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View Diary: I'll be 104 in 2050, and I want to live in a world powered by renewable energy (179 comments)

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  •  Current ethanol ... (14+ / 0-)

    at best, has a minor net carbon benefit -- and despite that study, there is legitimate debate / discussion about what the real figures are -- especially across the range of farming and farming styles.

    And, well, unless we go to a true open-fuels standards and manufacture vehicles to take a range of fuels, ethanol is corrosive to many automotive parts (seals, gaskets, etc) and will/does cause damage to many vehicles.

    Now, should we go to an open-fuels standard to foster 'turning oil into salt'?  Absolutely.

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Fri May 13, 2011 at 03:11:22 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Ethanol is kind of a scam (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ewmorr, concerned

      You need tons of fossil fuels to grow the corn, so it ends up being...

      Fossil Fuels -> Corn -> Ethanol -> Your car

      Instead of merely being...

      Fossil Fuels -> Your car

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Fri May 13, 2011 at 08:27:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So don't use corn. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, cpresley, cotterperson, el vasco

        Cane Sugar is about 3x as efficient as corn.  Ethanol as a concept is becoming tainted by a single widespread bad implementation, and that's wrong.  Please don't contribute to it by assuming that corn is the only feedstock.

        -7.75 -4.67

        "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

        There are no Christians in foxholes.

        by Odysseus on Fri May 13, 2011 at 09:01:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Perhaps (0+ / 0-)

          I'd have to see the math. I'm more encouraged by algae-based methods myself; seems like a much more efficient system to use microbes that specifically do this one thing rather than make the investment of energy and time of building an entire plant from scratch just to get some corn or sugar.

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Fri May 13, 2011 at 09:04:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The trouble with algae (4+ / 0-)

            Algae can be grown in enclosed or unenclosed systems.  

            Unenclosed, there's the huge problem that you can't control what gets into your system.  Wild algae are only good for the tiniest fraction as much oil as specially-bred strains.  And ponds exposed to the environment will also get algal predators, although some can be controlled via selective microbicides and pesticides.  But overall, it's a bad situation.

            Enclosed, you can keep pure strains if you're careful.  This is what most companies are being pursued.  But this requires plastic: acres and acres and acres and acres of plastic.  Not just thin film -- heavy plastic that won't be damaged in high winds, and will ensure no penetration by foreign organisms.  This is a massive cost (and not to mention, a massive energy/oil investment).  To make it worse, even the best plastics photodegrade, becoming brittle and opaque in time.  And the less expensive the type of plastic you use (such as polyethylene), the faster it photodegrades.  With expensive polycarbonate or acrylic, you might get 10 years out of it (maybe).  Glass would give you a longer lifespan, but it's not only brittle, but more expensive/energy intensive still.  It's generally the cost of all of this glazing that prices algae out of the market.

            Beyond that, there are other serious costs/energy investments.  A good example is that the dehydration of algae (a first step toward fuel production; you don't want a watery fuel) is a very energy-intensive process.  There is room for process/species improvements on this front, but for now, it's quite costly indeed.

      •  True. Unless you're powering your (0+ / 0-)

        car on used cooking oil.  Which has various limitations of scope, and needs a diesel engine.

        Or other waste product oils they keep telling us are in the pipeline.  (As in, you're growing the crop anyway, and can use the stalks for fuel.)  But diverting food to fuel does nothing but drive up food prices for the world's poor.

    •  My own suspicion on ethanol (0+ / 0-)

      The declining quality of available crude oil, may make ethanol the most economical source of high-octane blending stock--likely able to stand on its own without subsidy.  Given the political power of the oil industry, I can't see them giving up 10% of the gasoline supply (about 6% by energy value) to big agriculture otherwise.

      Of course, if would be political suicide for anybody to admit this.  

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