Ethanol, what is the deal?

Discussion in 'Energy & Electricity' started by Gutrix, Jan 2, 2009.

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  1. Gutrix

    Gutrix Member

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    So my boyfriend just got a new 2008 Chevy Silverado with Flex Fuel capabilities. Sounds cool and all, but what I don't get is I have never seen Ethanol for sale? Is this just an investment in the future, do we just not have it in the NW yet, or am I totally missing something?
     
  2. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

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    corn-based ethanol is an Epic Fail that was shoved down our throats by the enviro-cultists & opportunists taking all that federal money for alt fuels, IMO taking perfectly good food & burning it is well... just dumb.

    not that I don't like the idea of bio-fuels, it's just that there are a lot of better plants/resources (algae, chinese tallow, switch grass, reclamated methane from dairy farms, etc etc) to use for it

    where in the 'NW' do you live?

    there are online resources:

    Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center: Alternative Fueling Station Locator

    that will show you where the closest 'green' fill-up stations are
     

  3. Canadian

    Canadian Well-Known Member

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    GM makes cars that will run on EA85 ethanol. This is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. GM has been doing this for a long time and many older GM cars dating back to the early 2000's will run on EA85. All you have to do is look in the owner's manual and it will tell you if the car will take it. If not do not put EA85 in your gas tank. Just buy regular gasoline. The only benefit of EA85 is it reduces dependence on oil from the middle east. It actually burns faster than gasoline and you'll go through a tank of EA85 faster than a tank of normal gas. Don't worry - he didn't pay extra from the flex fuel system. It's a standard feature these days and adds a little functionality.
     
  4. Gutrix

    Gutrix Member

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    That site is a very good resource, thank you. We live on the Kitsap Peninsula, which is about a half an hour ferry ride west of Seattle. I looked on that site and there is nothing on this side of the water, all though after reading that it burn's faster I am not too sad.

    Thank you both for the great information!
     
  5. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

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    too bad it takes the energy of sixty-five gallons of gasoline to make one gallon of corn ethanol... yeah, THAT's economical
     
  6. Canadian

    Canadian Well-Known Member

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    Anything that reduces dependence on oil supplied by nations that sponsor terrorism sounds like a good idea.
     
  7. Tex

    Tex Pincushion

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    Except that it takes from our food supply, causes a decrease in fuel efficiency, and tears up our engines that are not made for ethanol. My catalytic converter has gone out 3 times and I suspect that it is because ethanol is mandatory where I live and my Jeep was designed and built before ethanol was put in our fuel supply. When I fill with E10, I get about 10% less miles on a tank. The stuff is worthless. Ethanol is corrosive to rubber hoses and some engine gaskets.

    When we first started using ethanol, there were riots over the price of corn tortillas in Mexico. Considering how Mexico is draining our economy and social services, I thought that was pretty funny.
     
  8. Canadian

    Canadian Well-Known Member

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    911 tore up a lot of innocent people and did billions of dollars worth of damage to our economy. Not to mention the ongoing cost of the war on terror. Every time we buy oil from them we're funding another series of attacks on ourselves and our allies.

    I'll take a 10% - 15% hit on fuel economy to take money out of the terrorists pockets.

    Also there's two types of ethanol fuel.

    E10 is only 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. It actually burns better than normal gasoline.

    E85 is the 85% ethanol 15% gasoline mix. Check it out 105 octane vs 85 - 94 for normal pump gas.

    Ever seen an alcohol powered car run at the local track? Pretty awesome stuff.

    If the only fuel you have in your area is E85 you can get a conversion kit. I'm pretty sure they must have normal gas where you're at.

    Let's face it. If we never needed their oil in the first place they'd still be wandering around in the desert on camels to this day.
     
  9. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

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    actually, doesn't the highest percentage of oil from foreign (to the USA) sources come from Canada (oil sands derived?)?

    yes, I'm just being salty ;)

    IMO PEVs (Pure Electric Vehicles) are the way of the future, even @ the current level of technology they have adequate range for 'city folk' & with some of the newer '5-minutes-to-85%-charge' battery tech (Li/FePO4) can be as easy for them to use day-to-day

    more rural folks or those who drive long distances At one time have it rougher for that, but there are many gas fillup stations & ALL of them already HAVE electricity...

    I could gush on & on like a schoolgirl, but I wouldn't be saying anything that any of you couldn't find out easily enough (& written more conciesely to boot ;) ).
     
  10. Tex

    Tex Pincushion

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    Ethanol, even at 10% is corrosive to hoses and gaskets and increases maintenance costs on vehicles. My catalytic converter has gone out 3 times on my Jeep. It's in the shop right now. E10 is all that is available within a 30-40 mile radius of DFW. I'm tempted to hollow out the cat and go on with my life. I notice at least a 7-8% difference when i use ethanol free fuel. I drive about 40k miles/year for my job. I just drove almost 800 miles today.


    Here's a NY Times article.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/26/business/26ethanol.html

    Quote from the article:
    "Gallon for gallon, pure ethanol contains one-third less energy than gasoline, and the ethanol industry acknowledges that E10 reduces mileage by about 2 percent.

    Some drivers think the change is notably greater. Chuck Mai, a vice president of AAA Oklahoma, reported that his organization has been getting calls from members blaming E10 for mileage drops of 8 to 20 percent."

    Blob - I don't think an EV would be good for me considering how much and how far I sometimes drive. A hybrid might work. Current hybrids haven't been tuned for maximum mileage. They try to make them keep up with gas cars and only get modest fuel economy gains. A series hybrid would make more sense for fuel efficiency and cost of manufacturing. Compare the Toyota Prius to a Honda fit. The Prius doesn't get much better mileage and costs several thousands more. Plus the batteries will have to be replaced after a few years and that costs even more $$$. I rented a Prius once and only got 37MPG. Of course that was mostly highway miles, which aren't Prius' strong suit.
     
  11. Sam

    Sam Well-Known Member

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    Canadian,
    Octane is a measure of resistance to compression ignition (knock) it is not a rating of power. Matter of fact, high octane fuels have less available heat energy, all the volatiles have been "cooked out"

    The alcohol used at the track is not ethanol but rather methanol, a much superior fuel, more cheaply made than ethanol, and with greater availability of much more economical feedstocks

    Sam
     
  12. mongoose33

    mongoose33 New Member

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    This is correct (or at least, was correct in 2007, the last year of data reported on the government's energy information website:

    Net Imports of Total Crude Oil and Products into the U.S. by Country

    It probably didn't change much last year.
     
  13. StillStanding

    StillStanding ...despite the fall

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    I had a Dodge Caravan that I ran on ethanol for several years. Every town of any size around here has at least one or two stations with E-85 pumps. It works. For the Caravan there was about a 15% loss in fuel economy and you had to switch to a more costly engine oil.

    The tripe about taking 85 gallons of fuel (or whatever, the numbers vary) is complete nonsense as anyone who has grown corn can tell you.
     
  14. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

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    The number you're looking for is 6.5 not '65' as I misprinted in another post, this is factoring in all costs involved.

    It does take more fuel to make ethanol — especially corn ethanol — than the ethanol returns. (Note I said “fuel” and not “energy.”)

    Fuel and energy are not the same. All fuel is energy, but not all energy is in the form of a useable fuel.

    As the USDA reports says, making corn ethanol probably returns more energy than it consumes. Unfortunately, what the USDA doesn’t make obvious is that the excess energy is locked in a waste product of fermentation and distillation called distiller’s grains (DG). (Each pound of DG contains about 9600 Btu.)

    Unfortunately, the energy in that DG is only useable on a micro level to livestock farmers in the immediate vicinity. On a macroscale of hundreds or thousands of ethanol plants across the country, the waste DG would start to pile up and ethanol plants would soon look like old coal mines surrounded by slag heaps, except the slag heaps around ethanol plants would be piles of distiller’s grain that no one woudl know what to do with.

    The critical fuel that corn-based ethanol consumes is natural gas. Few realize it, but growing corn is utterly dependent on nitrogen fertilizers made from natural gas. Take away nitrogen fertilizers and corn ethanol production would soon stop.

    And there is a huge problem with using those nitrogen fertilizers: Because the demand for natural gas is rapidly outstripping domestic supplies, more and more of that fertilizer is made overseas from foreign natural gas and imported into the U.S. Estimates from some agricultural economists expect that within ten years we will have to import 100% of the nitrogen fertilizer our corn farmers must depend on — all of that fertilizer made overseas from foreign natural gas.

    Do you think a dependence on imported nitrogen fertilizers made from foreign natural gas would be any better than our already ill-advised dependence on foreign oil?

    I could go on, but my point is that using any 'food crop' for fuel instead of for food is a loser for an idea... there are much more productive plants that can be used for alcohol/diesel production that do not take away from the food supply (algae, switchgrass, hybrid poplar, chinese tallow - to name 4 off the top of my head), have vastly improved yields per acre & can be grown with much less resource involvement (except for the algae, which to truly maximize its potential requires a high amount of initial investment), and in areas that are generally unusable for traditional agriculture.

    I'm partial to algae as its yields can be tremendous and its byproduct is a high-protein edible paste that can be made into many food products(Algae-Os anyone?), except that it does require huge amounts of water (most is re-used, the initial outlay is huge), and Chinese Tallow
    (link below):

    F F F D T *
     
  15. Viking

    Viking Well-Known Member

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    Another thing that's consumed in producing ethanol is water, for every 100 gallons of ethanol, 300 gallons of water are consumed. Since good clean water is in reported to be in short supply it does raise other questions. One thing I learned years ago when I was drag racing is that the people using alcohol had to enlarge the carb jets and raise the compression ratio or install superchargers. Before the whole state of Oregon made all gasoline have 10% ethanol I had to stop buying fuel from the AM-PM station in Grants Pass, the fuel is BP-Arco and when you were at the fuel islands the air smelled like paint thinner. I have come to believe they had more ethanol in the fuel than the 10%. Our 98 Windstar that normally got in the high 20s mpg only got 14 mpg on their fuel, not only that the service engine light was always coming on when doing a code check there was always one or two injector that weren't working and every time I started the engine it would blubber for a few minutes. My '87 Samurai didn't like that fuel either, so we quit buying there and started getting our fuel at Albertson's or Chevron as they had the same suppliers. Even though Albertson's and Chevron now have 10% ethanol they are still better than the AM-PM fuel as we still get in the mid 20s mpgs, still 3 to 5 mpg less than on unadulterated gasoline.
     
  16. SherylSmitty

    SherylSmitty Guest

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    Interesting topic, very interesting topic.....

    Hopefully something will be figured out soon. This up and down roll coaster of gas prices is wearing my patience thin.
     
  17. SonOfLiberty

    SonOfLiberty Guest

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    If it takes 60 to 80 gallons of gasoline to make one gallon of Ethanol, how precisely does this not help the middle east? Seems to me that it's a big feather in their cap.

    Doing the right thing is admirable. Thinking you're doing the right thing when you're actually doing more harm needs your attention.
     
  18. Canadian

    Canadian Well-Known Member

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    I've never heard of a gasoline powered ethanol plant. In Ontario our two main sources of electricity are hydro electric and nuclear. No gasoline is burned in the production of our ethanol.
     
  19. endurance

    endurance Well-Known Member

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    The 60-80 gallons of gas to make a gallon of ethanol are probably pretty far off, but the real numbers aren't that great either. In the US corn takes up vast amounts of land to grow. It consumes a great deal of water, much of which is brought to the surface with pumps, others use streams and irrigation ditches that took a great deal of energy to create. Then you have to calculate the diesel used in the tractor to prepare the remove last till the soil, fertilize the field (with nitrogen fertilizers produced from natural gas), plant the seeds, apply pesticides (which are petrolium based), and finally harvest the crops. Then you have to transport the corn and process it, which takes a fairly large amount of energy. In most calculations it's about one unit of energy going in to create about 1.3 units of energy at the pump. Also, in 2007, for the first time in modern history, the US became a net importer of food because about 20% of our corn went to produce about 4-5% of our gasoline needs. How much more energy is going into importing our food than just keeping the food we produce as food? It's questionable math with corn ethanol.

    On the otherhand, the Brazilians are using sugar cane instead of corn. They produce about 8 units of energy for every unit of energy going in. However, the US does not have the climate to grow the massive amount of sugar cane and currently we place a $1.00/gallon tariff on Brazilian ethanol while subsidizing US corn ethanol at about $0.50/gallon.

    There is a Canadian company, Lignol Energy, which is currently working on cellulosic ethanol here in Denver with wood chips and saw dust as feed stock. Who knows if it will be successful. I think it's a great concept and I really hope for the best.
     
  20. SonOfLiberty

    SonOfLiberty Guest

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    How much gasoline does it take to actually grow the corn though? I assume that they still use gas powered tractors, combines, harvesters, etc. in Canada? Or have you guys moved onto the Mr. Fusion units? And if so, can I buy one off of ya, I have this great mid 80's Delorean I'd love to hook it up to! :)