7 things to know about ethanol

7 things to know about ethanol

There are 11 comments on the WTOP-FM Washington story from Nov 11, 2013, titled 7 things to know about ethanol. In it, WTOP-FM Washington reports that:

President Barack Obama has called corn-based ethanol "the most successful alternative fuel we have ever developed."

Join the discussion below, or Read more at WTOP-FM Washington.

SpaceBlues

Houston, TX

#1 Nov 12, 2013
The best strategy is to convert trash to ethanol. That would reduce garbage problem also.
LessHypeMoreFact

Orleans, Canada

#2 Nov 12, 2013
Here's what you need to know:

1. Ethanol is an alcohol that is fermented and distilled from corn.

Only in the US. Normally it is produced from sugar cane, corn or wheat. Any starchy or sugary produce. Sugar cane is about eight time as cost effective but barriers to sugar prevent it from being used in the US.
LessHypeMoreFact

Orleans, Canada

#3 Nov 12, 2013
Here's what you need to know:

2. When it burns, ethanol emits less carbon dioxide than gasoline. That's why it is a centerpiece of the government's plan to reduce greenhouse gases.

More correctly, it produces NO CO2 emissions itself because it gets it's carbon from the air, recycling the CO2 there, not adding to it.

BUT there is a lot of fossil fuels used in the agriculture so it is only slightly lower in carbon output than fossil fuels. Maybe 85% or so.
LessHypeMoreFact

Orleans, Canada

#4 Nov 12, 2013
Here's what you need to know:

3. But getting ethanol from corn has a hidden environmental price that the government rarely acknowledges. America's ethanol policy has encouraged farmers to plant millions of new acres of corn.

Which they would have done anyway. If you have the right climate for corn, it is a good revenue crop, with large export markets that have been in decline due to lack of surpluses.
LessHypeMoreFact

Orleans, Canada

#5 Nov 12, 2013
Here's what you need to know:

4. More than 5 million conservation acres -- environmentally sensitive farmland that had been set aside and allowed to grow as grassland -- have disappeared on Obama's watch.

Idled cropland. Generally it is land that was taken OUT of production by the 'price supports' to farmers who were paid NOT to grow food. Better to pay for them to grow food or energy don't you think? Or should they lie about on their hammocks, getting government money for doing nothing?

The only real issue with this is the increase in fertilizer use and therefore runoff but that is a problem with poor application.
LessHypeMoreFact

Orleans, Canada

#6 Nov 12, 2013
Here's what you need to know:

5. Every time a farmer plows into grassland, it releases carbon dioxide that had been naturally locked in the soil. In the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the policy encourages a practice that emits greenhouse gas.

What is not stated here is that maize for ethanol production does not have to worry about 'appearance' and so can be grown with less pesticide, with no till farming methods and the residue plowed under, adding carbon to the soil. Really, we have an excess of fertilizer we need to put back, but the manure of the feed lots is too far from the crop growing regions. We need a program to 'recycle' these nutrients and put more carbon in the soil in terms of 'biochar' to absorb nutrients and hold them while it rains.
LessHypeMoreFact

Orleans, Canada

#7 Nov 12, 2013
Here's what you need to know:

6. The corn boom has increased fertilizer pollution in Midwest waterways and beyond. Scientists say that's worsened a huge "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico.

See #5. The issue here is FARM PRACTICES, not growing corn for ethanol. No till, biochar, methane digesters, and the 'manure problem' of feedlots are solutions. Sometimes solutions that were a problem due to the stupidities of 'capitalism' and it's focus on 'exploitation' rather than efficiency.
LessHypeMoreFact

Orleans, Canada

#8 Nov 12, 2013
Here's what you need to know:

7a. Environmentalists and many scientists now say, when all the environmental factors are considered, corn ethanol is not a viable strategy for combating global warming.

Never was by itself. It's main help is in eliminating toxic MTBE additive in gasoline, keeping engines running clean. The current highly tuned, low emission, high fuel mileage cars would be impossible without it and the decrease in tailpipe emissions is the major player in GHG reductions.

7b. But it has been a boon to Midwest farmers. The Obama administration no longer pitches ethanol as a greenhouse gas strategy. Rather, it's frequently presented as a program that helps rural America.

And it does. Without demand from ethanol producers, the current 'bumper year' prices would be a TOTAL disaster for farmers since the price is just a LITTLE below the costs to produce. There should also be a program of cooperatives with storage for the lean years to level the income. This would provide more stable pricing to the farmer, and eliminate the drastic price swings of 'bumper' vs 'bummer' years.
LessHypeMoreFact

Orleans, Canada

#9 Nov 12, 2013
Not a good article. Badly researched and missing many of the real issues. The media will like it because it presents a 'balanced' approach which in their view means you have an equal number of pro and con statements, whether the issue deserves them or not.

Since: Mar 09

Location hidden

#13 Nov 12, 2013
Some positive effects of ethanol.

Higher knock resistance improves power density and reduces the necessity of adding more polluting additives.
CO2 from burning ethanol does not increase CO2 in the atmosphere since the carbon is formed from atmospheric CO2.
Reduction of NOx emissions.
Significant reduction of particulate emissions.
An increase in the ethanol content improves low end torque providing an addition opportunity for improved fuel economy by using down-speeding for more efficient vehicle operation.
Helps keep engine cleaner thus reducing combustion problems and increases engine efficiency.

With newer engines tuned for higher ethanol blends, much of the efficiency problems can be eliminated.
litesong

Everett, WA

#14 Nov 12, 2013
Patriot AKA Bozo wrote:
Higher knock resistance........

Significant reduction of particulate emissions.

An increase in the ethanol content improves low end torque providing an addition opportunity for improved fuel economy by using down-speeding for more efficient vehicle operation.........
Helps keep engine cleaner.......
With newer engines tuned for higher ethanol blends......
As used in ethanol engines(like high performance INDY cars) with compression ratios close to that of diesel engines, the above is true.

However, in low compression ratio gasoline engines which are not made to use ethanol, no matter "what tuning", the above advantages to ethanol CAN NOT be obtained. Indeed, the opposite sometimes occurs.

The EPA has NOT considered the loss of ethanol performance when used in low compression ratio gasoline engines.

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