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May 14, 2007


brian hans

Well now this is a twist, eh?


If you can feed it to cows why not humans? Ethanol crackers with peanut butter. mmmm good. JohnBo


Heh, funny that.

However it results in higher vegetable crop prices due to reduced farmland.
Which is already artificially high.

Assuming Algae doesn't make a gigantic breakthrough, biofuels are just a waste of time and tax dollars. With some dangerous possible side effects.

Green Assassin Brigade

The ethanol residue has less calories than nomal purina Cow Chow because much of the starch/sugars have been converted to alchohol. While this is food is filling and will maintain weight it is totaly unsuitable as the only food for fattening beef cattle or producing dairy cows. So this filler may go down in price but less whole grain will be available. So either larger quantities of poor food or more expensive good food would be required.

Perhaps the residue could be used in human diet food such as calorie reduced grits and tacos.

More corn production means less of everything else, look for wheat to be higher this years as many acres are turned over to subsidised corn. Sweet corn will be replaced by hard corn, so look for $4 a doz for corn on the cob, and the jolly green giant to become a jolly green rip off.

Corn takes more irrigation resulting in lower aquifer levels and more potential drought. Both the U.S. mid west and much of Europe/china have been suffering hotter dryer summers and lower crop yields. Aquifer depletion is becoming critical in the U.S. and China.

I don't buy this argument until I see results.


Yep green it will be crammed into snacks somehow. Just like that tar they are putting in the food now. The stuff in the pet food is in human chow too.

Cheaper confined animal feeding operation meat? This is good for the planet, the resulting increase in hormone and antibiotic contaminated meat consumption will reduce human over population.

Like wise with tobacco. The untold secret is that a lot of people smoke that never admit it. Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Save the planet by dying young.

Thomas Marihart

I call Bull$#!T.

This is another spin from the corn based ethanol crowd to deflect blame for the disasterous rise in feed and food prices.

The politicians were being stupid and greedy allowing the change in language in the energy bill to allow for corn over cellulostic technologies.



DDGS (distillers dried grains & solubles) is a by-product of corn processing that has been used as animal feed for the past fifty years. About 17 lbs. of DDGS is produced from one bushel (56 lbs.) of corn, so ~30% of the corn used for ethanol finds its way to animal feed, and on to human food use.

Animal feed is typically valued on its protein content, and DDGS is considered a high quality animal feed with a protein content approaching 30%. DDGS also has about 10 - 20% starch, with most of the remaining content being fiber. It is generally mixed with other feed components to form an overall balanced feed specifically formulated for the animal of interest.

The drying of the DDGS produces protein hydrolysates that have a very pronounced and bitter taste. It takes only a small amount of the protein hydrolysate to produced a very bitter taste (think of the terrible odor and taste when you burn something in the oven). Animals (everything from dogs to cattle) like the taste; humans can't stand it. There is currently no available and cost-effective technology to remove the bitter taste once it is formed, so the use of DDGS directly as human food is unlikely.

Before the ethanol boom, farmers used corn as animal feed simply because it was cheap and a readily available commodity. As the price of corn has gone up, DDGS offers good value as a lower cost, high protein animal feed.


A point about the government supporting ethanol from corn and not cellulose. That statement is actually far from the truth. Ethanol from corn has been commercially practiced for over sixty years, and is an off-the-shelf technology. Cellulosic ethanol is still in development, probably 4 - 6 years away from commercial production at costs comparable to ethanol from corn. The government actually has been funding cellulosic ethanol since the 1990's and before - I can say this with confidence since I served on the DOE steering committee that helped put together the national agenda for biobased energy and products. Production of ethanol from corn is simply a bridging step that helps establish necessary infrastructure on its way to ethanol from cellulose, or other biofuels such as biobutanol made from cellulose.


The idea is that cellulosic conversion technologies will mature and make corn ethanol uncompetitive over the course of a few years.

We currently subsidize our farmers in the US and Europe up the wazoo and don't have the political spine in either market to do anything about it. Meanwhile, African farmers suffer b/c market prices are artificially low.

As a partial solution, why not find something for European and US farmers to do that's useful? Like, say, maybe produce some fuel?

Kit P

AA, thanks for the good info.

The most valuable products of plants is protein and fiber. EROI fails to take into account harder to quantify attributes of coproducts.


Actually the EROI does take into coproducts, and thats why all the studies are all over the place since they are hard to quantify.

However EROI is a rather foolish metric to use when deciding whether or not to do biofuels.

One should instead be looking at the supposed benefits to be gained by using said biofuel.

And if these are the benefits you are hoping for:
1. Lowering the cost of gasoline
2. Reducing air Pollution
3. Reducing CO2 emmisions

You'll sadly find that Ethanol just doesn't deliver.

Especially when gauged in terms of oppourtunity cost of spent tax dollars.

More than 12,600,000 barrels of Ethanol are produced on a daily basis.
(We produce slightly more than Brazil.
And theres 42 gallons per barrel)

And each gallon garners a $0.51 federal subsidy.

Thats roughly $6,426,000 dollars a day spent on Ethanol.

Or roughly $2,345,490,000 dollars a year.

Surely we could find a better way to spend that kind of cash on better renewable technologies.

By comparison Solar and Wind only get about 10x less than that in yearly subsidies. (And thats across PV, Water heating, and CSP)


12,600,000 GALLONS a day, the rest is correct.

Thomas Marihart


I must have hit close to the mark to flush out an ethanol marketeer (er..lobbyist?).

Do you consult for Cargill by chance?

Remember what their chairman said recently: "first food, then feed, then fuel..."
...he then espoused corn based ethanol in the same breath.

Talk about contradictions.

Companies like Cargill SHOULD have had the balls to say it like it really is: Money, Fuel, then feed, then food... or whatever's left. Or, they should have gone straight to cellulose instead of corn.

Might I also suggest that before you start talking about how wonderful DDG and corn based ethanol byproducts are for the livestock industry, why don't you talk to a dairyman at the ground floor, who knows much better what is the best value/quality of product to feed his cows while he struggles to stay in business.

Govt money has basically been used to 'appropriate' the feed supply from livestock owners, which then caused our food prices to rise.

Government subsidized inflation....Hmmmm...That was smart.

As 'off the shelf' corn based ethanol tech improves, it will eventually remove most of the sugars, and most of the remaining feed value from the product. Then where will the livestock industry be?

But wait, there's an easy answer there too.

We can just IMPORT an alternate supply of feed supplements/protein from places like CHINA, which are just as 'safe' to feed our pets, livestock, and children.

What a great idea!

Food and Drug Administration
Letter to food manufacturers regarding legal responsibilities for the safety of food ingredients

OOOOOPs...that came back to bite us collectively on the @$$ didn't it?
Didn't take long either.

And, as for the cellulostic ethanol technology being years away?

Tell that to Vinod Khosla who says cellulose will be competitive with corn by 2009 (18 months.) And he is putting his money where his mouth is for sure.

Tell that to these guys, some of whom are coming online in 2007-2008:

The rush for corn ethanol (and the subsidy) did nothing more than to use government money to cash in on an old "off the shelf technology" at the expense of our domestic food producers, and our food supply.

Yes, I do see a -small- point made when you say its a 'transition technology', but we could have waited 18 months for cellulose tech and likely accelerated it were the language in a certain piece of legislation not altered. Most of the projects building for corn now could have waited a year or so and done something better. Perhaps they still can if they are geared for retrofit to cellulose as they are constructed.

Hindsight is 20/20 and it is clear to me that all we did was push out the rollout of a more sustainable technology, and we hurt our livestock producers and food supply while we did it.

We Americans really need to wake up think things through (and plan) past the next few quarterly reports, a bad habit we picked up during the last tech boom.

The energy problem is a long term global demand problem...and needs to be treated as such...not as a short term tech enviro energy play on subsidies and volatility.

Domestically sustainable supplies of food, fuel and power are what we need, and we can't do one at the expense of the other.

We need them all...and we need to plan and act accordingly.


If you advance one thing, another suffers. Is this supposed to be strange ?

I got this shocking message, I believe, at 13 years old, in my first-ever economics class. I do believe my dad mentioned it a few times before though.

Now let's all wake up and live in the real world, shall we. If biofuels make food more expensive, then so be it, that's normal

It's also the EXACT problem the market solves.

Kit P

GreyFlcn, I agree with your first statement.

“However EROI is a rather foolish metric to use when deciding whether or not to do biofuels. ”

However, not this

“And if these are the benefits you are hoping for:
1. Lowering the cost of gasoline
2. Reducing air Pollution
3. Reducing CO2 emmisions “

The benefits of biofuels are:

1.Reduce oil imports
2.Create new markets for American farmers
3.Create high paying jobs building and operating facilities

BZ to the biofuels industry and the Bush.

Also , do not confuse making electricity wit transportation fuel. Wind and solar are getting all the subsidies they need. Again thanks to Bush. Any barriers to wind and solar production are gone. Solar and wind are building new capacity as fast as the components can be manufactured.


Faced with developing alternative fuels for vehicles to have a significant impact on the 150 billion gallons gasoline used each year, the US had to develop a strategy with short-term and long-term components. It is one thing to generate energy (hydroelectric, nuclear, geothermal, wind, etc.) - it is an entirely different question to put energy in a form that can be utilized by vehicles and be cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels.

Each option had its own challenges and drawbacks.

1. Ethanol from corn - Completely developed technology and immediately actionable, but not a long term solution. If every bit of corn grown in the US was converted to fuel ethanol (not an option), it could only make 30 billion gallons, only 20% of our annual fuel usage. It would also require development of infrastructure (from manufacturing to rail to storage to pumps) to make ethanol available to the consumer. Ethanol also provides about 15% - 20% lower mileage than gasoline. Since ethanol is chemically different than gasoline, existing infrastructure optimized for gasoline (pipelines, gas pumps, vehicles) would have to adapted or alternatives devised (such as flexible fuel vehicles).

2. Ethanol from cellulose - A medium term solution that could eventually supply 30% - 50% of our vehicle fuel needs. We have been able to make ethanol from cellulose for years - the problem is the cost of production. Major technology advances were needed from bioengineering to produce more effecient and cost effective enzymes to gathering and processing of a multitude of different sources of biomass. Since the nature of cellulose varies with the source of the plant, enzymes that worked well for one source of cellulose (say sawdust) might not work for another type of celluluse (say from switchgrass or corn stalks). A broad national implementation of ethanol from cellulose is actually a very complicated problem. Once the enzyme technology is in hand, the process has to piloted, scaled up, commercially engineered, and constructed (construction alone takes 18 to 24 months). To think this whole process will take place and have wide spread commercial application in less than 4 years is naive. Demonstration plants are springing up all over the world, including Koshla's investment which a play on being early to develop a viable ethanol from cellulose technology that can be replicated and licensed.

3. Electric vehicles - A medium term solution that required a significant development in battery technology.

4. Hydrogen vehicles - A long term solution that require a lot of technology development (hydrogen can be generated from a variety of sources, from natural gas to ethanol).

5. Alternative biofuels that show promise such as biobutanol that has similar energy content to gasoline and can use gasoline infrastructure - several alternative fuels have been identified but are not cost competive at this point.

The US could not bet everything on potential technologies that were not even developed - ethnaol from corn was the only arrow in the alternative fuels quiver a few years. The government made the decision to move forward on ethanol from corn while funding longer term technology development for the other options.

The whole vehicle biofuels question is not a quick fix, but a complex multi-year problem where zolutions to problems involving technology, production, capacity and infrastructure must be developed and implemented.

Govenment provided some direct funding for alternative energy technology development and incentives for commercialization - certainly the govenment provided much greater support for the petroleum industry over the years to develop the huge infrastructure we have today.

The question of commercializing alternative fuels is made more difficult by the fact that the goverment is not particularly good at solving these kinds of problems while the private sector is. However, businesses do not stay around very long if they don't make at least some money. So the goverment gives the private sector incentives that encourage it to move in the direction that is in the long term national interest. Not a perfect system, but the best we have given what we have to work with.

Looking at where we are today, with ethanol capacity and infrasture improving, ethanol from cellulose a few years away, electric and hybrid vehicles on the market and improving, and the first hydrogen vehicles being commercialized, we have made a lot a progress in the last few years.

My primary fault with the govenment is that it took too long to decide to move and when it did move, it did not move agressively enough with enough funding. When crude oil went above $40/barrel and got the attention of the American consumer, many of these alternative technologies become economically feasible. While we have known supplies of oil were limited for a long time, we really didn't seem to care until the price at the pump went up. Unfortunately, the solution to a problem of this huge scope can't be made immediately by waving a magic wand, but require time, technology develpment and investment, which means several years. Major govenment support was only possible when the will of American people was expressed (through concern with their pocketbooks and the price of gasoline, naturally). Unfortunately, this is the nature of the beast of government.

I find it encouraging that we will probably have a variety of alternative energy vehicle solutions (from biofuel to hybrids to electric to hydrogen vehicles) that will be flexible and can be adapted to our transportion needs. That does not mean that the transition in the next several years will be painless or easy.

3. Electric vehicles - A medium term solution that required a significant development in battery technology.

But thats just not true.

We have the batteries in spades.

In particular from AltairNano, and A123 Systems. (And maaaybe EEStor)
Batteries that can deliver half a centuries worth of battery life, and operate in tempertures below the and above the operating temperatures of liquid fuels.
Altair CEO interview

And even the batteries from last decade (NiMH) are fine enough to deliver in creating plugin hybrid vehicles.

Video of A123 Systems and Tesla Motors speaking before the US Senate Finance Committee.

By the end of 2007 we should have a variety of electric cars on the road which outperform their gasoline counterparts.

By combining this technology with the flexibility of using gasoline for backup electricity, you have something called a "Series Hybrid", or Series PHEV, or Extended Range Electric Vehicle.

This offers the full flexibility and range of a gasoline car, but with a near 90% reduction in fuel usage.


By comparison, there is no present, and no future where Ethanol is going to make a significant impact on our Oil usage.

Currently Ethanol offsets less than 1% of our Oil usage.
And in Brazil, less than 14%

For instance, in 10 years, by merely going off of population growth alone our demand for oil would not drop by even 1 barrel by going after a mere 20% replacement target.

But more importantly it's not possible to have enough land and water to support cellulosic ethanol.

And it cannot be argued that the opportunity cost of investing ~$2.5 billion dollars a year in biofuels outweighs the vast potential of shifting toward electric transportation.

If we were so focused on the price of gasoline, we would be better of by merely subsidizing the cost of gasoline.

If it was farmers, directly subsidizing them, or promoting wind turbines mixed within the crop areas would be to our benefit.

Instead the bulk of those tax dollars are spent as porkbarrel on corporations like ADM and Cargil.

And the one shining hope of the biofuels industry that perhaps Algae could provide a ready source of feedstock material, is now looking more similar to Cold Fusion than a reality.


But thats neither here nor there when it comes to the supposed environmental benefits of biofuels, as compared to say Liquified Coal.


Using biofuels could be far more dangerous in terms of CO2 emmisions than merely liquifying coal into a fuel.

A recent UN report concludes that biofuels are not suitable as a transportation fuel due to the inherient ineffeciency and damage that they could cause.


Ironically, now that Algae appears to be a far off dream,
I would sooner welcome Liquified Coal over persuing biofuels.

And on that same note, Hydrogen as well is a similar lost cause.
For the same reasons, based on it's ineffecient use of dollars, and it's intractible demand for precious water resources.

At very least, everything besides research funding into biofuels should ideally be cut, and reappropriated towards more useful purposes.


Breaking news: A123 announces 32157 high energy density battery. No spec sheet yet.


Kit P

Ethanol is being evaluated based on actually producing it. While EVs are pixie dust. I am not an expert on ethanol but I am willing to keep an open mind about the benefits.

GreyFlcn's analysis of ethanol was bogus because he is using the wrong criteria. He continues in the wrong direction with with EVs because he still fails to understand where the energy is coming from in the US.

EVs are DOA.

GreyFlcn's analysis of ethanol was bogus because he is using the wrong criteria. He continues in the wrong direction with with EVs because he still fails to understand where the energy is coming from in the US.

Care to cover your ass over that dubious statement?

We have more than enough existing grid capacity to support hundreds of millions of EV before we need to install even 1 new power plant.

And even if powered by the dirtiest US coal grid electricity, an electric car would still be comprable to a Prius in CO2 emmisions.


As for Ethanol, what is the "right" criteria?


It doesn't matter if you can make a fuel which is fails in all those categories and is merely "energy positive".


Try backing yourself up.


For daily updated news on bioenergy, ethanol and climate, please visit:


kit p

GreyFlcn's, Your question was answered by my May 16, 2007 at 07:25 AM post. However, from your link, “in regions with coal-heavy electricity generation, the plug-in would not reduce CO2 emissions at all.”

I will agree that the ethanol industry has been just as negligent as the EV industry at providing data.

The cool thing about the energy debate is that it can be measured. Ethanol has arrived, we can know evaluate it. It is looking better and better to me BEV are MIA. There is a disturbing lack of data on hybrids in practical application. This is why I bought a Corolla and not Prius. I want to see numbers.

If you want a green status symbol, start a compost pile.

re: Kit p However, from your link, “in regions with coal-heavy electricity generation, the plug-in would not reduce CO2 emissions at all.”

.....As compared to a Prius.


Said another way,

An electric car, in the dirtiest electricity region of the country, gets only half the emmisions of a conventional gasoline cars.


And thats a parrallel hybrid.
Which weighs even more than a conventional Prius.

A series hybrid could scrap all the unnecisary gasoline components, and keep only the parts needed to make backup electricity.

Thus drastically cutting down on the weight, and improving performance.


1.Reduce oil imports
2.Create new markets for American farmers
3.Create high paying jobs building and operating facilities

Except that
1. Isn't going to happen
We're spending well over $2.5 billion a year to displace less than 1% of our oil.

Thats a huge check for virtually nothing accomplished.

And that doesn't even begin to encompass the R&D budget.


2 and 3, we could get far better solutions by incentivizing renewable electricity.
For instance, why have farmers growing fuel, when they could be mixing turbines inbetween their fields
Or even making their own solar or wind farms.

Less than 11% solar effecient crops doesn't even begin to hold a candle to solar panels.

Or are we just providing corporate wellfare for the hell of it because we like giving porkbarrel money to ADM and Cargill?

If we really wanted to help farmers, then we'd help farmers directly.

eric blair

it is totaly unsuitable

Errp, thanks for playing. It'll feed fungus just fine. That fungus bloom in the soil will break down weed seeds.


"So corn gluten meal is a protein in corn that is sometimes sold to organic gardeners to do what? Kill weeds. In other words, corn gluten meal will stop weed seeds from sprouting, no one knows why, although I do now, and I started this experiment because dry distillers' grains was a lot cheaper than corn gluten meal and I wanted to see if it would do the same thing, and it does. So the dry distillers' grains is a pre-emergent herbicide, in other words it stops weed seeds from sprouting. As soon as they sprout, they die. That's because what I've done by putting this stuff in the soil is I've fed seed-eating fungi and bacteria. There's a population explosion, when the weed seeds sprout, that exploding biology eats the little roots of the weed seeds. It's really a tricky little system, really fun. So the farmer doesn't need to buy Round-Up anymore, because he's got it built in, and he doesn't need to buy the GMO corn."

Kit p

Oh gosh GreyFlcn, it has already happened. Again, ethanol is here producing tangible results. On the other hand EV are still MIA. Some like to compare what works to a hypothetical world.

GreyFlcn, it is a free country so you can make up whatever numbers you want about you imaginary EV. The best BEV can be is elsewhere emission vehicles (EEV). If residents of the very polluted valleys and basin of Southern California want to develop EV and solar to solve their local problem, it is fine with me. However, California created most recent ethanol boom by switching from MBTE to ethanol as an additive. If the Midwest want to encourage E85 in rural areas with smog because it is good for their economy, I do not see a problem. It could be that places that traditionally grow corn may find a different solution than places that grow wine.

The thing is that ethanol has already happened on at least the same scale as wind. Both are renewable energy successes stories. Since the Bush incentives are working for both, why not continue both? Will wind and ethanol ever reach 20% of their respective markets? Not likely. We can only grow so mu


Well if you're like some specifics on one fully electric car which is just about on the market.

How about the Tesla. (2)

They have their whitepaper right here with plenty of details.

Kit P

Eric, interesting read, but I would not believe everything that guys says. It is good to be skeptical.

GreyFlcn, no I do not want details on what they might do. I want 10 years of data of what they have done. After 30 years of BS out of California, I will believe it when I see it. However, there is a whole list of reasons why ethanol could be a good idea and EVs are a bad ides.

GreyFlcn seems to have a problem understanding the meaning of a verb tense.

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