An ugly thought about ethanol

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Thoughthound, Mar 30, 2006.

  1. Thoughthound

    Thoughthound Well-Known Member

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    Here in the corn belt (and outside the corn belt) many people hope ethanol is the answer to our fuel problem.

    If it becomes a real solution, doesn't it stand to reason that fuel producers will start buying millions of acres?

    I do not want Exxon as my next door neighbor.

    What will happen to the land and the drinking water if Halliburton is managing crop production for fuel?

    And will people in Washington D.C. care about us at all if they can someday fill an SUV for under $30?
     
  2. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    To replace current gasoline usage with ethanol from corn we would only have to increase corn production by 5 to 6 times, and use 100% of the corn for ethanol production, assuming smaller vehicles so that the average mpg fuel economy remained about the same, even though ethanol has less energy than gasoline.
    Even increasing corn acreage a modest percentage instead of 500% would mean farming marginal land, as in many places the good farm land has houses and shopping centers on it. And that would mean more erosion and other setbacks to the quality of life that we enjoy.
     

  3. Tarot Farm

    Tarot Farm Well-Known Member

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    Good bye to the remaining timber and forests...plus, the last swamps would get drained too. Of course that is just the tip of the iceberg.

    The potato farmers around here have bought up all of the sand dunes; last refuge of some rare plants that are found only in Illinois...plus, home to lots of wildlife and I do not mean coyotes. They are now sucking the ground water down with so many irrigations going 24/7; too many homestead wells are going dry as a result.

    Some of the best land around here was bought up by CommonWealth Edison years ago...the plans was to flood it and make another power plant; nuke.
    Well, it fell through (thankfully) and the state bought the land.

    The woods and timbered areas near here have been over logged, bulldozed and now when the wind even 'puffs'...the air is so full of dirt, sand and fine dust....<cough>....is it any wonder why so many people have lung disease and asthma? They state highway trucks have to come out with SNOWPLOWS to shove the 'drifts' of dirt and blowing sand off of the state highway! :soap: This used to be a heavy German settlement and they all planted hedge rows...well, the greed got to the hedge rows and they are a thing of the past for the most part....they used to keep the land from blowing away...good bye topsoil.

    No, I would not want Exxon to be my neighbor...or any other BIG corp of any type. Can you just imagine the heavy use of sprays and chemicals that they would use? This county already has the highest level of cancer than ANY county in the US! Why? Come around here during planing season...as they apply chemicals DAILY all of the way through to harvest. They add chemicals by air (crop dusters); through the tanks attached to the irrigations...that sometime allow the chemicals to flow back into the ground water; or just mix their own mis of chemicals and go out to the fields. Too many farmers already have went to the NO TILL method of farming; they just use tons more of chemicals...

    I can see that it would not be for the best interest if the big companies like Exxon got into farming. They would also keep the prices of fuel higher too. They are not going to take a cut, you can bet on that.

    I also seen that the corn fuels do not get as good as mileage; I do not see where that would be helping us out that much. None of my vehicles would run on it and I am not going to go out and buy a hybrid that I cannot use. I need a full sized pickup truck here at the farm. Anything else would be a waste of money and left setting in the driveway...with a for sale sign on it!
     
  4. wy_white_wolf

    wy_white_wolf Just howling at the moon

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    Yea, has always made me laugh when someone says they want to use or support alt. energies so they can screw the big oil. Who do you think is the biggest investor in alt. energies? Big Oil. Exxon Has to invest all thgat money it made last year somwhere. They are doing it for thier survival after oil is gone.

    Ethonal will take Corprate farming to a new level.
     
  5. Timeless Rogue

    Timeless Rogue Rogue User

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    Good grief! Where do you guys get your ideas? Nothing like looking at the paranoid side of life!
     
  6. wy_white_wolf

    wy_white_wolf Just howling at the moon

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    Nothing paranoid about it. Just try to look at the whole picture.

    Tell me - What did BP stand for before they changed there name to Beyond Petrolium? One little name change gave them acceptence of the greenies without changing anything internally.
     
  7. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

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    Why would big oil be interested?

    Ethanol is a losing proposition... takes more energy (from Big Oil) to produce the ethanol, than the ethanol will produce in the end.

    Big Oil doesn't make money by losing money. However, if the public is gullible enough to swallow the use of ethanol, Big Oil will obligingly provide the natural gas required to process the ethanol.

    Biodiesel is pretty much the same thing. Great for niche markets and tinkerers. Germany and parts of western europe are using virgin oil in the production of their green biodiesel. It's very 'green'. Until you discover they're converting the Amazon rain forest to soybean plantations... which is very 'un-green'.

    O, and ethanol is very labor intensive, totally unlike a producing oil or gas well...once drilled, it's pretty much sit back and watch the money pour in...
     
  8. wy_white_wolf

    wy_white_wolf Just howling at the moon

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    This is no longer true. It is about +100 gallons per acre for corn and even higher for sugar cane. At that it still needs gas prices to be at least $3 a gallon to compete on a level field
     
  9. Michael W. Smith

    Michael W. Smith Well-Known Member

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    But the government subsidizes the corn growers. If the government didn't subsidize would the corn prices really be as cheap as they are now? And how would a gallon of unsubsidized corn fuel stand up pricewise to oil fuel?
     
  10. marvella

    marvella Well-Known Member

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    i don't think this is paranoid at all. it's a very interesting topic. (sure beats the heck out of another one about abortion or gay marriage.) :rolleyes:

    it's the question- how can the small farmer survive in an everchanging agri-market?

    and how do we protect the land that makes it possible?
     
  11. Rowdy

    Rowdy Well-Known Member

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    Is that factoring in the cost of keeping the soil healthy, since corn uses up so much of the ground's nutrients? I doubt it does. It is my tinfoil theroy that the idea that "corn=ethanol" is being pushed upon us by those who'd benefit most from having even more corn in production. Ethanol can be produced by other plants, including plants that fix N into the soil instead of eat it up. Why are we not focusing on those instead of corn? The new ad phrase "Live Green, Go Yellow" suggests that we are looking at corn for the main share of this... Why?

    I am not against ethanol, I am just not sure we are diving into it the right way.
     
  12. daytrader

    daytrader Well-Known Member

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    Big oil is vary interested. They have expanded their profits with ethonal additions and now are building ethonal plants.

    We have 4 in Illinois that are in the construction stage now! Only two of them have big oil behind them. One had ADM as the operator the other a collalition of the public.

    My self big oil is not my concern. Its the corn supple that is my concern.

    I mean we have cheap corn NOW. What hapens when we need more, china needs more, India needs more. The price will rise. Making ethonal and FEED hunman and animal much more expensive.

    Not to mention all the other things we use corn for. Sugar, medicines, packaging, adhesives, plastics, food for animals and humans and many more items. Supposobly (I have no direct proff) they say tires contain 5% corn startch.
     
  13. marvella

    marvella Well-Known Member

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    i agree with you. i like the idea of ethanol, but i don't like corn.

    our food supply is based very heavily on corn. it's a very unhealthy food in the way we use it, contributing to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other problems. (if we were limiting ourselves to using corn as a vegetable side dish, it wouldn't be a problem. and i won't even go into genetically modified corn- that's for a whole other thread.)

    and as you said, it is a very heavy feeder, and without constant chemical amendments, can only be grown once in one spot.

    there are lots of ideas for other bio-fuels. it's just that the corn lobbyists have the economy by the short hairs.

     
  14. daytrader

    daytrader Well-Known Member

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    http://www.ttnews.com/members/topNews/0015072.html

    Somthing else to think about. BIG OIL are and should be vary interested.

    Corn is about the most fertilizer using crop we plant. Most of that fertilizer are profits for big oil at much cheaper processing rates then for gasoline.

    Much of our fert is petro/chemical based.
     
  15. Timeless Rogue

    Timeless Rogue Rogue User

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    Well for one thing, folks, corn stalks are not the only biomass source of ethanol ... there are a multitude of alternate materials, materials that are currently simply being trashed.

    A quote from the USDOE site (at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/ethanol.html ) : 'Corn and other starches and sugars are only a small fraction of biomass that can be used to make ethanol. Advanced Bioethanol Technology allows fuel ethanol to be made from cellulosic (plant fiber) biomass, such as agricultural forestry residues, industrial waste, material in municipal solid waste, trees, and grasses. Cellulose and hemicellulose, the two main components of plants-and the ones that give plants their structure-are also made of sugars, but those sugars are tied together in long chains. Advanced bioethanol technology can break those chains down into their component sugars and then ferment them to make ethanol. This technology turns ordinary low-value plant materials such as corn stalks, sawdust, or waste paper into fuel ethanol. Not quite lead into gold, but maybe more valuable for the U.S. economy, for cutting air pollution, and for reducing dependence on foreign oil.'

    Aside from that, corn itself doesn't have to be used since corn stalks can be used to ferment ethanol, so there's really no concern about using up food stuffs that can be used to feed the masses to make fuel out of.
     
  16. daytrader

    daytrader Well-Known Member

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    They just have to redesing the plants to work this other material.

    Wood fibers have been found to work great for plastic production. They still use corn. The retro fit to work the new material and the handling is not worth it at this point.
     
  17. daytrader

    daytrader Well-Known Member

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    http://www.theoutlookonline.com/article/930

    Cargil also seen a 62% increase in corn based plastics in 2004. Every thing from sandwich bags, c store consumables and spoons and forks.

    They are even making a 4'x8' table top out of plastic. Sams sells them.
     
  18. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Nitrogen-fixing plants are the legumes. They produce a lot of protien - typically oil & meal. These work well for bio-diesel. They do not work as well for ethanal production. What plants are you talking about, I'm not aware of any good n-fixing plants that would be good at ethanol production?

    Ethanol is produced the cheapest from startches - like corn. Or from sugars - like potatoes, cane, or beets. (Currently it would be very hard to produce real ethanol from Soybeans, peas, lentils, alfalfa, etc. - the legumes. They would not give you much bang for the investment, poor return. If you have info to the contrary, I'd sure be interested!)

    It also can be produced from plant fibers such as corntalks, etc. However this process is not very energy efficient _at this time_, but give them a few years, and they will work it out.

    Obviously ethanol will be made from the cheapest source. Someday that will probably be the sugars from plant wastes. Currently tho corn is king. Best, lowest cost yield per acre, plus you get 17 lbs of cattle feed from each 56lb bu of corn in addition to the ethanol. Back when ethanol plants first started 10 years ago, they produced 2.4-2.5 gal/bu. Today they are getting 2.8/2.9 gal/bu. Efficiencies continue to improve. When looking over efficiencies & such, be sure you have very current data. Anything from 3 years ago no longer applies. The industry is changing rapidly.

    Corn production is a funny thing. It does take a lot of N out of the soil, but if you let the stalks decompose in 2-3 years much of the nutrients are returned to the soil as carbon. This is a whole different topic, but it turns out corn on corn with no-till actually might not be as hard on the environment as first thought. I'm not sure I swallow the whole theory either, but there are some very green folks involved in this research & process, it's interesting to look into.

    Sorry for scattering so many thoughts into one reply. Ethanol isn't the answer to our energy needs, but it can help add 10-20% of out liquid needs, helping engines burn cleaner & so forth. It won't ever be the total answer.

    --->Paul
     
  19. daytrader

    daytrader Well-Known Member

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    If we could get folks to move the right way. We would be in. I mean grass pick up and leaves every year are normaly composed or landfilled. This is a huge wase. There just has to be a plant able to process this material.

    Illinois has a community that is building its first citizen owned ethonal plant.

    This will be a corn based plant. It didn't cost the tax payers anything but a tiff district. Employs 112 and 300 construction jobs.

    They took privet investors that WERE/ARE illinois citizens.

    The min to get in was 5k. Not a huge investment. The max allowed per investor was 100k.

    They interviewd a guy and his wife that barrowed agains their home to pay 10k to get in.

    These two were sraight up rednecks. They both said they didn't even belive that ethonal would ever really be used. The funny thing. THE PLANT IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION AND ALL IT CAN PRODUCE FOR 20 YEARS IS SOLD!

    These two are prob seen as the jokers on the block. They really didn't seem to smart, BUT they got in and got their peice of the pie. There were only x amount of investors with each 5k being a share. These two own a ethonal plant! Well at leased a peice of it.

    The local community put up some skunk about it. The epa passed it. They were in cort for a bit.

    The plant will help much more then it will hurt.

    Even just the trucking jobs that will be maid. Hauling the corn, the wast feed and the ethonal. There is 300 extra jobs there.

    My wife and I set in on these investor meetings. I got side tracked and never got in. I am kicking my self now. I meant to put 20-50k in, just got sid tracked and over welmed with other crap.

    I hope they get the one in Southern Illinois going. It is supposed to go the same way.
     
  20. arabian knight

    arabian knight Miniature Horse lover Supporter

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    Ya that is for sure. There are getting to be more and more of that on these boards lately. Good grief this can and will Only help the farmers. There are more plants opening up in the few years here in WI. Man there is so much set aside crop land that this is a good way to let the Land Pay For Itself. And it ups the octane level and the gas mileage of the vehicle plus it is a lot cleaner to burn then gas. And my goodness Exxon is not going to be buying up the land. There is a World Demand for gasoline. and will continue to do so. MIB and Black Helios are on their way. This is a good thing.