon of ethanol will take my Chevy Impala about 20 miles.How far will 30,000 btu of nat gas take it?If instead of using it to make ethanol, I used it to extract more natural gas or to refine oil – then a whole lot farther than 20 miles. Probably 10 times farther.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    36. The U.S. subsidized Fossil Fuels over renewables by $72 Billion to $29 Billion from 2002 – 2008, according to the Environmental Law Institute.Are you just spamming, or do you not recall that this has been discussed in great detail. Do you recall what the "subsidies" were for, and how much that amounted to per gallon of fuel produced?Don't get me wrong; I am not for subsidizing fossil fuels. But do try to keep the debate real.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    37. A gallon of ethanol and a gallon of gasoline from the tar sands use virtually the same amount of natural gas Robert. By your logic,the tar sands are hastening peak oil. Makes…..no….sense.

      Comment by Maury | December 6, 2009

    38. A gallon of ethanol and a gallon of gasoline from the tar sands use virtually the same amount of natural gas Robert. By your logic,the tar sands are hastening peak oil. Makes…..no….sense. Maury, you really do not get it. First off, your statement is grossly wrong. The energy return for tar sands is in the 6/1 to 8/1 range. Ethanol doesn’t sniff 2/1. Second, the whole point is that peak oil is not the entire question. If we delay peak oil by 2 years with tar sands production, and drain all the rivers in Canada to supply water to the process, was it a good bargain? (Again, just an example to suggest that there are other considerations).RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    39. I used it to extract more natural gasWell, that's fine; but how does that help me get from point: A to point: B?or to refine oilFrom that bottomless oil well?

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    40. The question remains: How far will 30,000 btus of nat gas take me?

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    41. Well, that's fine; but how does that help me get from point: A to point: B?The same way it did in the case of ethanol. You used it to produce ethanol, which you used to fuel your car. If by the same token I used it to produce more natural gas – and then used that for fuel (which is an apples to apples comparison), that was a far more efficient usage of those BTUs.or to refine oilFrom that bottomless oil well?You are confusing the issue of energy return with some of those other things you need to take into consideration. You know, like all of those things about ethanol you like to handwave away.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    42. We discussed a lot of this, before.This time last year you were tearing me a new one over at the oil drum saying that we should use the nat gas directly, and not use it to make ethanol.Since then, I've asked how far 30,000 btus of nat gas would take my Impala; but I can't get an answer.

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    43. "The energy return for tar sands is in the 6/1 to 8/1 range."Like ethanol,the energy return of tar sands depends on who you ask. It's fairly easy to see where your heart is though. Most sources put the energy return somewhere between negative and 1.5 or so.Factor in the massive use of water,widespread devastation to landscapes,and millions of tons of sludge,and ethanol is clearly superior to tar sands. Nevertheless,both serve to put off peak oil. And neither will cause us to run out of water.

      Comment by Maury | December 6, 2009

    44. There's something else, this fraccing for shale gas is starting to remind me a little of MTBE. The fossil fuel interests ignored Those lawsuits when they started; but, in the end, they had to "give it up."Some of this groundwater contamination from fraccin is pretty danged nasty.

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    45. “ANY ENGINEERS OUT THERE?”Yes, actually! My POV fuel has up to 10% ethanol in it and it can go 30 miles on a gallon.I would not own a NG POV. It is a safety thing. My house does not have NG. It is a safety thing.

      Comment by Kit P | December 6, 2009

    46. I don't think a lot of people realize that the oil, and gas industry are exempt, in the clean water act, from disclosing what chemicals they use in the fraccin process. However, when the "Discovery" phase starts on some of these lawsuits that will change.There might be some "shocked" people on some of these City Councils, and Boards.

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    47. This time last year you were tearing me a new one over at the oil drum saying that we should use the nat gas directly, and not use it to make ethanol.You are trying to compare apples and oranges here. In one case, you compare directly burning natural gas, versus using it to make ethanol. If you want to compare like to like, compare using the natural gas to make ethanol, or to make more natural gas. That is a like to like comparison.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    48. Like ethanol,the energy return of tar sands depends on who you ask. It's fairly easy to see where your heart is though. Most sources put the energy return somewhere between negative and 1.5 or so.Maury, believe it or not, I am not just offering a guess. I know what it is. If it was between negative and 1.5, we wouldn't be doing it. That is the range of shale oil, which is what I say we will never do it.But setting you straight on facts does not amount to "my heart being anywhere." If you claim that Zimbabwe is in South America, and I correct you, that doesn't mean my heart is in Zimbabwe. That is just a ludicrous statement from you.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    49. At "Some Point" Robert, "Something" has to take me from A to B.You can use NG to make more NG to make more NG to make more NG to make more NGBUT, Eventually, I gotta put "SOMETHING" In My TANK.

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    50. So, how will I get the best "mileage?"By putting 30,000 btus of nat gas in my tank, orusing that nat gas to make a gallon of Ethanol?

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    51. Robert,how can tar sands have an energy return of 6 or 8:1 when 20% of the btu's are provided by natural gas?

      Comment by Maury | December 6, 2009

    52. “If you really have that much trouble trying to understand what is and is not acceptable manners of communication, “I am having trouble understanding what RR thinks is acceptable manners. RR likes to infer lots of thing about my motives. “We also know that you are not remotely an expert in the field.”Actually I am an expert and producing energy and protecting the environment. That is why my statements about RR are informed opinions and not insults. To answer RR's essay question about NG to produce ethanol; I do not care. I think it is an important part of US energy policy to create energy using domestic sources and create jobs and taxes in the US. The more different way the better.

      Comment by Kit P | December 6, 2009

    53. Robert,how can tar sands have an energy return of 6 or 8:1 when 20% of the btu's are provided by natural gas?I am not sure where you got that number, but it isn't current. The natural gas inputs are in the region of 15%. But, assuming that 20% of the BTUs are provided by natural gas, that gives a 5/1 energy return. In the case of ethanol, the fraction provided by natural gas is much higher.Again, apples and oranges. I have never spoken out in favor of expanding our tar sands production. Even when I was with ConocoPhillips – and we were doing it – I didn't favor it because of all the negative environmental baggage.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    54. Well, I'm just a retired old fart that has always been concerned about what my kids will do when the oil gets low.On Sept 11, 2001 I developed another concern: Why are we financing those that want to kill us?After studying the situation a bit I came to the conclusion that we need to be a little smarter than we've been in the past. It became obvious to me that biofuels will, probably, be instrumental in allowing us to "carry on."I, also, came to believe that electricity from "nukes" will be necessary; and, more recently, that "batteries" (PHEVs) might actually contribute quite a lot.I looked at "climate change," and decided the CAGW crowd were full of beans. CO2 is a good thing, and coal is great. Admittedly, we need more modern coal plants that don't spew soot, everywhere, but those are being built, now.Nat gas is great, but, like oil, the availability into the future "might" be problematic.I can have all these different opinions because I don't get a single dime from anyone other than the insurance company I used to work for. I don't even have a "blog." Independence is Great.

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    55. Actually I am an expert and producing energy and protecting the environment. That is why my statements about RR are informed opinions and not insults.I think you are very confused here. First, here you are an anonymous poster. You are an expert in nothing that anyone can verify. Thus, your arguments have to stand on their merits and have to be backed up. "I am an expert" doesn't cut it.Second, even if you are an expert in something, you still don't seem to know the difference between informed opinion and insult. Insult does not turn into informed opinion just because one is an expert.Third, it has been consistently validated that your area is not in liquid fuels. Energy is a big field. Saying that you are an expert in producing energy does not make your opinion an informed one in all energy areas.But as I said in the first paragraph, due to your anonymous nature your claimed expertise means zero. Back your arguments up, and check the insults at the door. If you can't figure out how to do that, more of your posts will be deleted.Note that nobody else is having their posts deleted, even though we are having a vigorous debate.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    56. “So, how will I get the best "mileage?"Drive slower! Rufus, as an engineer there are many considerations. More often than not, 'best' efficiency is not the best choice. However, usually there is only marginal difference between choices.

      Comment by Kit P | December 6, 2009

    57. Robert~Here's he question I would ask:If making corn ethanol really has a positive net energy balance, why hasn't Big Corn and Big Ethanol ever gone together and built a demonstration project in which both a corn farm and and an ethanol still produce ethanol without using any external energy inputs (other than the Sun)?Why do Big Corn and Big Ethanol keep relying on propaganda and lobbyists instead of manning up and proving they can do what they say?Could corn ethanol pass the USPO Test?Over the years, the US Patent Office (USPO) has received thousands of proposals for perpetual motion machines. Machines that supposedly produce more energy than they consume. The USPO got tired of evaluating all of those schemes, and instead started asking those inventors to do a simple test before submitting their proposals to the USPOThat simple test: Connect the output to the input and see if it keeps running.If you get the chance, please ask if corn ethanol could pass that elementary USPO test. Please ask them if they could continue making ethanol if their output was their only source of energy.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 6, 2009

    58. Maury aske: "how can tar sands have an energy return of 6 or 8:1 when 20% of the btu's are provided by natural gas?"Maury~It's quite simple. Mother Nature supplied all the heat and pressure needed to turn the source organic matter and biomass into tar sands and natural gas. We don't have to supply any energy to make the conversion. We do have to supply energy to find the NG, and to dig up the tar sands. The energy we spend to do that is considerable, however it is still less than the return we get for the reward of tapping into those two energy sources nature accumulated over time.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 6, 2009

    59. “Energy is a big field.”That right! You have to wonder it RR has an expectation that no one disagree with him. One of the firsts steps to being objective is to acknowledge that you do not know what you do not know. “First, here you are an anonymous poster. “Everybody is except RR is an anonymous poster.To be objective, you need a systematic approach based on valid acceptance criteria. RR can make up his own rules (like EROI) and discount anyone who is an anonymous poster.

      Comment by Kit P | December 6, 2009

    60. I'm going to guess that 30,000 btus of nat gas will take my Impala about five, or, maybe, six miles. Whereas, I can leverage that nat gas with some Rain, and Sunshine, and Drive about 20 miles. Hmmm

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    61. You have to wonder it RR has an expectation that no one disagree with him.If you have to wonder that then you aren’t very observant, given that Maury and Rufus have a combined post count of 29 (20 for Rufus alone) in this thread and they disagree with me in almost every post. None of their posts have been deleted, nor do I believe any of their posts have ever been deleted. Can you figure out why?Everybody is except RR is an anonymous poster.Yet they aren’t saying “I am an expert, and therefore my insults are really informed opinion.” Do you understand the difference in being anonymous, and trying to argue from anonymous authority?RR can make up his own rules (like EROI) and discount anyone who is an anonymous poster.I didn’t make up EROI, but if you don’t understand the significance, then I doubt you are an expert in much of anything energy related. Energy balances are first year chemical engineering coursework, and EROI is derived directly from that. It’s been around longer than you have. You don’t put fungible energy inputs into a fuel process that has an EROI less than 1. Well, you might since you don’t understand how to use EROI, but a real engineer who understands mass and energy balances wouldn’t. RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    62. Whereas, I can leverage that nat gas with some Rain, and Sunshine, and Drive about 20 miles. HmmmWell, first of all you can't really. That BTU number is not representative of the industry by any energy survey that has ever been conducted.Second, you want to leverage your natural gas in the case of ethanol (conveniently ignoring the sorts of questions I brought up) but you don't want to apply the same standard of leveraging the natural gas in other cases. The question I would ask is are there better returns for leverage natural gas? The answer is absolutely yes.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    63. I thought I addressed those questions: water, erosion, nitrogen run-off. As for there being better uses for nat gas: Fair enough. What Are They, and will they get me from Point A to Point B?

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    64. A lot of people read this blog without commenting. I've been here enough times to know which commenters are not worth a cursory speed read.That eliminates a lot of chaff right there.It is important to moderate comments. The most effective way to do it is to let a commenter waste valuable time on his personal attacks, then delete them. That should be followed up with a public declaration of the deletion to publicly shame the commenter.In some comment fields this is done by leaving the moniker in place with a comment that says something like "Comment deleted for whatever…"There have been some very good comments made on this post.I do appreciate those who take the time to play whac-a-mole.An internet sock puppet is a person who logs in with two different names and argues with himself. One of his monikers is portrayed as not being very informed, maybe not the sharpest tack in the box, who constantly says things that are easily refuted.Naturally, the other moniker is brilliant and tears the other sock puppet arguments to shreds.Sometimes I have to wonder… ; )I'm going to guess Khosla is the energy guy. I have no idea what will be asked, but I'm fairly confident the reply will not be worthy of the question.Talking head videos are mostly for entertainment. They provide a means to insert brief talking points on television.They are are one way transfer of information, like a lecture.Without a transcript it is difficult to grab quotes.You can't refute anything in real time, and videos are time consuming. Most people can read much faster than they can talk. Very little debate can happen in a few minutes of video.

      Comment by Russ Finley | December 6, 2009

    65. @Kit – One of the things I have noticed is that real experts don't have to tell people they are experts. It shows. I don't recall Robert ever uttering the words 'I am an expert' yet he is recognized as one. You come here and say that Robert isn't the expert and that you recognize this because you are the expert. You remind us often that you are an expert. It is clear that you believe you are an expert, but I even have doubts about you being an engineer. Whether anyone outside of your household recognizes you as an expert is something else I doubt.

      Comment by Dave | December 6, 2009

    66. Maury says,Not that I expect you to stop hating farmers,or to hate babies 10X as much Duracomm. Maybe your farmer hatred is genetic. Or maybe a bunch of farmers made your life miserable. A bad radish can leave a lasting impression.I point out how damaging ag subsidies are to farmers. Maury supports continuing the ag subsidy policy that has been enormously to destructive to farmers.It seems that Maury is the one who really hates farmers not me.Duracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 6, 2009

    67. Some additional information on AG subsidies that Maury and Rufus should find interesting.Ag subsidies most definitely do more harm than good for small produces.Agricultural SubsidiesFarm subsidies transfer the earnings of taxpayers to a small group of fairly well-off farm businesses and landowners. USDA figures show that the average income of farm households has been consistently higher than the average of all U.S. households.Although policymakers love to discuss the plight of the small farmer, the bulk of federal farm subsidies goes to the largest farms. the largest 10 percent of recipients have received 72 percent of all subsidy payments in recent years.Farm programs result in overproduction, overuse of marginal farmland, and land price inflation, which results from subsidies being capitalized into land values. As an example, while members of Congress say that they support small farms, owners of large farms receive the largest subsidies, which has given them the financing they need to purchase smaller farms.That land price inflation is why it almost impossible for new people to get started in agriculture. Or for that matter almost impossible for existing small scale farmers to expand.So they end up selling to larger farmers who then have more acreage and more ag subsidy money because of it.This continues and ratchets up the ag subsidy driven destruction of the small producers the ag subsidies where supposed to help.Duracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 6, 2009

    68. Well, of course, if you have a subsidy of X dollars/bu, then the farmer that produces the most bushels receives the most subsidies.The average farmer makes about $26,000.00 farming, and he, and his wife, make about $40,000.00, between them, working in town.The thing about "farm" subsidies is you have to take "Weather" into account when discussing agriculture.

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    69. Whereas, I can leverage that nat gas with some Rain, and Sunshine, and Drive about 20 miles.Rufus~You left a few things out of your equation. There are many more energy inputs to corn ethanol than natural gas, rain, and sunshine.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 6, 2009

    70. This is another excellent post by RR.But like RR, I am resigned to ethanol. It is a farm subsidy, and rural-farm subsidies never, ever die. Never.So, here we are mixing ethanol into gasoline, although it actually lowers mpgs. Using the price mechanism intelligently, we could tax gasoline, or low mpg cars. People would gravitate to higher mpg cars of their own accord, without extensive government regulations or an extensive apparatus of subsidies for corn farmers. But since the ethanol wars have been won (by corn staters), I do wonder if a pure ethanol-PHEV makes sense. Run a turbine on ethanol, charge the on-board battery. As PHEVs get so many miles per gallon (let's say 150 mpg on average), then the price of ethanol is not too important. Even if ethanol costs a non-subsidized $4 a gallon, the PHEV driver can handle it–he is usually driving on the battery. He might use a gallon a week, or less. Of course, it would be cheaper to charge the PHEV using ordinary gasoline.

      Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | December 6, 2009

    71. I think RR is getting rattled!“Yet they aren’t saying “I am an expert, ..”Maybe it is because they are not. Just like only Russ F and I might be the only ones say we have same alma mater. However, my power plants might take a little more thrust to get airborne. Russ F and I might also claim a certain knowledge on the environment of the PNW.“I didn’t make up EROI, but if you don’t understand the significance, then I doubt you are an expert in much of anything energy related.”Did not say I did not understand EROI, I said it was not an engineering or environmental criteria. I was an initially a Chemical engineer and have not problem doing mass and energy balances. “You don’t put fungible energy inputs into a fuel process that has an EROI less than 1.”Of course they do, RR is flat wrong. All the steam power plants I have worked on have a EROI of 1/3.Here is the important part, pay attention folks. Converting heat energy into high voltage electricity provides a form of energy that is more useful for doing WORK. I could improve the EROI of heating my house with coal instead of coal generated electricity. Of course the reason I do not is the environmental impact. The correct way to evaluate environmental impact is a rigorous cradle-to-grave.In the same light, ethanol is a good transportation fuel. To compare ethanol to an impractical NG is just silly. To ignore the protein value of corn ethanol when judging the environmental impact is wrong. Finally, numerous studies have found that that there is a significant positive energy balance. RR is wrong on all counts.

      Comment by Kit P | December 6, 2009

    72. I think RR is getting rattled!LOL! Look outside and tell me what color the sky is in your world. We must not be living on the same planet.Did not say I did not understand EROI, I said it was not an engineering or environmental criteria. I was an initially a Chemical engineer and have not problem doing mass and energy balances. Based on your contributions here, I seriously doubt that you have ever been in a chemical engineering class in your life. I would bet money that you aren’t a degreed engineer; everything you write screams that. Besides, it isn’t what you say or don’t say that you understand; that comes across quite clearly in your writing. “You don’t put fungible energy inputs into a fuel process that has an EROI less than 1.”Of course they do, RR is flat wrong. All the steam power plants I have worked on have a EROI of 1/3. You might want to look up the word fungible in your dictionary. Then I expect you to retract your statement, because it is you who is flat wrong. Here is the important part, pay attention folks. Converting heat energy into high voltage electricity provides a form of energy that is more useful for doing WORK. I think the important part is that you didn’t know what fungible meant. In the same light, ethanol is a good transportation fuel. To compare ethanol to an impractical NG is just silly. Somehow, even a number of 3rd world countries have managed to traverse the difficulties of natural gas as fuel. We have fleets running on it here in the U.S. Again, because you don’t know anything about it doesn’t mean nobody else does. RR is wrong on all counts. It is easy to make conclusions like that when 1). You clearly don’t know what you are talking about; 2). You don’t even understand the relevant terminology. But do remind us once again that you are the expert.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 6, 2009

    73. "It's quite simple. Mother Nature supplied all the heat and pressure needed to turn the source organic matter and biomass into tar sands and natural gas."That's not right Wendell. We're trying to build a pipeline to carry 2bcf a day to the tar sands. Even if you were right,the natural gas would count in the EROEI. Otherwise,a cornfield with NG nearby would have a very high EROEI,right?The figures I get are 1.1M btu's of natural gas to process a barrel yielding 5.8M btu's. How could the energy return possibly be more than 5?

      Comment by Maury | December 6, 2009

    74. FungibleJust how "fungible" is nat gas? I can't run my car on it. If I could afford to park my car, and buy one that could run on nat gas, I can't buy nat gas anywhere in my area.I would have to be able to talk a local filling station into spending $750,000.00 to install CNG. It may cost More in N. Mississippi, I don't know.And, then, if we did all that, some court might award a few hundrd million $s to someone for their ground water pollution caused by fraccin, and then, who knows what would happen?Fungible?

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    75. Benny, the Volt will run on 100% Ethanol, or 100% gasoline, or any mixture of the two. That's what a flexfuel engine is.Here's a fact: It cost GM less than (probably, a whole lot "less than") $100.00 to make my car "Flexfuel." (I'm pretty sure the only difference between my Flexfuel, and a "standard" Impala is the computer program.)As a result of that small expenditure I can use whatever fuel is available, and priced most efficiently.About 90% of Brazil's new cars have this capability, I believe. But, they're just South American Socialists. What could "They" possibly know?

      Comment by rufus | December 6, 2009

    76. Rufus, I came to the same conclusion about NG. “even a number of 3rd world countries have managed to traverse the difficulties of natural gas as fuel”Just because some one does something someplace does not mean it is a good idea. About 25 years ago I worked where poor people used CNG for transportation fuel. It was also popular to blow cars up outside government buildings to make political statements.My engineering judgment say that CNG is not a transportation fuel. It has been 25 years, still waiting for for that to change. Maybe RR should look up the word 'good' in the dictionary.

      Comment by Kit P | December 6, 2009

    77. "My engineering judgment say that CNG is not a transportation fuel."I think that explains everything. My medical judgment says you may be suffering from dementia. Of course I am not a doctor, so my medical judgment is as good as your engineering judgment.

      Comment by Dave | December 7, 2009

    78. Kit P wrote: "My engineering judgment say that CNG is not a transportation fuel."Set aside engineering judgement. Just use powers of observation. There are lots of Compressed Natural Gas Vehicles running in the world, and even some Liquifed Natural Gas Vehicles. Have been for many decades. CNG sounds like a transportation fuel.Whether transportation is the best use of natural gas is another question. But it can be done and is being done.

      Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 7, 2009

    79. Jeez, there are 10 million CNG vehicles on the planet already.Check out this website, a used car dealer in Oklahoma: www,cngvehicles.netThe guy is selling CNG cars now off the lot for under $10k and most under $15k. Most seem to be flex, between CNG and gasoline.So, today you can buy a CNG vehicle, and drive it around. I understand Utah and Oklahoma may go heavy into this. CNG is a second-choice to gasoline when oil abundant.But, in the next 20 years, we may see oil become more pricey and natural gas stay waaaaaayyy cheap. We have natural gas everywhere. So, we go to http://www.cngvehicles.net and buy a CNG car. Actually, I have never been to Oklahoma, and caveat emptor on buying anything from any used car dealer anywhere.But, driving a CNG car is not doom, not the end of the world, not even all bad. CNG burns more cleanly than gasoline, so there is an upside, and it is produced in North America, so our dollars stay home. Not so bad overall. Could be a huge boon to American economy, and we need one. And it is cheap, and looks to stay cheap for a while.Why anyone would spread scare stories about CNG is beyond me. There seems to be a crowd of people who want you to believe that CNG cars blow up (actually safer than gasoline cars), that lithium is scarce (it is not), or that bio-fuels can never work (palm oil is already working). We do not all die if oil becomes expensive. We move on to other choices–and is technology evolves, our choices are expanding rapidly.

      Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | December 7, 2009

    80. Rufus asked, re natural gas: "will they get me from Point A to Point B?"Maybe that is the wrong question. Why do you need to get from Point A to Point B in the first place?It's not a trivial question. Until the Industrial Revolution, most people would live their lives within 5 miles of where they were born. Walking distance.If we want the kind of world that the greenie granolas do, most of us will have to go back to walking. If we want the benefits of affordable transportation (which I do), then we are going to have to embrace technological solutions to the challenge of finite fossil fuels.Ethanol is a step backwards technologically. I suspect that biofuels will probably be a dead end — though there might be some hope for genetically modified plants or microbes.We have limited fossil fuels, limited time, limited resources. Clock is ticking. Why waste our scarce time on things which have a low probabiity of making a difference?

      Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 7, 2009

    81. (I'm pretty sure the only difference between my Flexfuel, and a "standard" Impala is the computer program.)Not true Rufus. They do have to reprogram the fuel control, but they also have to use stainless steel* for the fuel lines, and get rid of all the rubber gaskets and replace them with something ethyl alcohol won't attack and degrade. They usually also line the fuel tank with Teflon.__________* Or some other material resistant to the corrosive effects of ethyl alcohol.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 7, 2009

    82. KinuHundreds of millions of people use cow pies to cook with would you describe that as a GOOD cooking fuel?I like cooking with electricity. Used to like NG too. Based on engineering principles, NG is a BETTER choice compared to cow pies but is not a GOOD choice if electricity is available.RR said it:“have managed to traverse the difficulties of natural gas as fuel” Why do they do this? Is it the superior fuel properties or is it economics? Let me again tell you about the excellent experience I have had as a consumer with 10% ethanol. I had no difficulties to overcome. I could convert to CNG or batteries. I am perfectly willing to listen to all those 'difficulties' that must be overcome. Tell me how it turns out.

      Comment by Kit P | December 7, 2009

    83. "I had no difficulties to overcome."I have no difficulties to overcome if I put gasoline in my car that originated from a ruthless dictator who enriches himself while his country atrophies away. Of course I might be missing part of the equation if I am only looking at the difficulties that I the consumer need to overcome. You are a one-dimensional Kitten.

      Comment by Anonymous | December 7, 2009

    84. "Why waste our scarce time on things which have a low probabiity of making a difference?"You're a funny man Kinuachdrach. We could have E50 at every pump TODAY if we chose,and that's just with the corn crop. Yeah,it would mean cows and chickens would have to eat whatever they did before cheap corn came along. The steaks might not be as juicy,but they'd survive. I know it's not going to happen. But,it's nice to know we could do something besides start a world war if push came to shove.Next year,we've got ethanol from corn cobs. Maybe ethanol from switch grass a year later. We could be energy independent AND exporting ethanol in 10 years. Of course,you guys will still be ranting about how it will never work. Some things never change.

      Comment by Maury | December 7, 2009

    85. I'd like a cite for those "stainless steel" fuel lines, and "teflon" fuel tanks. I'll save you the trouble; they don't do that. There might be a couple of stainless steel fittings (and, there might not.)The point is: it's probably cheaper, and, more prescient, to buy one type of fitting, than two. If they guess wrong, and the ethanol market explodes next year, they wouldn't want to be caught with a lot of non-ethanol fittings for cars they want to "flex."

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    86. I understand someone like UPS trying nat gas in local fleets. It IS cheap, and they ARE set up to do things like that (lots of vehicles, lots of money, small geographic area.)But, country-wide scale? It IS a fossil-fuel (which we DO import, btw.) And, we DON'T know for sure how much we'll have a few years down the road, or "how much" it will cost.BTW, today's corn IS "genetically" modified. So there you go, "High Tech." Feel better?

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    87. We could put a 25 million gallon/yr ethanol refinery in all 3,000 Counties for about the same money we gave AIG. We could have it done in 5 years.If so ordered, the automakers could make every new car, and light truck Flexfuel Next Year.We would, for all intents, and purposes, be OUT of the Oil "Importing" Business.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    88. Maury said,We could have E50 at every pump TODAY if we chose,and that's just with the corn crop.Got cite for that statement Maury? IIRC we burned something like 30 % of the corn crop to produce enough ethanol to supply the mandated E 10Scaling up to E 50 would require 150% of our current corn crop which seems unlikely.I'm willing to be corrected but I need to see some technical backup for you E 50 assertion.Duracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 7, 2009

    89. It would be a One-Time Cost to us of just about what we're spending in the Middle-East Every Year.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    90. It would knock about $15,000,000,000.00/Mo off our Current Accounts Deficit, and turn our Dollar into Solid Currency, again.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    91. 13 Billion Bu. would, with today's refineries, yield you about (13 X 2.85) 37 Billion Gallons.It would put E30 in every car.We don't want to do that, though. The beauty of ethanol is that every locality has a feedstock. We can save a lot of money on transportation costs by keeping it local.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    92. I'm sitting here watching the "local" channel. A local National Guard Battalian is getting ready to deploy to Iraq. We have about 120,000 Great Guys in Iraq. THAT is just about how many people would be employed by my LOCAL ethanol Refineries.I don't know about you all, but I'd one hell of a lot rather have them over here making fuel for my car than "Over There" guarding "Theirs."

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    93. Rufus said,It would be a One-Time Cost to us of just about what we're spending in the Middle-East Every Year.It would knock about $15,000,000,000.00/Mo off our Current Accounts Deficit, and turn our Dollar into Solid Currency, again.Got cite or technical back up or is this just the latest example of pro ethanol arm waving.A very large amount of this pro ethanol arm waving appears to be consistently, and for the ethanol supporters, blessedly free from the constraints of being supported by any kind of on the ground facts.Duracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 7, 2009

    94. The cost of building a "corn" ethanol refinery, at present, is probably about $1.50 for an annual/gallon. So, a twenty-five million gal/yr refinery would cost in the range of $35 Million.Cellulosic is, currently, higher than that, due to everyone feeling around doing "one-offs." It should, I believe, settle down in the $2.00 gallon/yr range. So, (3,000 X 25,000,000 X $2.00) = $150 Billion. (We gave AIG $165 Billion, I believe.)

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    95. 75 Billion Gallons/yr X $2.40 = $180 Billion. Divided by 12 = $15 Billion/Mo.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    96. Biodiesel from "roadside" crops. There are 10 Million Acres to work withSounds reasonable to me.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    97. Yes,we used 30% of the corn crop for ethanol this year Duracomm. But,we saw record yields again. 164 bushels on average. Demand from cows and chickens is down. No surprise there. They're so fat,they can't walk. Export demand is also down,even with corn in the $3 and change area. Ethanol is going for $1.98 a gallon,and to use Benny's favorite phrase,there's a "honking glut" of corn. Processing the corn AND the cobs could easily provide the US with enough E50 for everyone. And the DDG would feed an awful lot of chickens to boot. I do like my popcorn though. We might want to set aside a few acres for that.

      Comment by Maury | December 7, 2009

    98. Don't worry, Maury; Popcor is made from "Popcorn." totally different crop.Oh, and that stuff in the can at the store is "sweet corn." Again, totally different animal.We make ethanol, and feed livestock, from "Field Corn."

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    99. I knew popcorn was a different crop Rufus. Didn't realize sweet corn was though. So we had 85 million acres set aside for steak and eggs? Yummy.Google has a map of blender pump locations,where a consumer can choose his mix of ethanol. As you'd expect,most locations are in the corn states. E85 is better for a cars fuel system then gasoline. Especially the fuel pump. Here's the blender pump locations.http://tinyurl.com/6xdjhsInside a regular Tahoe engine after 105,000 miles on E85. http://tinyurl.com/4ntwyg

      Comment by Maury | December 7, 2009

    100. @Kinuachdrach: "The human race's energy sources progressed from slavery to beasts of burden to wind & water power to wood to coal to oil & gas WITHOUT government policies. What makes a government policy necessary now?"This is just an amazingly wrong statement. We did nothing of the sort. The government has been deeply, intimately involved in the energy supply since the American industrial revolution began in the 1830s, centered on the water power of the northeast. I'm not sure that I know where to start. How about that heavily regulated industries (utilities, railroads, oil) dominated the US energy supply in the 20th century? Or that nuisance laws that should have applied to coal boilers in major American cities were systematically ignored by local governments and courts, fostering more coal use in less efficient boilers? Or the building of the highway system, a de facto subsidy for car owners and oil companies? Or the depletion allowance for oil companies? Or that the US government and its allies took an especial interest in the middle east and other oil producing regions, projecting power to ensure the safety of American (business) interests. Or… The government of this country (and just about every other) works to maintain the energy supply because it's just that important.

      Comment by Alexis Madrigal | December 7, 2009

    101. Well said! AM have you read the National Energy Policy, May 2001; and the 2005 Energy Bill? They are essential reading if you want to understand energy in the US. A few who post here have spent the effort to read such things. Most who are unhappy with US energy policy are unhappy because they do not know what it is. These people get their information from journalists.From policy, comes legislation, comes regulations. “American cities were systematically ignored by local governments and courts, fostering more coal use in less efficient boilers?” I suspect that AM no longer believes this is true. Past regulations (CAA)preclude this and newer regulations are eliminating 'grandfathered' boiler.

      Comment by Kit P | December 7, 2009

    102. Alexis Madrigal wrote, re human energy sources progression: "This is just an amazingly wrong statement. We did nothing of the sort."That is an amazingly short term view of the past you have there, Alexis. Remind me, which government policy mandated the switch from wood to coal? Which mandated the switch from beasts of burden to wind & water power?

      Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 7, 2009

    103. I heard short segment this morning of a speech President Obama gave last week on education. He was bemoaning the fact that U.S. schoolkids are now ranked 21st in the world in their knowledge of science.Pretty bad, but it also made me wonder: Where would the scientific knowledge of our politicians rank on the world scale?

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 7, 2009

    104. 1. The USPO has nothing to do with efficiency – that question has nothing to do with anything – more stupid things are patented than items that will ever be followed up and commercialized.2. I have not noticed Robert not accepting differing opinions – there is a difference between opinions and nonsense though3. The ag subsidies generally help very few of the overall farmer population. My father was a farmer and he hated them!4. Any farmer (today) working even 40 acres for 26,000$ per year is a foolish fellow! Work you back side off to be in virtual poverty?5. Kit P – I believe Robert was referring to using fuel to produce another fuel – not to generating power.6. CNG/LPG are perfectly good automotive fuels – there are too many millions of miles driven using them today for anyone to consider anything else. 7. Many people around the world prefer natural gas as a cooking fuel – it is a matter of preference only.8. CNG, LPG and H2 are all used as a fuel perfectly safely around the world. H2 not in cars maybe but as a fuel. Forget the scare stuff!

      Comment by russ | December 7, 2009

    105. Most people don't know much about science. Even those who learn about it in school forget most of it by the time they are adults. This always amazes me, but then I realise I've probably forgotten most of what I learned about English literature, so it may be just a personal preference thing.The bigger problem is that most people — whether they know the facts of any particular case is irrelevant — don't know what it *means* to think or argue scientifically. Funnily enough, that's not anything I remember hearing about in science class (and I WOULD remember if it had happened). Among the people I know who have studied science/engineering and those who have studied philosophy the latter are far more likely to understand what the scientific method is.I caught an interesting radio documentary the other day on this very subject. The question was, of course, climate change, and the different roles of science, ethical judgement, and policy making. One panelist remarked on the fact that her child was trained to go around switching off unneeded lights at home. Another pointed out that individual action on light-switching would not make the remotest difference to climate change, which needed concerted global policy-making based on analysis of evidence, as well as huge technological achievements. The first panelist retorted that her child wasn't switching off lights to save the world but because it was the "right" thing to do. That made no sense to me. There is no moral absolute that says switching off lights is good, unless it is a judgement informed by evidence, and this panelist appeared to be arguing that the evidence was irrelevant.This strikes me as similar to Rufus/Maury's argument that ethanol is good because sheikhs don't get paid for it or American soldiers don't die for it. Now, while ethanol might be a good thing *IF* those things are true (albeit there are probably other considerations too), you would have to make an evidence-based case that they *ARE* true before you can assume the good is achieved. RR made an argument that ethanol doesn't result in lowered oil imports, using evidence and logic that nobody here has refuted yet. So the sheikhs are still getting paid. (The argument that soldiers are dying for oil doesn't hold up either IMHO, but that's a more emotive topic which would probably be unwise to get into in these comments).

      Comment by PeteS | December 7, 2009

    106. That's not right Wendell. We're trying to build a pipeline to carry 2bcf a day to the tar sands. Even if you were right,the natural gas would count in the EROEI. Otherwise,a cornfield with NG nearby would have a very high EROEI,right?They're not the same Maury. In the case of natural gas and tar sands, we use energy to refine the work nature has already done converting biomass into NG and tar sands. We are only refining the tar sands into a more usable form to use as fuel. That's a process loss.In the case of corn ethanol, we must use energy to convert a biomass into fuel. It takes a lot of energy to replace what nature otherwise supplies free.Nature gives the tar sands people a head start, while the ethanol people need to spend more energy to catch up.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 7, 2009

    107. If you are Ever going to read, ANYTHING, about nat gas, Read THIS.Why Reserves are BunkThis guy has impressed me, tremendously, with his posts at the oil drum. He's skeptical about going to NG for transportation.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    108. The claims that the United States has 100 years of recoverable natural gas as a result of the newly accessible shale basins has no meaning without attaching a price to it, Doyle contends.Rufus~I'd say Doyle is right, but I'd say that's also true of the claims Big Ethanol makes.There are many factors in the "price" of ethanol that Big Ethanol and their lobbyists never mention.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 7, 2009

    109. russ said ~ The USPO has nothing to do with efficiency – that question has nothing to do with anythingRuss~The USPO test for perpetual motion machines would indeed be a good test for corn ethanol.And it's a simple test: Plug the output into the input and see if it keeps running.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 7, 2009

    110. Pete, the "Saudi" argument is just a collateral argument. My Main argument is Economic.You could produce, and sell, ethanol, profitably, all up, and down the line for $2.25/gal With not a "Subsidy" in sight."Now, admittedly, that's still about a dime more than it would have to be to be "neutral" with higher btu gasoline. However, you have to adjust for what would happen to the price of gasoline if you took that 788,000 barrels/day of ethanol off the market.Also, there's a pretty strong consensus that the price of gasoline has a better chance of "going up," than "going down."In addition, I'm considering our horrible "balance of payments," and the effect that has on the Dollar, and, thus, our purchasing power.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    111. "In the case of natural gas and tar sands, we use energy to refine the work nature has already done converting biomass into NG and tar sands."Except,the natural gas is a fuel that could be used elesewhere. If it's true for ethanol,it's true for Tar Sands. Trust me Wendell,the natural gas used to refine tar sands gets counted in the EROI. On second thought,don't trust me. Just google tar sands EROI. I don't know why Robert has an EROI estimate higher than anyone else on the planet. It couldn't be bias….LOL.

      Comment by Maury | December 7, 2009

    112. "RR made an argument that ethanol doesn't result in lowered oil imports, using evidence and logic that nobody here has refuted yet."Does anybody besides Robert understand his evidence and logic? I tried really hard. Honestly. Just couldn't grasp how he got from point A to point C.

      Comment by Maury | December 7, 2009

    113. I don't know why Robert has an EROI estimate higher than anyone else on the planet.Maury, let's not get carried away here. The EROI I mentioned has been published in a number of places. Further, having worked for a company who was working in the area – and having had access to our energy accounting data – I know exactly what it is. What you will find is that some very earlier numbers were thrown out there – like a 1.5/1 EROI, and that number has been repeated over and over. To give you an analogy, I don't suppose you think the net energy of corn ethanol is negative? Yet I can show you papers by Professor Pimentel that have been quoted over and over and over that say exactly that – just like those low EROI estimates you see for tar sands.It couldn't be bias….LOL.If it makes you sleep better at night to accuse me of bias – instead of simply trusting that I know what I am talking about – more power to you. But what on earth would be my motivation, given that I don't support tar sands production in the first place?RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    114. Does anybody besides Robert understand his evidence and logic? I tried really hard. Honestly. Just couldn't grasp how he got from point A to point C.I think everyone but you grasped it. I showed that as ethanol ramped up, there was no impact on oil imports. I showed that oil imports did fall over the past year, which directly correlated to the price spike. I showed that the fall in imports could not be due to the expansion of ethanol production because ethanol production was contained in the demand number.Really not that hard if you really wanted to grasp it. It really is just a matter of data, not some convoluted argument. Even Rufus grasped it; he just couldn't accept it.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    115. You could produce, and sell, ethanol, profitably, all up, and down the line for $2.25/gal With not a "Subsidy" in sight."You can't possibly know that unless you pulled the subsidies and mandates and observed the impact. The fact is that ethanol producers have a mandated market. What would the situation be without that? You can't possibly know, but we do know that ethanol wasn't making any headway with just the subsidy. That suggests that the (then) $0.51/gal subsidy wasn't enough to make it competitive.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    116. No, Robert, I honestly did not even Look at your numbers. The thesis was so silly "on its face" that I gave it NO scrutiny whatsoever. To make your case ethanol would have to deliver Zero Mileage.Since I own a car that directly refutes that argument in toto every single day I just dismissed it as transient silliness, and moved on.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    117. The planet is warmer than it was 200 years ago,so people MUST be responsible. The planet is cooler than it was 10 years ago,so people CAN'T be responsible. It's hard to dispute faulty illogic.

      Comment by Maury | December 7, 2009

    118. Robert, I stated that one Could sell Ethanol profitably, without subsidies, for $2.25, Today.TWO "Operative" words – "Could," and "Today."What the oil companies Could do, and what they "would" do are Two Different Things.And, of course, Today isn't "yesterday," or "three years ago."

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    119. No, Robert, I honestly did not even Look at your numbers.If that's true, then you really a spammer. After all, you made a ton of comments following that essay. In fact, you started commenting right after it came out, and just kept commenting and commenting and commenting. So I think you did look at the numbers. In fact, we even had the big MTBE discussion. So I think your recollection is faulty. The thesis was so silly "on its face" that I gave it NO scrutiny whatsoever. Need I remind you how many comments you made following the essay that you gave "NO scrutiny whatsoever." I mean if that's true, that really does mark you as an ethanol lobbyist. Not interest in the facts, only in disputing those contrary to "ethanol is good for us."To make your case ethanol would have to deliver Zero Mileage.Of course as I pointed out, that simply isn't true either. You are just making arguments that I already refuted, in the hope that I won't do it again.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    120. Robert, I stated that one Could sell Ethanol profitably, without subsidies, for $2.25, Today.Since the subsidy/mandates are in place – distorting the market – you can't possibly know that.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    121. There's $5 worth of ethanol in today's $3.85 bushel of corn. There's also $1.50 worth of DDGS and CO2. Corn farmers can make ethanol VERY profitably. As a matter of fact,ethanol is the only segment that was profitable for Valero last quarter. Corn farmers could do without subsidies very easily. They have been for some time. Not sure about big oil though. They might cry bloody murder.

      Comment by Maury | December 7, 2009

    122. It's hard to dispute faulty illogic.Especially when – by your own admission – you don't understand, nor wish to understand it. You already know the answer, so when something is contrary to the answer it simply must be wrong. This is no different than Creationism. Any facts contrary to Creationism are by definition wrong. RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    123. Corn farmers could do without subsidies very easily. They have been for some time.Maury everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not their own facts. Corn farmers continue to be subsidized, both directly and indirectly as a result of the ethanol mandates.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    124. Robert,I'm no scientist. But,even I know you can't change methodologies when the numbers don't suit you. The wife is pestering me. Gotta go.

      Comment by Maury | December 7, 2009

    125. It seems we have gone far afield from the Question you could of asked. If fact this conversation thread seems to have gone on for many months over many posts.Jim Takchess

      Comment by JIMj | December 7, 2009

    126. But,even I know you can't change methodologies when the numbers don't suit you.Maury, I hope you appreciate that you are leveling some pretty serious accusations over something you admitted that you don't understand. I think that is a pretty irresponsible thing to do.The methodology never changed. Never. If you think it did, you need to go back and study up on what I posted – before you go making more fallacious claims.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    127. If fact this conversation thread seems to have gone on for many months over many posts.It has, and I want to remind our primary resident ethanol cheerleader – Rufus – about the number of comments he submitted when that initial essay was posted. There were 202 comments – a record for this blog – and Rufus had 62 of them. Quite a few for a post he gave "NO scrutiny whatsoever."And some people still wonder why I think he is an ethanol lobbyist.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    128. I said on that thread, Robert, that you can't have it Both ways. Either ethanol has Zero mileage, or it affects imports. To try to deny this is to deny "some" irrefutable law of logic.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    129. I said on that thread, Robert, that you can't have it Both ways. Either ethanol has Zero mileage, or it affects imports. To try to deny this is to deny "some" irrefutable law of logic.I know what you said, and it was debunked easily. Just one example of how your logic fails. If the ethanol supply chain contains petroleum in an amount equal to what is contained in the the ethanol, then ethanol would have zero impact on imports. Your answer was "but that can't be." Whether it can or not, it is an example that shows that there are more options than you have allowed.Another option is that the impact is just too small to measure. In that case, my questions are even more pertinent: What exactly are we gaining for what we are potentially losing?RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    130. At the end of the day, Rufus, I believe in data. I have asked repeatedly for you or anyone to show me in the data where ethanol has reduced our petroleum imports. You failed to take that challenge, preferring to argue subjectively.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    131. Well, I covered the petroleum inputs in the ethanol chain pretty thoroughly; and no one disputed my numbers.The operations of an oil refinery are very complex. We got into butanol, propane, MTBE, and some other stuff I can't even remember.Look, if you want to say that the effect on imports during that period wasn't particularly large, Fine. We were replacing MTBE, etc. and your argument would make sense. It's just when you extended out to "No Effect" that I had to "cry foul."

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    132. I only trust data to a limit. It depends, to a great extent, whose data, and how it was collected. Oil data is very noisy, and complicated. Light sweet crude, or heavy sour crude, or, usually, something in the middle. Refined in Aruba? or the Virgin Islands? Or Trinidad? When is it "onshore?" When is it "Offshore?"Was NGLs used for process energy, or Nat Gas? What was done with the butanol? We were swapping Jet Fuel for Ethanol with Brazil. How was That accounted for?I can't understand That Data. I have to work back from the other direction. What did we produce? What was the mileage achieved from it? That's just me.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    133. Well, I covered the petroleum inputs in the ethanol chain pretty thoroughly; and no one disputed my numbers.Oh, your numbers are disputed about every time you put them up there – because you always put up what you believe "could" be done instead of what is being done by the ethanol plants that are currently operating. We don't know the sum total of that, so you are just guessing. But the bottom line was to just show an example of how there are more options than the ones you allowed. There may be others we haven't discussed. Sometimes, the answer is "I don't know."It's just when you extended out to "No Effect" that I had to "cry foul."I have consistently asked to be shown in the actual import/demand numbers where the ethanol impact is. I am still waiting on that. RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    134. I can't understand That Data. I have to work back from the other direction. What did we produce? What was the mileage achieved from it? That's just me.No, that's just you when it suits you. If the data supported your position, you would be fine with the data. When it doesn't, you try to muddy the picture with a bunch of irrelevant questions. You would have been a good defense attorney, and if you aren't an ethanol lobbyist, by God you should be.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    135. I don't think the questions – "How much did we produce," and "What was the Mileage" are irrelevent questions. Do you?I'm probably too "crude," and "way too lazy" to be a Lobbyist; but, thanks for the compliment. I think. 🙂

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    136. Some of the questions are relevant, some aren't. "What was done with the butanol?" I don't even know what that means. Where the oil was refined, and questions of that nature are mostly irrelevant. They don't materially impact the answer more than a small fraction of a percent.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 7, 2009

    137. and questions of that nature are mostly irrelevant. They don't materially impact the answer more than a small fraction of a percent.You see, that's the problem. That's NOT something I would know. I am pretty sure of how much ethanol was produced, and I DO Know, for certain, the affect it has on MY gas mileage.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    138. Corn farmers could do without subsidies very easily.Maury~According to Rufus, farmers on average make about $26k per annum. What do you think that number would be w/o subsidies?It would seem — if Rufus is correct — they are just barely getting by with the subsidies. How do you reckon they could manage without?

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 7, 2009

    139. It would end up about the same, Wendell. They would make more some years, less others.The deal on the $26,000.00 is that the average farmer is, as a result of his machinery, and herbicides, so efficient that he can maintain a job "off the farm," in addition to his agricultural activities.You would pay more at the store. But, you would get some of that back through (very) slightly lower taxes.Some would go broke during stretches of bad weather, leading to larger farms, and, somewhat, fewer farmers. You, or I, probably wouldn't notice the difference.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    140. Rufus wrote of corn ethanol: "It would knock about $15,000,000,000.00/Mo off our Current Accounts Deficit, and turn our Dollar into Solid Currency, again."A quick check with the Bureau of Economic Analysis (www.bea.gov), part of the US Commerce Department.In 2008 (last complete year of data), the US ran an eye-popping trade deficit in Goods & Services of $696 Billion. Digging into the BEA's massive spreadsheet, Petroleum imports in 2008 were $453 Billion. There were also significant petroleum re-exports (things like diesel to the EU). Net petroleum imports for 2008 amounted to $386 Billion.Remember that Petroleum net import number of $386 Billion. Compare it to 2008 non-petroleum imports of $1,650 Billion. Even in 2008, a year when oil prices were high, petroleum was only only about 20% of US imports.Remember that Petroleum net import number of $386 Billion. Compare it to the overall US trade deficit in Goods & Services of $696 Billion. Even if net petroleum imports had been zero in 2008, the US would still have run a staggering $310 Billion trade deficit.Bottom line, even replacing all oil imports would not balance the US trade deficit. And it would therefore not turn the dollar into Solid Currency.There is another energy-related issue here — one that also goes directly to the unbearably high level of unemployment in Obama's America. To correct the trade deficit, the US needs to re-start manufacturing. This will also create jobs — and will have the extra benefit of boosting tax revenues, helping to correct the US government's unsustainable budget deficit. But it will also significantly increase US energy demand.Ethanol is a side show. Even if every claim you made was right, Rufus, ethanol does not solve the problem. We need something nuch bigger.

      Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 7, 2009

    141. The deal on the $26,000.00 is that the average farmer is, as a result of his machinery, and herbicides, so efficient that he can maintain a job "off the farm," in addition to his agricultural activities.Rufus~We have many Amish farmers not far from where I live. They are not real big on using machinery, or spending money for herbicides, or accepting subsidies, or working "off the farm," and they do spend a lot of time on their "ag activities." But even though they live the simple life, they do live pretty comfortably. Some of the best looking fields and farms around here are Amish.Perhaps those who practice modern agriculture would be better off if they didn't think they had to spend so much on fertilizer, herbicides, and heavy, fossil-fueled ag machinery.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 7, 2009

    142. K, $310 B is better than $700 B, right?There's Never, in the grown-up world, One Answer. There are just, "Some Good Things," and some "Not So Good Things."It seems to me that one of the "Good" things would be to produce more of our own fuel. It, also, appears to me that it would be very "possible" to do that.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    143. Wendell, I don't know hardly anything about the Amish, or their agriculture/lifestyles, etc. I know just from what I see on TV, or what I run across on the internet. Having said that: It seems to me that if they want to live very simple lives on their own farms, to the extent of eschewing electricity, and machines, and whatnot, That is their right. If they're happy, I'm happy.However, I doubt that that type of farming could feed a nation of 300 Million. At least, not to the level that we "Want" to be fed. Again, it's Not their "Duty" to feed a Nation. It's their duty to obey the laws of the land. As long as they do that they are Not responsible for whether someone in NYC gets fed. They aren't required to worry about it, and I'm sure most of them don't.But, I'm, personally, glad that we have farmers in Iowa, and Nebraska churning out 200 bu/acre. THEY Can feed a nation.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    144. If nothing else, remember that those horses will eat between 1/4, and 1/3 of their corn crop.

      Comment by rufus | December 7, 2009

    145. "It seems to me that if they want to live very simple lives on their own farms, to the extent of eschewing electricity, and machines, and whatnot, That is their right."The ones I came across in Lancaster County, PA, didn't "eschew electricity". They just kept their freezers'n'stuff in their non-Amish neighbours' outhouses.:-)

      Comment by PeteS | December 7, 2009

    146. Frm the NYTA turbine PHEV bus already in use in NYC.Rufus–I like ethanol, if it used to power turbines and PHEVs—By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUMPublished: December 6, 2009 Any New Yorker who has ridden a city bus might be forgiven for believing a banshee is buried under the floorboards. Engines idle at an alarmingly high volume, and acceleration is often accompanied by a symphony of cracks and snaps, the squeals of aging machinery with little eagerness to perform its assigned task.So the newest addition to New York City’s formidable bus fleet — an experimental turbine hybrid known as the DesignLine — is notable mainly for a feature it does not have: noise. “Quiet as a tomb,” declared Doreen M. Frasca, an appointee to the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, who has taken the bus several times in the last month. When the DesignLine stops short, or takes off from a light, there is little more than a low groan. An onboard air-conditioner usually drowns out any sound from the engine.The other day, one block north of Astor Place, James Sollecito sat down behind the wheel and gradually eased the bus onto Fourth Avenue for a 90-minute trip to Washington Heights. The engine hummed softly as its driver peered out from the extra-large Plexiglas windshield, a sheer single pane that resembled an astronaut’s visor writ large. “I never drove anything that accelerates like this,” Mr. Sollecito, who has driven city buses for 15 years, said approvingly, as the bus glided along the street jerk-free. Silence, that rare commodity on the city streets, is achieved by throwing out the most basic element of automobile design: internal combustion. Instead of a noisy, piston-based engine, the DesignLine operates on a spinning turbine that recharges a lithium-ion battery, a green energy source more commonly found inside laptop computers. That means fewer moving parts, and fewer ways to create a racket.Three of the buses are operating in Brooklyn and Manhattan, at a cost of $559,000 each. If the pilot is approved, 87 more will arrive by the end of next year, part of a $60 million contract with DesignLine, a New Zealand-based manufacturer.

      Comment by Benny BND Cole | December 7, 2009

    147. Maury-I hve never actually seen a glut honk, but maybe some day.

      Comment by Benny BND Cole | December 7, 2009

    148. A turbine PHEV bus already in use in NYC.Benny~Sounds intriguing. Any idea how they do this? Fuel-powered turbine engines have never been noted for their high efficiency.The article doesn't say what fuel powers the turbine. Do you know? Turbines also traditionally spin at high RPM. This must require a substantial gear reduction system between the turbine and the generator. Wouldn't that add weight and complexity?They mentioned silent running. How do they keep the bus from sounding like a helicopter or a cruise missile?

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 7, 2009

    149. Benny~If this is for real, it would be ideal for long-haul trucks too.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 7, 2009

    150. Looks like they are diesel turbines, and they double the fuel efficiency of the average bus. Here's a blog entry (commenter number 5 seems to have the low-down on the fuel consumption). And here's the manufacturers Wikipedia entry, with a section on the hybrid buses. It mentions that the turbines are American-built in Chatsworth, California.

      Comment by PeteS | December 8, 2009

    151. Actually, looks like the ones sold in the US are from an American subsidiary and use over 80% US-made parts — good news for you Yanks. Here's the spec sheet (pdf).

      Comment by PeteS | December 8, 2009

    152. "Auxiliary power unit Capstone MicroTurbine in 30 kW standard utilizing low sulfur diesel, CNG, LNG or LPG. Optional 45 kW 4-cylinder diesel GenSet."

      Comment by PeteS | December 8, 2009

    153. “used as a fuel perfectly safely around the world”Not so perfect, as it turns out. “live pretty comfortably” Well until the Amish have a house fire.Both RR and I have the scientific knowledge to identify the hazards of using fossil fuel for energy such as fire, explosion, carbon monoxide poisoning, and incompatible material. We both have the training and experience to lead a hazard analysis team following methodology prescribed by regulations. Do not know about RR, but I can put engineering skills to use to design use of energy to meet safety requirements. However, 'perfectly safely' is up to a higher power. I too tune out RR when invents his own methodology. Maybe not at first but after it involves wild leaps of logic. RR want me to refute his arguments but I am not trying to win a debate. Providing an opposing view to other readers is my goal.

      Comment by Kit P | December 8, 2009

    154. I too tune out RR when invents his own methodology.Kit, misinformation will get your posts deleted. I don't use my own methodology, and by repeating that you are merely furthering the misinformation put out there by Maury. Consider yourself warned. If you still think that is the case, back up your arguments with examples instead of just throwing mud.Do not know about RR, but I can put engineering skills to use to design use of energy to meet safety requirements.Of course that was my primary responsibility as the Process Engineering Team Leader when I was working in Scotland. Have been in more PHAs than I care to be in, and have led several.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    155. These posts with 150+ comments are difficult to get through.So many assertions from various sides with no references. I decided to fact-check a few of them.Maury wrote: As a matter of fact,ethanol is the only segment that was profitable for Valero last quarter.As a matter of fact, it was not. In 3Q09 Valero's retail segment earned $111 million, compared with $49 million for the Ethanol segment. Mid-Continent refining earned $5 million and West Coast refining earned $67 million.http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/permalink/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20091027005679Maury continued: Corn farmers could do without subsidies very easily. They have been for some time.In 2008, corn farmers received $1.95 billion in Direct Cash Payments, i.e. subsidies.http://www.cbo.gov/budget/factsheets/2009b/ccc.pdfand the year before, subsidies to corn farmers were even larger.http://www.cbo.gov/budget/factsheets/2008b/CCCandFCIC.pdf

      Comment by Clee | December 8, 2009

    156. rufus wrote: I'm pretty sure the only difference between my Flexfuel, and a "standard" Impala is the computer program.I got curious as to what changes GM says they made for flex-fuel vehicles.http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:2cnx7z4BY8MJ:media.gm.com/us/powertrain/en/product_services/2008/Whats%2520New/HVV6/08_LGD-LZ9-LZG%2520Features.docThe first flex-fuel engines required special valves and valve seats to withstand the corrosive effects of ethanol. Not the 3.9L V6. The Silcrome 1 valves used in all variants are up to the challenge. Compared to conventional iron-alloy valve material, Silcrome 1 includes tungsten, vanadium, manganese, silicone and higher chromium content. It is harder, and it improves durability, even under the rigors of ethanol operation.Hardware changes for flex-fuel operation are limited to the injectors. Because ethanol has fewer BTUs (less energy) than the same volume of gasoline, more fuel is required to produce the same horsepower at wide-open throttle. Flex fuel engines use unique injectors with a diamond-like finish, greater cone angle and higher maximum fuel-flow rate. The fuel rail matches the injectors, but it’s manufactured of the same stainless steel used for all 3.9L V6 fuel rails. No mention of teflon, though.

      Comment by Clee | December 8, 2009

    157. Other things I wish people had given references for:rufus wrote: Figures are all over the place, but it's probably safe to say that less than 10% of the corn used for ethanol comes from "irrigated" fields. and: It seems, most irrigation is from shallower groundwater, not "aquifers."and: Overall, the Ogallala has given up about 8% of its water in the last 50 years, but, probably most of that in the 1950 – 1990 timeframeGot a reference for why 1990?Maury wrote: It takes about the same amount of NG to produce a gallon of fuel from ethanol or tar sandsRR wrote: The energy return for tar sands is in the 6/1 to 8/1 range.I'm seeing EROI of 2 to 4 for tar sands and 0.8 to 1.6 for ethanol, but I don't know how reliable the source is. Page 10 ofhttp://www.aspo-usa.com/2009presentations/David_Murphy_Oct_11_2009.pdf

      Comment by Clee | December 8, 2009

    158. @KitP – An Amish house fire is your case in point? One case ! Wow! Probably many more people got electrocuted the same day around the country.I worked in, designed and constructed gas based iron ore direct reduction plants for a lifetime. The feeds were iron ore and natural gas.Your kitchen cabinet experience about fire, CO poisoning and explosions are no doubt minor to what we had to consider.At my last complex we produced some 15,000 mt per day of high grade iron ore and consumed over 4.5 million SM3 of natural gas per day. Reformed gas flows consisting of 90% H2+CO were in excess of 1 million NCMH.The only viewpoint you are providing is that of ignorance but with lots of talk.

      Comment by russ | December 8, 2009

    159. I'm seeing EROI of 2 to 4 for tar sands and 0.8 to 1.6 for ethanol, but I don't know how reliable the source is.Maybe that was correct 5-10 years ago, but definitely not current. Again, I am not guessing on this. I have seen the actual numbers from the process, but I have also seen the higher numbers published. Maury thinks I would have some reason for making them up; he has been throwing around a lot of careless accusations lately. But I do know what the numbers are.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    160. If you are Ever going to read, ANYTHING, about nat gas, Read THIS.Why Reserves are BunkThat is not what he said, he says "He thinks that shale gas in North America my indeed prove to be plentiful. But it will not be both plentiful and cheap."So like coal or anything else, the reserves are dependent on price. OD

      Comment by Anonymous | December 8, 2009

    161. Good find, Clee. I should have thought of injectors. That was a natural.

      Comment by rufus | December 8, 2009

    162. Clee, I was just going by that article I linked, and a couple of other things I've read about "water management sytems" in the Agallala states.You don't just drill a well down into the Ogallala and start pumping water any more.

      Comment by rufus | December 8, 2009

    163. Clee, I looked at Dave Murphy's ASPO presentation in which he mentions the tar sands EROI. First thing, I have seen that table somewhere, and I know that is an old reference. Second, that same reference shows shale oil at 5/1. That is a gross overestimate from the same reference that underestimated the tar sands EROI.Finally, Dave Murphy is a student of Charley Hall. Here is a guest post from Charley over at The Oil Drum, in which he references a table that shows EROI estimates of tar sands from the DOE of 7/1 for surface process and 5/1 for in situ processing. Further, Charley's own analysis put the EROI at over 5/1. EROI of Tar SandsBottom line is that if Maury wants to compare tar sands to ethanol on the basis of EROI, ethanol loses that battle badly – contrary to another of his mistaken beliefs. Probably pretty easy to support something when he doesn't feel the need to have any of his facts straight. He initially claimed "It takes about the same amount of NG to produce a gallon of fuel from ethanol or tar sands." That was wrong, his comment on Valero's profits was wrong (and has been covered here before as well), and his comment on the corn subsidies was wrong. Wrong on all counts, yet he has the gall to suggest I am massaging data to get a desired result.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    164. Thanks Clee. That'll teach me to read the earnings report myself next time. Valero Energy Sours on Heavy Crude, Sweet on Ethanolhttp://tinyurl.com/yzhxujd

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    165. RR, thanks, you've managed to give me a reference for both your (or DOE 2006) number and Maury's 1.5:1 number (Gunther 2008).

      Comment by Clee | December 8, 2009

    166. That was rough Robert. Now I've got a black eye,sprained wrist,and a broken leg. Ready for round 15?Using data tables from the EIA for crude oil refinery inputs,and finished motor gasoline supplied,we're getting more gasoline today from fewer barrels of oil. We're also getting more distillate fuel. In 9/99(pre-ethanol) we got 249M barrels of gasoline(sorry,could only find monthly figues on gasoline) and 3.5M bpd of distillates from 15.3M bpd of crude. We got 266M barrels of gas and 4M bpd of distillates from 15.1M bpd in 9/09.Less kerosene-type jet fuel was processed in 9/09. About 200K bpd less.Less residual fuel oil was processed. About 100K bpd less. Propane numbers don't go back that far,but usage seems fairly stable.

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    167. What all that goobleygook means is,we got 920,000,000 more gallons of refined fuel this sept. than we did 10 years ago….from fewer barrels of oil. If ethanol is providing enough extra fuel to fill up 92,000,000 civics each month,I would call that meaningful.

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    168. According to GREET’s calculations, the fossil energy input per unit of ethanol is lower—0.78 million British thermal units (Btu) of fossilenergy consumed for each 1 million Btu of ethanol delivered—compared to 1.23 million Btu of fossil energy consumed for each 1 million Btu of gasoline delivered.http://tinyurl.com/yay372a

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    169. I was being too kind when I said Tar Sands used a comparable amount of natural gas. If your garden variety crude uses almost twice the fossil fuel inputs as ethanol,tar sands would have to use much,MUCH more. I'm not sure Argonne National Laboratory has Robert's expertise. But,they sure make a nice website. http://tinyurl.com/m6oo5z

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    170. Robert, please go back again and look at the North Dakota ethanol gas mileage study. There's some information there that most have missed. The two Chevy Impalas in the test are the same except one is flex fuel and one is not. Flex fuel vehicles have the ability to advance ignition timing higher than their non flex fuel versions taking advantage of the higher octane of ethanol. The increase in gas mileage of the flex fuel Impala compared to the non flex fuel Impala for E10 and E20 is due to this ability. The increase in ignition timing more than offset the reduction in Btu content for these fuels. Higher than E20 no more ignition timing is added because it is close enough to optimum. Legacy vehicles could take advantage of this. Most could have their computers reprogramed for higher octane (I did for about $100) and their mileage would increase (mine did on E10). E85 does not make sense but E10 to E20 does.

      Comment by Anonymous | December 8, 2009

    171. Interestingly, Clee wrote about the valves & valve seats required for ethanol service: "Silcrome 1 includes tungsten, vanadium, manganese, silicone and higher chromium content. It is harder, and it improves durability, even under the rigors of ethanol operation."Back to Robert Bryce's 'Gusher of Lies' list of percent of US requirements which are imported:Tungsten – 73% importedVanadium – 100% importedManganese – 100% importedSilicon (used in Silicone) – 56% importedChromium – 72% importedYes, ethanol will really help to make the US independent of countries such as China & Zimbabwe.

      Comment by Kinuachdrach | December 8, 2009

    172. Wendell-I don't know the answer to your questions. I see more companies are trying turbines with lithium batteries. I guess there is a reason.Ay answers, anyone?

      Comment by Benny BND Cole | December 8, 2009

    173. According to GREET’s calculations, the fossil energy input per unit of ethanol is lower—0.78 million British thermal units (Btu) of fossilenergy consumed for each 1 million Btu of ethanol delivered—compared to 1.23 million Btu of fossil energy consumed for each 1 million Btu of gasoline delivered.Still haven’t learned your lesson, have you? At some point, you might want to start asking questions instead of making easily falsified claims. I have addressed that GREET model myself on many occasions:Energy Balance For Ethanol Better Than For Gasoline?Read that and let me know if you understand why it doesn’t say what you think it does. Remember, the GREET model was build by Michael Wang, a government employee and long-time proponent of ethanol. In the GREET model, he did a calculation that has been grossly misunderstood by laymen like you, and so we get ludicrous claims like “It takes less energy to produce ethanol than it does gasoline.” If you just think about that for a moment, you understand why it is preposterous. With ethanol, I have to go and do all of the heavy lifting that mother nature already did in the case oil. Further, my product is in water, which takes a lot of energy to get out. But if you think a process like that is less energy intensive than the production of gasoline, you aren’t remotely in touch with science and engineering principles. Here is the executive summary. In the case of gasoline, the GREET model treats the crude oil input as an energy input. However, in the case of ethanol, it only considers what was actually consumed. In the case of oil, the oil that was “consumed” ended up as gasoline. In a nutshell, the GREET model compares the efficiency of gasoline production to the energy return of ethanol. If you compare efficiency to efficiency, you get 85-90% for gasoline and maybe 25% for ethanol. If you compare energy return to energy return, you get (per the GREET model) 1.23 for ethanol, but something like 6/1 for gasoline. If you compare different metrics, you get people like you coming to wrong conclusions.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    174. I was being too kind when I said Tar Sands used a comparable amount of natural gas.No, you were just wrong, and now you are wrong again because you didn't understand the GREET study. In fact, the way the GREET study is used would show a better energy return for tar sands than for either conventional oil production or for ethanol production. Of course that's because the model is generally misunderstood.Let me know when the light bulb clicks on and the fog starts to lift.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    175. Robert, please go back again and look at the North Dakota ethanol gas mileage study.An Urban Legend Falls The bottom line is that NREL was unable to replicate the results. The key findings from the NREL test: • All 16 vehicles exhibited a loss in fuel economy commensurate with the energy density of the fuel.* • Limited evaluations of fuel with as much as 30% ethanol were conducted, and the reduction in miles per gallon continued as a linear trend with increasing ethanol content. *This result was expected because ethanol has about 67% of the energy density of gasoline on a volumetric basis.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    176. Benny BND Cole said… Wendell- I don't know the answer to your questions. I see more companies are trying turbines with lithium batteries. I guess there is a reason. Ay answers, anyone?——————————-Volvo also has turbine/battery hybrid. It can run on both ethanol and CNG. Just saw it on the Science Channel. Don't know a whole lot about it other than that. The turbine is quieter than an ICE with gearbox set-up. The truck body is made of aluminum. The prototype is called the CNT or CVT, something like that.JohnJohn

      Comment by Anonymous | December 8, 2009

    177. Kinuachdrach said: "Yes, ethanol will really help to make the US independent of countries such as China & Zimbabwe."Kinuachdrach~Good point about the rare metals needed to make flex-fuel engines and where those metals come from.And for those interested, the lithium for the Li-ion batteries will mostly come from Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.President Evo Morales of Bolivia is already making plans on how to control the export and price of lithium. Any chance we'll be under the thumb of a cartel called the Organization of Lithium Exporting Countries (OLEC)?

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 8, 2009

    178. "With ethanol, I have to go and do all of the heavy lifting that mother nature already did in the case oil."No,you don't Robert. That's where your stumbling block is. We planted more acres of corn in 1946 than in 2009. The corn is there,whether we use it for ethanol,or not. You've got a bushel of corn on your left,and a barrel of crude 5 miles offshore,and 3 miles deep. Which takes less energy to refine? Let me know when the light bulb clicks on and the fog starts to lift.

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    179. Nothing to say about 920,000,000 more gallons of refined fuel this september from 15.1M bpd of crude,compared to 15.3M bpd from the same month in 1999 Robert? I expected you to tell us that refueling 92,000,000 compact cars each month was so insignificant that ethanol made no difference whatsoever.

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    180. Maury said…The corn is there,whether we use it for ethanol,or not. That corn would not be there absent massive government subsidies and market mandates. An honest evaluation of ethanol has to account for those mandates and subsidies. If the government paid one group of people to break windows and another group of people to fix the windows the government broke and then had the gall to say that government action had great success increasing economic activity you would conclude that the government was insane.That scenario accurately describes government ethanol policy. First the government pays people to overproduce corn (break windows). Then they pay people to make ethanol and mandates a market for it (repair windows).Government ethanol policy is a living, breathing example of the broken windows fallacy brought to life.If ethanol can't exist without subsidies and mandates it is an energy dead end. Full stop, end of story, no additional evidence needed.Duracomm

      Comment by Anonymous | December 8, 2009

    181. Wendell,lithium has a concentration of 20 ppm in the earth's crust,compared to 2.8 for uranium. Each can be recycled. The reason so few countries have a lock on lithium production is the low cost of mining. As the use becomes more widespread,that's gonna change. Just for reference,gold is found in .004 ppm,and there are literally tons of the stuff sitting around doing nothing.

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    182. "If ethanol can't exist without subsidies and mandates it is an energy dead end." News flash Duracomm. Ethanol is cheaper than gasoline right now. Refiners would be incorporating it into your fuel,with or without a mandate. As for the $2 billion in subsidies corn farmers received to produce 13 billion bushels of corn last year,that's about 15 cents a bushel. I'm fairly sure farmers could survive without it."Full stop, end of story, no additional evidence needed."Couldn't have said it better myself.

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    183. The corn is there,whether we use it for ethanol,or not.Maury~The corn may be there, but it still takes a large energy investment to turn that biomass (corn) into liquid fuel, and then more energy distilling it to separate the alcohol from water.What Robert meant — and what you don't apparently get — is that with petroleum, nature has already done the heavy lifting of converting the biomass (algae and phytoplankton) into fuel with millions of years of free heat and pressure.That is why corn ethanol is always at a disadvantage — somebody has to expend energy to grow the corn, and then pay for the energy needed to turn the biomass (corn) into fuel.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 8, 2009

    184. "What Robert meant — and what you don't apparently get — is that with petroleum, nature has already done the heavy lifting of converting the biomass (algae and phytoplankton) into fuel with millions of years of free heat and pressure."Unfortunately,mother nature didn't put the petroleum in our laps Wendell. It takes 50% more energy to find and refine crude than corn. And crude oil is becoming increasingly harder to find.

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    185. You've got a bushel of corn on your left,and a barrel of crude 5 miles offshore,and 3 miles deep. Which takes less energy to refine? It takes less energy to refine the crude in that situation by a long shot. A very long shot. Even Rufus can tell you that. What you have with the crude is something that is already heavily processed by pressure and heat from the earth, and isn’t miscible with water. What you have with corn is something that has to go through the processing that the earth already did in the case of oil, and then ends up with a lot of water that is very energy intensive to remove.Let me know when the light bulb clicks on and the fog starts to lift. I see no signs of that yet. I have to be honest with you. If you truly believe it takes less energy to make ethanol than gasoline, you are utterly clueless beyond what I had originally thought. It's like teaching calculus to someone who skipped algebra.Nothing to say about 920,000,000 more gallons of refined fuel this september from 15.1M bpd of crude,compared to 15.3M bpd from the same month in 1999 Robert?Maury, given that I have a job I only have time to deal with so much of your misinformation at once. You have been throwing loads out there, and trying to correct your misconceptions has been keeping me busy. I haven’t looked yet, but based on your previous entries I suspect you are missing something in your analysis above. Will look at it when I get a chance.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    186. Unfortunately,mother nature didn't put the petroleum in our laps Wendell. It takes 50% more energy to find and refine crude than corn. And crude oil is becoming increasingly harder to find. You truly are clueless Maury, or you are just trolling for attention. The GREET model didn't say it takes more energy. The GREET model is referring to petroleum inputs. A barrel of oil is counted as a petroleum input. However, very little of the energy was consumed in outputting it as gasoline. That's what you don't get. The model doesn't compare energy consumed in the process of producing gasoline versus ethanol.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    187. "If you truly believe it takes less energy to make ethanol than gasoline, you are utterly clueless beyond what I had originally thought."Silly me for taking Argonne National Laboratory at face value. Those 750 PHD's walking the halls obviously don't have a clue. Zip 'em an e-mail and tell 'em how retarded they are Robert.

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    188. "According to GREET’s calculations, the fossil energy input per unit of ethanol is lower—0.78 million British thermal units (Btu) of fossilenergy consumed for each 1 million Btu of ethanol delivered—compared to 1.23 million Btu of fossil energy consumed for each 1 million Btu of gasoline delivered."I can read English Robert. Even 3 syllable words. Energy inputs are lower for ethanol than gasoline. Does it or does it not say that?

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    189. Unfortunately,mother nature didn't put the petroleum in our laps Wendell.That is true Maury. It is getting harder and harder to find oil, pump it out of the ground, and we have to transport it loner distances to a refinery and user. But even with those disadvantages, the EROEI of oil to gasoline is still about 5 to 1. Back in the 1920s when oil was easy to find at shallow depths and came out under its own pressure the EROEI was 100 to 1 or higher. (That's why everyone started using oil. Nature had given us — over millions of years — a reservoir of liquid energy ready to be tapped into.) The EROEI of oil will drop as it becomes even harder to find, we have to go to extraordinary depths to find it and pump it up, and have to use more energy intensive refining processes to handle heavy, sour oil.The EROEI of oil is falling, and someday will be the same as ethanol from corn — but it's not there yet.At least for the short term future, corn to ethanol will be at an EROEI disadvantage. That's why it wouldn't exist without subsidies.

      Comment by Wendell Mercantile | December 8, 2009

    190. Silly me for taking Argonne National Laboratory at face value.You just don't understand the model. I have it here on my computer. I have exchanged lots of e-mails with Michael Wang about it, who will tell you that people misunderstand it. It is obviously beyond your comprehension, even though I have explained it quite clearly. What we have here is you latching onto a belief, and then playing the game of closing your eyes and ears and saying "lalala, I can't hear you." If you really wanted to understand this, we might get somewhere. But you don't. You only want to believe in a misconception of yours. Those 750 PHD's walking the halls obviously don't have a clue.Some do and some don't. But sometimes when a Ph.D. tries to tell you something, you don't always understand what they are saying and it can be misinterpreted. That is the case here, with you thinking that it takes more energy to produce gasoline than ethanol. Honestly, if that was the case, no subsidies would ever be needed for ethanol. The only reason subsidies are required is because the energy inputs are high. But feel free to keep living in lala land. RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    191. But even with those disadvantages, the EROEI of oil to gasoline is still about 5 to 1.If you look through our exchanges, you are wasting your time. He doesn't understand, thinks he does understand, and therefore is only interesting in promoting his own misconceptions. Maybe the light bulb will click on eventually, but at this point I doubt it. You can't force someone to understand something that is contrary to what they wish to believe.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    192. I can read English Robert. Even 3 syllable words. Energy inputs are lower for ethanol than gasoline. Does it or does it not say that?Here is a test for you. If you can work through this, then you might start to see that this doesn't mean what you think it does.Case 1: I have 1 barrel of oil and How many net BTUs of refined product can I make per BTU of crude oil input?Case 2: I have 1 barrel of oil and How many net BTUs of ethanol can I make per BTU of crude oil input?This gets to the heart of the accounting differences that lead to the mistaken belief you are promoting. Here is a hint, from your link:Some confusion arises because a portion of the total (not fossil or petroleum) energy input in the ethanol cycle is the “free” solar energy that ends up in the corn. Since the solar energy is free, renewable, and environmentally benign, it should not be taken into account in the energy balance calculations.Where do they think the energy in the oil came from? It is solar energy as well, only ancient as opposed to recent. But they choose to count this as input in the case of oil, but not in the case of corn, and hence you get the wrong impression that have have latched onto.Please let me know the answers to the cases above. If you say 0.78 BTUs and 1.23 BTUs, then you are dead wrong. I will show you why if you promise to pay attention. RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    193. "That is the case here, with you thinking that it takes more energy to produce gasoline than ethanol."I can't help myself Robert. That's what it said."I have exchanged lots of e-mails with Michael Wang about it, who will tell you that people misunderstand it."Maybe it wasn't in English,after all. At any rate,I'm just trying to have a healthy debate here. I don't appreciate being called a clueless troll,among other names. There's really no need for that Robert.

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    194. You aren't trying to have a healthy debate here, Maury. You are making a number of assertions, repeatedly, based on your misunderstanding. Multiple people have tried to explain this to you, but you just keep repeating your misconceptions. That is trolling.And I am sorry, if you really give it just a bit of thought, it should be plainly obvious that it must take more energy to go out, grow corn, harvest it, ferment it to ethanol, and then get the ethanol out of the water than it does to stick a tube in the ground, pull out biomass that has already been processed into energy dense hydrocarbons, and refine those into gasoline. I frankly find it incredible that you don't believe I understand this when this is what I do for a living. Mass and energy balances are my bread and butter. Your assertions here would amount to claiming that I don't understand how to do an energy balance – which is freshman chemical engineering course work.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    195. You have trouble being civil with those who disagree with you Robert. If the idea is to silence debate,it works. At least for me. Rufus and Kit might not mind the verbal abuse. But,I've got better ways to spend my time. My apologies if I offended anyone.

      Comment by Maury | December 8, 2009

    196. You have trouble being civil with those who disagree with you Robert.No, I have trouble with those who are uncivil with me (you perhaps should check your history in this thread; you leveled some pretty heavy accusations at me), who don't understand what they are talking about, and who talk down to me based on their own misunderstandings. People disagree with me all the time. I have no problem arguing a point. But when you don't listen, and just continue to repetitively push your own misunderstanding, then yeah, I have a problem with that because it wastes my time.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    197. Maury said,News flash Duracomm. Ethanol is cheaper than gasoline right now. Refiners would be incorporating it into your fuel,with or without a mandate.I guess that explains why the ethanol producers are trying to increase the mandated amount of ethanol refiners must adulterate gasoline with.U.S. Unlikely to Use the Ethanol Congress Ordered You were a prolific commenter on the post Robert did on that article. So I am surprised by your statement that refiners would be incorporating ethanol without a mandate. Duracomm.

      Comment by Anonymous | December 8, 2009

    198. Here's what I think: At $4.00 gasoline, none of this matters. At $2.00 gasoline, none of this matters. Only at levels between $2.00, and $4.00 does this matter.So, long term, what's the most likely? $2.00 gasoline, or $4.00 gasoline?I'm betting on $4.00 +; but, I have been "Spectacularly" Wrong about various things in the past (I've, also, gotten a few "long-term" trends "Right."Place your bets, chilluns; the Great Game continues.

      Comment by rufus | December 8, 2009

    199. One more post and this will be the 2nd essay to go over 200 comments. Once that happens, new comments do not appear on the first page, and it isn't always immediately obvious where they are. So I won't comment past the 200 mark.Maury, if you wish to have me answer your question about refined fuel in 1999 versus 2008, ask in the new thread and I will look into it. I won't post it here, because it would likely be beyond 200 when I get to it, and thus for all purposes invisible.RR

      Comment by Robert Rapier | December 8, 2009

    200. Then if I be quick, I can have the last word. Maury, you started out accusing people of hating on farmers, proceeded to make a number of factually incorrect statements, accused R2 of manipulating data to get a desired outcome, made another insult when you accused him of having his heart in the tar sands, and it went downhill from there. I may have missed it, but were any of your posts censored for this? Did you not continue to speak freely?

      Comment by Dave | December 8, 2009

    201. “I'm not sure Argonne National Laboratory has Robert's expertise. But,they sure make a nice website.”Maury you were warned. “It's like teaching calculus to someone who skipped algebra.”Maury you and Rufus are doing fine. I do not like the oil industry hacks explaining why farmers should not process excess energy out of their crops even if they use coal. It is like an adult trying to teach advanced reasoning skills to a 8 year old. “My apologies if I offended anyone.”Not me! RR's expert: “I have received an M.S. in Environmental Science and am working currently towards a Ph.D. in the same discipline.” This will offend some but I consider Environmental Science more like political science than chemistry. EROI is useful only with the current obsession with AGW.We live in a world where a billion wonderful people do not have access to electricity and clean drinking water. When you hear about insensitive to children dying of cholera and dysentery by those who want to save the planet, it is enough to make this old engineer want to chase modelers around the room with my slide rule.

      Comment by Kit P | December 8, 2009


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