Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Hither and Yon

A few things that might be of note....
Fellow Kelley Comet Robert Bryce has an article in Slate that puts some numbers to the idea that ethanol is even more of a boondoggle than opponents had thought. Robert, who is now the Managing Editor of World Energy Monthly Review puts it this way..
David Pimentel, a professor of ecology at Cornell University who has been studying grain alcohol for 20 years, and Tad Patzek, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, co-wrote a recent report that estimates that making ethanol from corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel itself actually contains.
The two scientists calculated all the fuel inputs for ethanol production—from the diesel fuel for the tractor planting the corn, to the fertilizer put in the field, to the energy needed at the processing plant—and found that ethanol is a net energy-loser. According to their calculations, ethanol contains about 76,000 BTUs per gallon, but producing that ethanol from corn takes about 98,000 BTUs. For comparison, a gallon of gasoline contains about 116,000 BTUs per gallon. But making that gallon of gas—from drilling the well, to transportation, through refining—requires around 22,000 BTUs.
In addition to their findings on corn, they determined that making ethanol from switch grass requires 50 percent more fossil energy than the ethanol yields, wood biomass 57 percent more, and sunflowers 118 percent more. The best yield comes from soybeans, but they, too, are a net loser, requiring 27 percent more fossil energy than the biodiesel fuel produced. (Neither Pimentel nor Patzek have taken money from the oil or refining industries.) In other words, more ethanol production will increase America's total energy consumption, not decrease it.

The article notes that we would make more of an impact on cutting oil consumption by funneling those billions in ethanol subsidies into solar powar and more fuel efficient cars.
International Paper to restructure
IP has announced a big restructuring that may mean the corporate headquarters could be moving here to Memphis. And it also could mean selling off 6.8 million acres of forest land. IP is currently one of the largest landowners(pdf) in North America, and has been a big proponent of sustainable forestry. Let's hope if the company sells the land, the buyers will want to continue that practice.


Blogger Eric H said...

Pimentel and Patzek may well be right about ethanol, but their gratuitous inclusion of biodiesel is almost certainly wrong, at least with their methodology in this oft-cited report. For example, they include several dozen pounds of steel and concrete as consumable in each 1000 kg of biodiesel; were that true, someone should review the design of the processor or procedure. There are good arguments to be made against subsidizing these fuels, but Pimentel and Patzek haven't made them.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Pat Burns said...

I think as far as this report goes the jury is still definitely out for bio-diesel. From what I can tell, the research is really more about ethanol. Does anyone out there have any research on bio-diesel?

4:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker