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March 21, 2007

Comments

Engineer-Poet

You mean the hypothetical energy efficiency of cellulosic ethanol plants.  We don't have any full-scale ones running yet.

Sulu

While there is no denying that U.S. (and international) corn prices have spiked up over the past six months,
there is definitely no U.S. corn shortage, nor is there likely to be one. The U.S. is not only the largest corn
producer in the world, but it is also the largest corn exporter. At present, approximately 17% of the U.S. corn
harvest goes towards ethanol, about 60% is used for food consumption (including animal feed), and the
remaining 20-25% is exported. For one thing, this implies that even if U.S. ethanol production capacity
doubled overnight, without any change in corn output, the corn industry would be able to meet the extra
demand by diverting exports into the domestic market. And there are multiple drivers that should boost U.S.
corn harvests over time: (1) greater acreage for corn plantings due to higher prices, something that is widely
predicted to be very visible in the 2007 planting season (stay tuned for the USDA’s planting intentions report
on March 30); and (2) the continual trend of greater per-acre corn yields, catalyzed by improved seeds,
fertilizer, and other technology.

Harvey D.

1) Is there adequate crop land in USA to produce enough corn ethanol to satisfy growing numbers of inefficient gas guzzlers + population growth + food + exports + etc?

Recent (in past 6 months) 80+% increase in corn price seems to demonstrate that the answer is NO.

2) Can USA produce enough cellulose to sustain cellulosic ethanol and/or cellulosic butanol plants to the level required to replace fossil liquid fuel?

The answer is a qualified YES, specially if consumption is reduced drastically with wide spread use of efficient Hybrids + PHEVs + BEVs?

Ethiopia (and a few other countries) transformed their country into dessert lands by burning all the trees as fuel instead of finding another sustainable fuel source.

We would be much better off using clean electrical energy such as (hydro, solar, wind, waves and nuclear) to satisfy our transportation + HVAC needs and use our land for essential food crops.

Ross

My major complaint is about crop selection, as corn is almost the worst possible energy or food crop. Sugar beets and sugar cane both provide a much higher energy fraction as well as a higher yield per hectare, and we could return to having actual sugar in foods instead of "high fructose corn syrup". However, my personal favorite crop for alternative fuel production brings further political complications and is probably infeasible because of that.

I would want to grow hemp and make both ethanol and biodiesel (in greater quantities than almost any other soil-based crop) or just burn the hemp in a biomass incinerator power plant for grid power.

Before anyone gets all upset: you don't get high from smoking hemp, and planting large hemp crops would complicate the life of anyone trying to grow illegal marijuana nearby. Cross-pollination from hemp would put big dents in THC production for the next generation, which would drive up the cost of growing marijuana.

And if we can't convince the lawmakers to allow hemp to be grown, at least grow something other than corn to make ethanol. And finally, can I slide in a mention of biobutanol as an alternative fuel that's much easier to make (the bacteria to make it can digest cellulose, starches, and sugars right now), distribute, and use than ethanol?

Cheap Furniture Glendale

It is so interesting how one is really dependent on that other.

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