US News and World Report looks at Ethanol

Visiting the Renewable Energy Conference in St Louis last November, it was hard to find (apart from the chief economist from the Department of Agriculture) anyone with any doubts that ethanol would be the fuel of the future. And until very recently, apart from some well argued posts here by Robert and other contributors, it would appear that proponents of ethanol had largely convinced the Powers that Be that this was the wave of the future. However, even as the President paid homage to the promise of the fuel in his State of the Union, there has been a growing realism appearing in the writings of the Main Stream Media.

So it is today with the new story in the US News and World Report this week. Their story begins in Galva, Iowa where an ethanol operation has been in production for four years. The farmer-owned co-operative purchases 8.6 million bushels of corn to produce some 23 million gallons of ethanol a year, and, as the story notes, has returned $13 million to the community owners. (Their success is encouraging other local communities to also join the band wagon, although the Arthur plant is planned to be some 5 times larger). But the article also carries some cautions:

Ethanol undoubtedly plays a role in the quest for energy independence and the desire to curb global warming. But some observers worry that ethanol development may take the place of more effective initiatives: forcing automakers to increase gas mileage, for instance, or mandating cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. "Some members of Congress are looking for quick fixes," says one economist who has studied the issue. "It's an easy bandwagon to jump on. But there's a lot of exaggeration about what ethanol is capable of doing."

The article also picks up on some of those that have been investing in the business, folks such as Bill Gates, and the Carlyle Group, and these folks have not been shy in their political contributions. This has, apparently not been lost on those who would lead us, with both Senators McCain and Clinton now being more favorably impressed. (Interestingly ten years ago when her husband was providing the subsidy, opinions were a tad different.

However the article also picks out the start of a modern resistance movement from industry – the likely players such as Tyson Foods , who use the grain for their own food production, but also Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute. It also found that coal-fired plants are now beginning to appear, with one, operated by Red Trail Energy and fueled by lignite, opening last month in North Dakota.

The article concludes with some doubting comments about the likely immediate prospects for E-85 vehicles and a somewhat dim view of cellulosic ethanol. Given that, in reading the Government’s Roadmap for this, I noted that there was a need for “hundreds of experiments” and that parts of the technology were still “primitive”, they are certainly right on that.

As you may have noted, the article has some good new info in it, so go take a read. Me, well I am reading something else but my colleagues don’t think it appropriate, so you’ll just have to guess. (Grin)

And as we head into a new year of conferences, I note that there is one on Emerging Technologies at UCSB this weekend, with Paul Roberts and Amory Lovens on the schedule – could be interesting.

Wasn't there an article posted a few weeks/month ago that talked about how a major car company was going with the direct injection of ethanol route instead of mixing it with gasoline? I seem to recall that this process allowed them to let there be more water in the ethanol, as it helped to oxygenate the entire process, resulting in significant savings on the energy required to distillate ethanol and thus improving its EROEI.

But considering the fact they are now using coal fired power plants for these operations, and the known soil depletion problems, things don't look good :(

I think what a lot of it comes down to is short term thinking. The same MBA types who have gotten all of corporate America to only think in terms of short term profits have concluded that there is money to be made building ethanol plants. And the politics in Washington is such that if there is short term cash to be made, then there is strong pressure to move in that direction.

For those of us here, whether one can make money in the short term in ethanol is irrelevant. But then again, we are all coming at this from a completely different direction.

The long term questions about what we will be able to use after the oil is gone is a question one that few people talk about however. There are the technologists who wave their hands and insist that the short term thinking will eventually come up with a technical fix of some sort.

With EROEI of around 1±0.4, alcohol is surely the road to Hell.

Food is one area where the USA has a significant energy surplus, and while this policy may aid rural economies in the USA it is likely to do untold harm to other areas of the world and to US image abroad.

... it is likely to do untold harm to other areas of the world and to US image abroad.

Is it really the US taxpayers duty to deliver highly subsidized cheap food to the rest of the world? I don't think so. People all over the world must learn to plant their food, where it is used. To ship food from one continent to the other does not make sense at all.

Also to remember: The EU is currently expanding ethanol and Biodiesel production on a unprecedented scale. And nobody here in Europe cares about its image "abroad".

Is it really the US taxpayers duty to deliver highly subsidized cheap food to the rest of the world?

No of course its not - but back in the good ol' days when the Americans were the goodies, they did. This has bred a dependenecy and several hundred million people - so I guess I feel that if you provide the food that allows a population to survive / explode, then is there not a moral obligation to sustain it, or at least to manage its decline.

We're in a mess, and I don't see using a major part of the world's food supply to sustain a 50 mile round trip commute in a tank is a wise approach to the solution.

Hey - I've just had an idea - put LNG in the tank (that technology has been around for decades) and keep growing food. I'm not sure how wide spread bio-fuels are here in Europe, but with EROEI close to 1 you are as well paying farmers to paint stones white.

While nat gas does release as much CO2 when burned as other fossil fuels considerable amounts of CO2 are released at or near the wellhead. Measured on this basis nat gas isn't any better than gasoline.

That's a new one for me. Whilst I know of nat gas reserves that contain significant CO2 that are not being produced because of this, I never heard of considerable amounts being released at the well head on a routine basis - refs please.

At any rate this misses the point. Using nat gas to make corn ethanol is a way of upgrading the energy quality from a gas (nat gas) to a liquid (ethanol) - with the bonus that it keeps farmers and Wall Mart happy. Nat gas can be upgraded to a liquid much more effectively by freezing and compressing it - you just cut out all the labour growing corn etc. - so long as you are happy sacrificing some space in your trunk for an LNG tank. In fact, USA is importing increasing amounts of LNG - why not stick this straight in your tank? Cut out all this regassification crap as well.

So thats the choice - sacrifice some space in your trunk or let thousands starve to death. Which do you think is the right answer if the USA wants to regain some of the substantial amounts of international good will lost in the last 6 years?

About 30% of the natural gas produced for lng is consumed to generate the energy to liquify it, trasnport it, and then gasify it. The co2 released during this process is not always considered in the overall co2 calculation.

I too had heard that much ng is released - in the worst way, that is, unburnt - in the production process. Not routinely, I suppose, but when plugged wells leak, etc. In addition, some gas associated with oil production is still flared, and this co2 release is probably not charged against the oil that is later burnt.

Ah - now that's somethings completely different - energy consumption in LNG production and gas flaring - u seen the pictures of gas flaring in Siberia in Gore's book?

But all this is still irrelavnt to my central theme, which is that temperate latitude ethanol seems to be a total waste of time. Our society runs on large surpluss production of energy.

Hat tip to Roel who sent me this a few weeks back:

(Chris - you still got to write a post on this one)

Which do you think is the right answer if the USA wants to regain some of the substantial amounts of international good will lost in the last 6 years?

Wrong question. I doubt many care that much about international good will.

FWIW, my employer recently took delivery of a bunch of natural gas powered cars. And promptly returned them as unacceptable. Too small. They said there wasn't enough room for passengers and equipment, especially since there's no trunk on such vehicles. (The gas tank takes up the whole trunk.) They asked for minivans instead, but apparently, nobody makes natural gas powered minivans.

I doubt many care that much about international good will.

Well they should.

They'd rather boycott French fries.

The French were right!

The French are also more effective in providing aid to New Orleans than those incompentent Americans in Washington DC.

Just talked with firefighter in line in grocery store. The only reason that we have ANY fire protection in the 80% of the city that flooded is because of our good friends the French. They sat down with the NOFD and selected which stations to rebuild and they "just did it". The other fire stations are still years away from any FEMA funding and the city is broke. Good ole French "Can Do" spirit !!

Fire risks, and fires, are up dramatically as people rebuild their homes and live in tents inside their gutted homes.

Viva La France !


Well, this is no surprise since the French now own Louisiana.

We could only hope and pray.

Reminds me of "what we lost" articles during bicentenial "celebrations" of Louisiana Purchase.

Universal health care, vacation all August, several nuclear power plants to get us off of natural gas for electricity. Cultural culinary exchange (we have done things with roux that the French never dreamed of :-) High speed trains and more streetcars (will we have to call them trams ?). A more melodic and expressive language. Tariff free access to the EU AND, most important, freedom from the stulifying, uncaring bureaucracy of Washington DC and getting a responsive gov't instead.

Best Hopes,


PS: I especially liked that part about immediately spending the French payment to buy back Louisiana on rebuilding Iraq. Bush certainly has his priorities straight !


That's Freedom Fries.

The US cares about international goodwill when it needs the cooperation of other powers to achieve its ends.

For example:

- to hunt down international terrorist groups like Al Quaida

- to form a united front against Iranian nuclear ambitions

- to help extract itself from the mess that it is in in Iraq

- to help secure Afghanistan

- to maintain a united front against a crazed and nuclear armed North Korea

- to work out what to do about global warming

Now it turns out French intelligence is particularly good on the Islamic terrorist issue (having crushed Islamic terrorists in the early 90s, and being spectacularly well connected in the Middle East).

And before the invasion of Iraq, Syrian intelligence was very helpful in tracking down Al Quaida people (and Syria was part of the CIA Extraordinary Rendition aka torture network).

So GWB's bluster notwithstanding, the US needs the world, just as the world needs the US.

So GWB's bluster notwithstanding, the US needs the world

But not enough to actually drive a car without trunk space.

You guys need bigger cars with bigger trunks.

Americans, on the whole, have more than enough 'junk in the trunk'.

"- with the bonus that it keeps farmers and Wall Mart happy."

Euan - your off hand comment is probably very close to the real reason. As the Pres says - Go shopping!

The US, and the EU, have applied immense pressure to open other, mainly developing world, markets to their exports. The subsidized industrial exports are in many cases cheaper than the local produce.

However, the industrialized countries do not open their markets to exports in the same way, and they subsidize their food producers, in part to have a measure of food security. ¿What is this food security for? Well, now you see.

The US did not promise cheap food to anyone, the same way as your local supermarket did not promise cheap food to you. ¿What would happen if suddenly no one sold food around you? The problem is, Moroccans cannot complain to anyone.

The subsidized industrial exports are in many cases cheaper than the local produce.

However, the industrialized countries do not open their markets to exports in the same way,

I don't think it is accurate to say that industrialized countries are less open to industrial imports than developing countries. I have seen considerable research that shows tariffs and other barriers are much higher in developing countries than in industrialized countries.

*not* in the case of agriculture. Nor particularly in services (banking etc.)-- I'd have to check that though.

In manufactured goods, yes, generally I think.

The EROEI of ethanol does not matter as long as its positive.

Weren't you trying to say that the EROEI of ethanol does not matter at all as long as it puts money into the pockets of trolls like yourself?

Prove me wrong.

I suggest you try running your household on wild berries that only you pick - all your food, clothing, heat and shelter. You are allowed to trade your berries. If you can't find enough berries then you are permitted to pick mongo nuts.

Get back to me in a year and let me know how you got on.

I suggest you try running your household on wild berries that only you pick

Useless non sequitur.

The EROEI of ethanol does not matter as long as its positive.

Suppose the EROEI of ethanol is 1.0000000001, with all of the energy inputs being oil. Then turning the entire US corn crop (10 billion bushels) into ethanol will result in 25 billion gallons of ethanol, or the equivalent of 362 million barrels of oil. The net energy gain would be (1.0000000001 - 1)*362M = 1.5 gallons of oil.

A net gain of 1.5 gallons of oil, for the consumption of the largest corn crop in the world. Functionally useless in energy terms, and a horrendous waste of agricultural and human resources.

There are, I hope you'll agree, more considerations than simply "is it positive?" How positive, and where the input energy comes from, are both important questions when deciding how useful the product is. There's a limited amount of corn ethanol that can be made each year, and too low of an EROEI means the amount we can create won't be enough to make a substantial difference.

Yeah I'm hoping Euan will outline how that berry metaphor was supposed to work.

As for the remainder of your post...

You've managed to build a staw man argument built on false suppositions and make believe facts. How does this prove anything?

That said, you did highlight the single most important factor when considering any Peak mitiagation strategy - nice work.

Syntec, I'm interested in reading your arguments. Please, can you elaborate a little bit more? Why EROI has no importance in your opinion?

The conversion of coal or ng directly into liquid fuels must, by definition, be eroei negative. Nevertheless, there has been much discussion on TOD regarding when and how much of this might occur, eg it has already begun, I think, in China. I don't remember anybody worrying that the process would be negative, while there has been much concern that ethanol is, or is not, negative.

Ethanol and tar sands are both a conversion of ng + diesel into liquid crude that, apparently, is more valuable to the world. Why look at either of these in any different light than direct conversion? From this perspective it does not matter whether EROEI is positive or negative, naturally positive is better. One important issue is the relative amount of co2 released/unit liquid fuels... maybe ethanol is best? After all, a little of the energy does come from the sun.

And, raising corn prices - which, of course, means all grains - benefits farmers just as high oil/gas prices benefits the oil patch. And, these higher prices presumably mean that US farm grain price supports, which I think are price dependent, will decline even as the total paid for ethanol subsidies increase. Have no idea if the current ethanol vs grain subsidy environment is saving or costing the gov money...

A side benefiti of all this is that the public is becoming aware that fossil fuels are food, and vice versa. Perhaps a negative of both ethanol and tar sands is that increasing amounts of ng are consumed for these conversion at a time when NA ng production is declining, a point that the public will become aware of during the next cold winter.

apparently, is more valuable to the world

this, I think will change

And, raising corn prices - which, of course, means all grains - benefits farmers just as high oil/gas prices benefits the oil patch.

And higher food and energy prices leading to higher interest rates benefit the debt laden consumer?


All of us at TOD agree that Peak Oil is imminent, ergo a crisis of some magnitude vis-a-vis mankind's petroleum dependency rests on the horizon +- 'x' number of years given the data sets one chooses to adhere to.

Furthermore, the members here have pointed out that no combination of alternatives will satiate this oil dependency, therefore demand destruction (likely through hyper-inflated price increases) will be forced upon us irrespective of how prepared we are.

Now human nature posits that although some of us will cry and moan about TEOTWAWKI, others will set about implementing mitigation strategies although as Hirsch has adroitly pointed out, any mitigation strategies considered must be deployed at least 15 years prior of Peak.

The problem is compounded further, however, in that due to the geologic nature of Peak Oil, the true market signals needed to foster commercial alternatives -outside of a national impetus- will likely be too late to be effective, while a national impetus in its own right, means admitting that Peak Oil is real.


But I digress.

When analyzing all the Peak mitigation strategies available, conservation stands above the rest - something I have always maintained. Why? Because conservation directly and expeditiously reduces the amount of petroleum consumed.

And therein lies the context of my assertion about ethanol and why ethanol EROEI is not important.

In my opinion, the only Peak mitigation strategies worth considering, are those with the lowest petroleum input ratios [PIRs] and whether one likes it or not, ethanol (even corn ethanol) has a very low PIR.

So conversion to liquid fuel is the goal 1:1 + change is not an energy loser. OK I follow you,interesting point, valid in context. Makes me want to buy an EV. I like your conservation comments and agree 100%.

I do think that EROEI "has importance". But it is not everything.

Return on Investment (ROI) is a stricter criteria, with a few clear exceptions, than EROEI. So if a company is investing in a project, it is fairly safe to conclude that it is EROEI positive with a few discrete exceptions:

1) Subsidies
2) Product quality improvements
3) Externalities
4) Sales margin or evaluating part of a process (i.e. a gasoline station is EROEI negative)

If the type of energy that are input are the same as those that are produced, it is impossible to have a project that is EROEI negative and ROI positive. Unless the input or output pricing is distorted

If the the quality of the output is better than a negative EROEI project can be ROI positive and useful. GTL, GTL and ethanol all fit into this category.

If an input is not counted, it can skew ROI. Corn ethanol production may not account for water, land and environmnetal destruction.

OK - I'll also permit you to catch Wildebeast - either using you bare hands or a bow and arrow - but not a gun cos it was made using the surplus energy from mining coal or drilling for oil. From now on you're not allowed to use anything in your life that was made using the stored solar energy contained in fossil fuel. If EROEI doesn't matter then this should not be a problem for you. Just go pick berries for an hour, gather some wood and mongo nuts, kill the odd widlebeast - then sit with your feet up for the rest of the day.

And so here's how it's done - team working helps, and so long as you are a lean mean running macine that can reach 70mph - you might just about survive. If you don't get in enough energy from the kill (and all those berries) to feed you and your family and all your mates then your stuffed.

Got to admit I don't understand why folks argue about EROEI - when I read about this first in Heinberg's book (a great read) it seemed like a no-brainer to me. In the finance world you can borrow or print money but in the energy world you can't - all you can do is steal it from a neighbour. But no one would ever dream of doing that - would they?

PS - the wildebast is an energy upgrading machine - producing concentrated proteins from grass.

In the finance world you can borrow or print money but in the energy world you can't - all you can do is steal it from a neighbour.

This is so true... What you can do (and is being done) is to arbitrage different energy forms based unequal BOE prices. Ethanol is a prime example, the Shell Shale Oil proposal to use cheap coal to turn "Tatar Tots" into oil is another. A few people can make a lot of money before the bottom falls out. This is also being played out in Alberta, at least the Tar Sands has a somewhat positive EROEI (for now)

You've managed to build a staw man argument built on false suppositions and make believe facts. How does this prove anything?

You misunderstand what I've done; let's look at the context:

The EROEI of ethanol does not matter as long as its positive.

Here you state that ANY positive EROEI for ethanol is okay.

I explained how there could exist a circumstance where ethanol had a positive EROEI yet would be considered useless by virtually everyone.

Ergo, more matters regarding ethanol other than it merely has a positive EROEI. It's a simplistic and unrealistic example, of course, but it's still sufficient for busting your universal quantifier ("for all positive EROEI, the EROEI for ethanol is okay"). That's one of the reasons universal quantifiers are usually a poor thing to use in a discussion.

Perhaps the low net energy of ethanol is why the oil friendly White House so strongly backs ethanol. If best practices were used there would be no need for fossil fuels to be used in ethanol production. Farmers could use totally organic methods with minimal irrigation while burning only only B100 in their equipment. Distilleries could use corn stover, solar, and wind power. At this point in time it is cheaper to use fossil fuels on the farm and distillery though this may change in the near future.

There is more to it, I think. The average person who hears this thinks that all they need to do is buy a flex-fuel car for their next car, and life will go on as usual, and that they won't need to make any sort of changes in their lives. It is a very seductive and comforting line of reasoning - I suppose if the EROEI were a lot higher, and we had the ability to grow enough fuel to replace 100% of the gasoline that we use, it might actually work, and we would be able to continue on - at least for a while.


You've inadvertently supported the "non sequitur" reference. You can "cherry pick" statistics, but the point remains that ultimate energy efficiency will be a function of the berries you can pick. The 10 billion bushels of corn you sited happens to be the high range of statistics kept since at least 1866. 70,944 thousand acres in 2003? 142.2 bushel per acre in 2003? You should see the 2004 statistics. 1917 seems to be the high range of acres used (110,893 thousand acres).

Let's remember what allows us to get 160.4 bushels per acre (2004). We have hybridized corn beyond it's already hybridized form to maximize corn "production". We till soil to maximize remaining nutrient availability and restore tithe destroyed by previous tilling. The hybrids aren't selected for resistance to disease (not what it was hybridized for), so we have pesticides. The pests acclimate to the pesticides, so we further genetically modified the hybrid to be resistant to ever more powerful pesticides. With lower soil quality and vulnerability to disease, we must add fertilizers (corn is a very heavy Nitrogen user). As the fertilizers become increasingly applied with yet more hybridizing to respond to them, we become increasingly plagued by weeds (pigweed is popular these days; quite nutritious to people, though, and fetch a high price at the organic grocery store under the name amaranth).

Yes, we have record yields, never before seen in agricultural history. However, this comes at the expense of one giant hydroponics exercise in the name of growing ever more food for humanity. As it becomes even more difficult to keep up with pests adapting to genetic modification and pesticides, we add increasing energy requirements to maintain this growth. USA didn't consistently grow more than 30 bushels of corn per acre until the 1940s, just sixty years ago. The rest of the 10,000 year history of agriculture isn't so impressive.

A field use to be considered unusable when production went below 5 bushels per acre, which is where the concept of crop rotation comes in. These 160 bushels per acre today don't factor in rotation any more than the 20 bushels per acre prior to World War II. The only saving grace to using all of this corn for ethanol has more to do with appropriate food choices for cows, who just shouldn't be eating starch laden foods.

None of these "facts" are real in any useful way to predict future production requirements. On the other hand, when there aren't as many berries in a given year, primitive tribes have other things to eat.

ultimate energy efficiency will be a function of the berries you can pick

Your "berries and wildebeast" analogy isn't helping anyone here. Just say what you mean.

You can "cherry pick" statistics

You misunderstand.

"Cherry picking" means taking select data points. I took no data points; I was making a hypothetical argument to deal with a universal quantifier.

And, in case you missed it, agreeing with you.

USA didn't consistently grow more than 30 bushels of corn per acre until the 1940s, just sixty years ago. The rest of the 10,000 year history of agriculture isn't so impressive.

The rest of the 10,000 year history of computer science isn't so impressive, either. What happened is what we like to call "progress". Witness this example of growing 160 bushels/acre of corn with no-till, organic, legume-nitrogen techniques. Better machinery, better understanding, and better techniques means better yields - even without the heavy use of fertilizers or pesticides that modern farming uses to maximize profits.

Chemical fertilizer and pesticides are not the only advances in farming since the 1940s. Arguably, they're not even all that important.

For all the trashing of my comments regarding Fukuoka in the comments of another thread, it's interesting you provide a link to Rodale Institute duplicating his success with corn. Even better that it demonstrates superior yields to tilling methods. I'll be sure to send out this link with a similar link to USDA statistics.

You may consider rephrasing comments like "You misunderstand". Isn't that why we call it "communication" and not "message transmission"? You may presume that something might not be understood, which is why you have taken the time to comment further. Pointing this out explicitly will only serve to distract from your points and invite unwanted and unhelpful attention.

You did cherry pick when you used the 2003 harvest figure from the article linked in your comment.

It is old data by a few years and at the top range of all time largest USA corn yields ever. There is no guarantee that farmers can keep up the herbicide and pesticide race with nature and return to 20-30 bushels per acre, as seen in most of the historical record.

I'm still failing to convey the point underneath berries and I'm not the one who started using the term. If you look through the Rodale claims, you'll notice claims of how little work was done to obtain these comparatively larger yields than till methods (whether organic or chemical). There is more to this than their roller contraption that Fukuoka would likely reject. Nevertheless, the results are encouraging in terms of crop yields per unit of energy invested. Performing some of these techniques you read about at the Rodale site have many overlaps to "primitive cultivation" techniques. Long term study of Hunter Gatherer groups have differing results than the short term studies often cited in popular press.

Sadly, I just don't have enough time to dig up the links for you. If I did, I might publish my own blog.

For all the trashing of my comments regarding Fukuoka in the comments of another thread

That's because it appeared you were being irrational and dogmatic. Which dredging your grudge up weeks later does not help dispel.

You might have - should have - noted that I took issue with specific claims of yours, but spoke well of unconventional agriculture in general. That you're surprised at my citing of the Rodale experiment suggests you should read others' posts and positions a little more carefully.

You may presume that something might not be understood, which is why you have taken the time to comment further.


There are many reasons why one might respond. One is to correct a factual error; another is to add additional information; a third is to express social information (e.g., encouragement). Clearing up an apparent misunderstanding is one of many possible reasons for a response.

Moreover, when conversing with someone who is misreading your words, it can be useful to signal very clearly that you believe them to be doing so. Essentially, the idea is to bring their misreading to their attention, and then use that introspective moment to attempt to explain the message they should have obtained from your words, both to correct that message and to (hopefully) correct the underlying mistake that prevented it from being understood in the first place. (That mistake may be theirs - incorrect assumptions or untouchable biases are common - or may be yours, as murky writing is hardly scarce.)

You did cherry pick when you used the 2003 harvest figure from the article linked in your comment.


"cherry picking is used metaphorically to indicate the act of pointing at individual cases that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases that may contradict that position." (definition)

I didn't ignore data; I just didn't collect it. I was giving an example, rather than attempting to confirm a trend, so I just used the first data point that came to hand. Unless it's a wildly unusual data point - which it isn't - then there's no problem.

Nevertheless, the results are encouraging in terms of crop yields per unit of energy invested.


It was also interesting in that it explained why commercial farming is not done that way - profit. The fertilizer and pesticide costs for the commercial method were lower than the extra labour costs for the other methods, leading to a higher profit margin.

If the inputs to chemical fertilizer and pesticide become expensive enough that they outweigh the additional labour costs, then we'll start seeing commercial farms using these kinds of techniques (and, incidentally, still producing enough food to forestall the mass starvation that some people here seem to be drooling over). Until that happens, though, conventional farming will still be the mainstay of capitalist agriculture.

All I hear from you is

You misunderstand
You misunderstand

I'll concede that you didn't intend to cherry pick, if you concede that these words cloud your otherwise clear and valid points. By using them, you inadvertently make it difficult for the reader to judge your intent and meaning.

Using the published USDA figures for 2004 would have been more effective combined with pointing out that these are record harvests for USA, albeit not record land area used (though close enough given the context).

entire 12 Billion bushel record corn harvest of 2004
2.5G ethanol to the bushel
0.6 usefulness of ethanol compared to gasoline
42G per Barrel
365 days per year

12BB * 2.5G * 0.6 / 42 / 365 = 1.17 Million barrels of gasoline equivalent per day

The mash is better for us, as well as the cows, and possibly a good source of B vitamins. However, 1.17Mbd won't be much more than a band-aid. Even with ten times the non-hybrid, non-GMO, low energy production and twice the land area ever used we get:

50BB * 2.5G * 0.6 / 42 / 365 = 4.89 Mbd gasoline equivalent.

Meaningful changes will need to come from different ways of thinking than this. Trying to find the next fuel that can grow in production like this won't address the fundamental flow of always trying to obtain growth. We already stack people up in the air towards space, it's called a city. Supporting these structures results in increased complexity, which always leads back to minimal simplicity.

So saying "EROEI doesn't matter as long as it is positive" only holds so long as ethanol production can grow, too. Since we are unlikely to increase ethanol production meaningfully, as in perpetual growth continuing where energy growth using oil left off, EROEI just doesn't matter. Ethanol is just "one" dead end discussion that goes nowhere. We agree for different reasons.

Reorganizing our entire conception of civilization would be more helpful (the forager references). Before this can be done, we need to learn how to speak to one another without attack. Otherwise we are on one big tower of babel.

When you get sick of slogging stones and constant attacks, we'll talk again. In the meantime, have fun on your tower in space. BTW, 1.17Mbd is plenty within a different context picking berries and any positive EROEI would work if anyone cared.

Using the published USDA figures for 2004 would have been more effective combined with pointing out that these are record harvests for USA, albeit not record land area used

No - it would have made no difference.

You're complaining about whether the corn harvest should have been 10 billion bushels or 9.5 billion bushels in a hypothethetical argument using wildly unrealistic numbers whose sole purpose was to disprove a universal quantifier (that EROEI for ethanol doesn't matter, so long as it's positive).

I have no idea why you're so hung up on this. You don't seem to understand what the point of that argument was - it had no bearing on anything that you have ever said.

In particular, I was not making any argument for or against the ability of ethanol to substitute for a large part of domestic oil consumption, so I have no idea why you've brought that up. I don't know who you think you're arguing with about that, but it's certainly not me.

In fact, this entire subthread has had essentially zero to do with my original post. It looks like you just totally misunderstood what I was saying, went off into your standard "conventional farming is bad" rant, and then got pissy about me bluntly pointing out that you weren't understanding.

All I hear from you is

You misunderstand
You misunderstand

Then perhaps you should take that as a hint to start reading more carefully.

Semaley states:

"(corn is a very heavy Nitrogen user)."

There it is again. I put some values out on this a couple days ago which you apparently didn't read..

Your statement is unsubstantiated.


Fact is the 'removal nutrient ' for corn per bushel is less than other grain crops as far a N goes.

Do some research will you please and stop with the flagrant nonsense when its obvious you know nothing of crop nutrients.

sheeeshshhhh what a bunch of hardheaded peckerwoods.


... compared to how much nitrogen is depleted from soil by growing beans. Since this discussion thread relates to Ethanol, I'm sure you could did up nitrogen use of sugar beets and sugar cane to debate this point. Either way, I know growing corn will require cover crops or fertilizer to compensate the loss in stored nitrogen in any soil base. For this reason, the "Three Sisters" include some variant of beans and begin with planting the seeds with fish. Since various other grains don't even grow during the same time of year as corn would be grown, I'm not sure what your point would be to discuss them.

Where are your statistics? I'm stopped looking for them after realizing how much you comment and the nature of those comments. Given your focus on insult, it didn't seem worth the effort. I suspect you don't feel heard. You might think about this, if your desire is to be heard. If the focus was to draw attention away from me, the results of this kind of communication style tends to backfire. An ignore button would eliminate the watering down you cause.

What for? Will you ever replace your income from ethanol with income from real renewables if the economic fundamentals are worse by a tenth of a percentage point? I didn't think so.


Mitigating Peak Decline has nothing to do with economic fundamentals.

By "economic fundamentals" I meant YOUR personal return on YOUR investment in ethanol technology or companies that make money with it. Your "support" of ethanol smells of self-interest.

The ~1.3 EROEI matters and must certainly become negative after accounting for reduction of water supply, probable contimination of aquifers, diversion of food for 3rd world assistance, increase in domestic food prices, increase in smog, diversion of funds for more sustainable energy sources, negative effect on fleet fuel economies due to the E85 CAFE loophole, and the short-term diversion of fuel conservation discussions.

Exactly! If ethanol had a positive eoi, they would be burning it in their ethanol distilleries, rather than natural gas and coal.

You might as well also say that the economic return on ethanol does not matter as long as it is positive. Let's say that the return on investment was 1%. Then, would you say that the economic return doesn't matter? Of course not. That is because you recognize that there are a lot of investments out there that return way more than 1%.

I think it also follows that the energy return is important as well and it is not sufficient that it be positive. If our return on agriculture was just slightly positive, we would not have developed much of a civilization or an industrial society. It's all about the surplus, which applies to energy as well. In addition, if there are other investments out there that promise a greater energy return than ethanol, then it makes sense to pursue those and not ethanol.

And I have not even discussed here all the negative conequences of a corn based economy. Yes, corn for food is destructive too, but people are talking about cutting into our conservation areas to grow more corn to produce more ethanol.

I absolutely agree with you that there are externalities of corn ethanol production that need to be addressed just as there are with any industry - meat production is but one example.

True - the government is talking about using CRP lands but put this into context of Simmons' recent assertion.

If Simmons is right, then the world has entered uncharted territory WAY WAY WAY too soon.

If Simmons is right, then decisions as to whether or not to maintain corn exports let alone the CRP, are going to look very tame indeed.

A low or less than 1 EROEI is not necessarily unacceptable for a transportation fuel as long as the source of the energy inputs is from an abundant energy source, such as fission. If the energy input source is from oil and natural gas, such as in the current ethanol fuel cycle, the process does not supply any net benefit while the production of ethanol also puts pressure on the food supply and the environment. If the energy inputs are from coal, the process might extend the oil supply but also worsen the climate problem.

With less travel, greatly improved efficiencies (ultra light materials, liquid fuel/electric hybrids, more efficient motors), low grade hydrocarbon feedstocks (oil sands, shale or coal) and fission energy inputs, we might create a fuel cycle and vehicle fleet that does not depend on oil and which has a relatively low carbon impact. But the fuel would have an EROEI of less than 1. With high enough miles per gallons vehicles, it might be possible to manufacture enough of this fuel for a pretty large fleet.

"and while this policy may aid rural economies in the USA it is likely to do untold harm to other areas of the world and to US image abroad."

Part of this reply is to the general caterwauling on TOD about corn and the USA and Mexico...not explicitiy to Eaun Means.

And is that harm due to selling them cheap corn? Or expensive corn?

In any event it is a market and they bid for and receive what they wish to buy. There is no evil plot at all. Mexico politics screw the farmers down there til they want to buy our white corn. Used to be we didn't sell it to them but their change in farm ownership altered much of their individual enterprise and now they find they have been led astray and bid for our corn.

Are we then supposed to say "No you can't have it for its bad for you."

Or "yes you can but you will have to pay the market price"

Either way it seems someone again points the finger at the USA for selling them what they need , sometimes when they have been ravaged by droughts, and sometimes when they change the NAFTA accords to allow them to buy it.

Also the tortilla companies down there started putting yellow corn in the mix. We only sold them yellow corn(they didn't grow naught but white) for feeding animals.

So everyone whips up on the USA. Its getting really tiresome to hear the constant background whine from the European side of the world.

"The big bad ole USA is destroying countries again."

Wha? You wanta see them starve?

Lets get the story straight shall we instead off always laying off on us.

Here is a handy reference, knowing you will discount it but I believe its sorta , you know, factual.

and here's another which anyone could have looked up easily

Oil man, puts money in bank and earns 3000% interest
Ethanol man puts money in bank and earns 10% interest - if he's lucky.

Who would you rather be?

If I had no oil but was offered 3000% return on oil, it would do me no good.

If I could produce ethanol with a one week turnover at 10% yield per batch, wouldn't I get back 500% or so of my investment in one year?

Yes but the world has oil and you use it and gain benefits from it every day.

The 10% energy yield on ethanol will correlate with 1 growing season - trouble is, the farmer who produces this energy bounty has to share it with thousands of people - just like the oil man.

But you do make one good point - the differenet energy yields do need to be normalised for time. The oil well may produce its bounty over a 5 year period - so that gives 600% per year comapred with ethanol at 10% per year - energy yield - if you're lucky.

Im basing this on eroei of 1.1 = 10% energy yield
and eroei of 30 = 3000% energy yield

It remainds me of this it seems like it is the poor in Mexico who has do without tortillas.

One more time from an Iowa resident.

1) Ethanol is a piece of the energy puzzle.
2) Many existing ethanol and biodiesel operations in Iowa are locally funded with share options only allowed to Iowa residents. Combination of COOP and local stock sales concept. This keeps money in the state.
3) New plants are being funded with big out of state money. These are often huge volumn. These might run into some logistical problems in getting feed stock once they are up and running.
4) Ethanol should never be touted as a replacement for gasoline for most of the country.
5) Ethanol is merely a midwest option the same as water power is an option for New England

Ethanol is not evil. But too much of a good thing is still too much.

Well said.

It's amazing how people dwell on the coal-fired ethanol plant but completely ignore the MSW-fired or manure-fired cogen refineries that are springing up all over.

There's an extremely good reason to dwell on the coal-fired ethanol plant, because it is releasing very large amounts of greenhouse cases from previously geologically sequestered carbon.

It may be worse since ethanol has a "clean green" public image---if they knew that
ethanol ought to be thought of as a coal-by-product treated with the same mental relationship as gasoline is from crude oil---then many fewer people would support coal-to-ethanol, which simultaneously wastes good food.

Since the manure (given that it's called that) wasn't created 300 million years ago, it's pretty safe to say that it is greenhouse neutral.

I don't know what MSW is.

I understand that virtually all ethanol produces less GHGs than gasoline per mile travelled.

In the case of corn-based ethanol, the figures that I have seen are upwards of 75% less.

The fact that a small portion of these come from coal has no bearing. You are probably using coal to power your computer to read TOD right now.


I'd be interested to hear from where you get those numbers. The U. of California at Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, whose estimates are considered among the most authoritative, show typical emissions from corn-based ethanol (from plants using natural gas as the primary feedstock) at 77 kilograms of CO2-equivalent per MJ of ethanol, compared with 94 kilograms of CO2-equivalent per MJ of gasoline. (Both figures are calculated on a life-cycle basis.) That is only an 18% improvement, by my reckoning. For coal-fired plants, the improvement is only 3.2%.

Subsidizing corn-based ethanol is an expensive way to reduce GHG emissions. A recent U. of Oregon study estimates that the social cost would be almost $11,000 per ton of CO2-equivalent avoided for corn-based ethanol produced in Oregon (using natural gas, not coal). That compares with a rough estimate of $50 (or less) per ton of CO2-equivalent avoided for most current CO2-reduction projects.


Apologies. My mistake. I had intended to type "sugar cane-based ethanol" for the "upwards of 75%" figure.

My intention in this post and the one lower down was to say that all forms of ethanol are better, if only slightly, in terms of GHGs.

I have no reason to doubt the UC Berkeley figures you cite and agree that corn-based ethanol is a very expensive solution in terms of dollars and other costs.

I agree with the assertions made elsewhere that corn-based ethanol is closer to being a hoax than a solution. I also agree with Engineer Poet, elsewhere on this thread, that electricity is better pathway for biomass energy.

I was only trying to point out that just because there is some coal input in ethanol, does not mean that it is a worse climate offender than gasoline.

I agree with with post and am not in any way a supporter of corn-based ethanol, especially as currently done in the US.

Thanks for correcting me.

Of course ethanol is not evil. Nothing is, unless you have the religious beliefs of a five year old.

The problem with ethanol is not even that it does not work. It works very, very well for what it was intended to be: a porking vehicle for agricultural interests.

The problem with ethanol is that this country needs to stop doing politics as usual where everyone who can buy a lunch for a politician in Washington gets a thousandfold return on their investment. Because that is all that ethanol was ever about.

Our scientists are trying to mitigate Peak Decline... while all you seem to be able to do is cry about it.

Let me know when you're done riding the pine.

Other scientists are working on high-efficiency fuel cells which can get ten times as much net energy out of biomass as yours can.

The best your scientists can do on the path they're on is to replace some large fraction of liquid motor fuel (not even a complete replacement).  Their system would exhaust the supply of feedstock before cutting into the demand for coal, natural gas or petrochemicals.  We need to do better.

EP, you know that I have always maintained that biofuels are but one piece of the puzzle moreover that I applaud the research into high-efficiency fuel cells.

But you must ask yourself: Is this a technology path that the developing world can effectively contribute to on the geologic timeframe we've been allotted?

Corn ethanol was not invented by scientists to mitigate peak decline but by politicians to increase porking. I thought you knew that?

There are no indications that pork ethanol has lowered US oil imports. Let me know when you find that link...

Riiiiding that pine =]

I thought that corn ethanol was first developed as a way to make much needed hootch.

The definition of EROEI seems to be getting a bit fuzzy. I think it really should be usable energy out divided by non-renewable energy in. There is still a question in my mind whether to consider nuclear energy as a non-renewable or not for the purposes of this definition.

I think that the key question that EROEI is trying to answer is 'Will a suggested renewable energy source help or hinder the oil supply situation?'

Clearly, the higher the EROEI, as defined above, the better.

It would be nice to try to hold the provocative statements and straw man arguments to a minimum.


The real ethanol play is fertilizer, natural gas and to a lesser degree, for now, coal. Oh BTW, what happens when California regulators figure out how much (banned) coal is being used to make so called clean, ethanol?
Natty is used for fertilizer, drying and cooking mash till more cheaper coal burning (no CO2, murcury, capture) ethanol plants come on line.

Leave us not forget imported combine, tractor/truck/train diesel and ever more scarce.... water.

Just baling plain ole (switch?) grass hay uses tons of diesel, not to mention, petro based plastic twine. (all farmer's wives DRIVE to town, for paying jobs, so, no need to count HIS labor cost)

Oh BTW, what happens when California regulators figure out how much (banned) coal is being used to make so called clean, ethanol?

As far as I know, all commercial ethanol produces less GHGs than gasoline per mile travelled. California's cioncern is to reduce GHG s not to eliminate coal. They should be happier with ethanol than gas.

A little bit naive to think that "this country needs to stop doing politics as usual" IMO. To say that "that is all that ethanol was ever about" shows how little you have studied the evolution of ethanol as a fuel. The main impetus for ethanol here in Iowa during the 80's was to find a market for the huge surpluses of corn and the disastrously low corn prices. It has been a 25 year struggle to get the plants up and running. Politicians mostly ignored ethanol until lately. They began to see the light when they realized that a higher market price for corn would reduce government subsidies and revitalize the rural economy. It is amazing with all the Kunstlerian talk about returning to land that there is so much opposition to ethanol here at TOD.

Beyond natural gas and coal fired ethanol plants here:

I couldn't agree more.

Sometimes it seems to me, that these ethanol bashers would prefer to see this money flowing back to the ExxonMobiles and Sheiks respectively instead to the rural economy. Some of those people just can't stand it, that agriculture has a kind of renaissance after it has been living for more than 25 year in a terrible bear market.

It's not money to the agriculturists OR money to the Sheik. It could be money to Americans for buying more efficient cars. It could be a tax incentive to Toyota to build the next generation hybrids on US soil, employing the US automobile workers that got laid off by GM and Ford. It could be a lot of things that would make actual sense. Sadly enough, "actual sense" does not have a lobbying firm in Washington working for it.

By the way... I am not against help for farmers. But I am against tax gifts to companies like ADM.

The way it is, we are paying money to ADM AND the Sheiks and nothing is being made better.

But thanks for playing.

In the 10,000 year history of agriculture, those standing in the field are always the bottom of the pyramid. If you find an exception to this, please let me know.

Whoever controls the capital and corners the most useful resources using it will stay at the top. Usually this means the head of state. However, this changed when capital became privatized. Free markets, socialism, and regulations are all useless to change this. The system can't be fixed or even made workable. All we can do is to re-organize more locally to help pad the fall near us and make this more bearable while it exists. Unfortunately, agriculture still won't work and leads to repeating this mistake in market-state complexity (160 bushels per acre of corn isn't going to happen by organizing locally).

The farmer remains exploited, no matter what. Requiring a spouse to work to support a farm stands as proof that the system will never work, even with today's "innovations". A family can live on the food from 1/4 acre (Fukuoka claim and others), so how much sense does it make that only one crop be grown on 100 acres and still not be able to support yourself? If you "use" the 100 acres "sustainably", you'll never be able to harvest it competitively for a global market (too many plants growing on top of each other and requiring the consumer to eat/use them right there where they grow).

But the farmers will then be paying Exxon & the Sheiks to buy the oil to grow the corn. That doesn't change anything. Or else they can grow corn to make ethanol to grow corn to make ethanol .... and so on. I agree food is too cheap in this country and would be very happy for the farm economy to improve, but the numbers really don't seem to add up to me.

You are completely missing the point here. It isn't about where the money flows, and it isn't about the rural economy.

It is about how we transport ourselves around from place to place. In the long run, we will only be able to replace perhaps 10% of our gasoline with ethanol if we devoted the entire corn crop to making ethanol. With huge increases in natural gas consumption to make the fertilizer and pesticides.

Most of the people here are trying to figure out how life will be after *all* of the oil is gone, and we are completely off of fossil fuels. Getting 10% just isn't going to cut it. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

The question is not about how to deal with all of the oil disappearing. It is about geologically forced production declines and supply shortfalls which will occur much sooner than all of the oil being used up.

The question of all the oil disappearing is another straw man argument. Before it all disappears the price will be so high that its economic usefulness would be gone. All of the disruption associated with peak oil is likely to occur well before it is all gone.

So let's pay the farmers for taking carbon out of the atmosphere (and keeping it out) instead.  Mostly the same crops, mostly the same business, radically different finances.

Terra Preta

And the $245,000,000,000/yr for the Iraq War isn't a scam for Dick Cheney's personal profit?

How do you take out the carbon from the atmosphere with farming, and keep it out?

You'd have to bury the biomass in some container guaranteed to be sterile (no decay) for geologic time.

And the amount would be trivial.

It would be better to pay coal miners to not mine coal, like they pay farmers to not farm.

It would be even better to make coal mining a global crime against humanity.

The charcoal on one Terra Preta site was dated to 225 A.D. It is remarkably resilient stuff even in the wet conditions of the Amazon.

More non sequiturs from the king of babel.

How much ethanol would there be if the US government didn't subsidise it?

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) used to be the biggest single contributor to Congressmen. Something to do with ethanols subsidies, I feel.

*that*, the level of subsidy is the asset test.

vs. say spending that subsidy on R&D on more fuel efficient cars.

VT - I left you a message about formatting messages here:

Regarding levels of subsidies, presumably most readers of this blog are familiar with our study, issued last autumn: Biofuels: At What Cost? -- Government Support for Ethanol and Biodiesel in the United States (click on the blue title in the text to download the PDF version).

We have also issued an update, estimating that meeting President Bush’s proposed 35 billion-gallons-a-year “alternative fuels” standard for 2017 with biofuels would cost taxpayers at a minimum $118 billion over the next 11 years. And that is counting only the federal volumetric ethanol excise tax credit (VEETC). State-level incentives could add tens of billions of dollars to that estimate. See the latest issue of our monthly bulletin, Subsidy Watch.

These numbers far exceed any budgetary "savings" in price-support payments (since when did commodity payments become entitlements?) resulting from higher prices for corn and soybeans induced by demand for these crops as feedstocks.

Ding Ding Ding we have a winner. Ethanol is also a life saver to many small towns that many feel will be needed as islands as the American economy relocalizes. Bringing more money to the Farm Belt is on balance a good thing. Thought the US News articles was pretty balanced
I would like to see the subsidies reduced and also see the EROEI results of some of the more integrated approaches to ethanol production i.e. the Feedlot/methane/ethanol facilities that are under construction and discussed in the Oil Drum last fall. If cellulosic ever proves out I'm would guess alot of these plants could be retrofitted to utilize the footprint and assets in place.
As pointed out subsidizing food stuffs into the 3rd world cuts both ways as it ruins the local ag community in many of those locations and there is a cost to that over and above the transportation.

As the economy "relocalizes", rural areas will be even more disadvantaged.

The reason is fairly obvious: what is the rural person's typical petroleum consumption relative to economic output? It's pretty high I'd say compared to urbanized areas.

I think the idea that peak oil will induce some granola fantasy "return to the earth" is foolish.

If it gets really bad you may have immobile subsistence farmers attempting to eke out some living, but this is generally known as "dirt poor peasantry" and is horrifying for most.

You would be wrong then if you think the 'dirt poor peasantry uses more fuel that the yups in the cities and burbs.

Say, come out my way when it gets tough and your tired of eating shoe leather. I think we could work something out.

Amazing the bullshit that gets slung around here of late. The nonsense is appalling and they think Americans are dumb.

Economy relocalizes? Oh I see that means you and yours takes a nice stroll to the outback? Which is full of rightwing religious nuts toting firearms?

Ya'll come , hear?

"As Sweet notes, the Red Trail plant's inputs, outputs, and balances have been modeled by a team at the University of California at Berkeley, using a software tool called the ERG Biofuels Analysis Meta-Model. The Berkeley Energy and Resources Group found that even using corn from nearby states in the Midwest—about 18 million bushels of it a year—the Red Trail facility will emit more carbon dioxide than other ethanol plants. Moreover, in terms of net energy gain, the postulated carbon-intense plant yields 1.3 megajoule per liter of ethanol produced, roughly a quarter of the 4.6-MJ/L energy yield obtained on average from ethanol plants using today's usual technologies, Sweet writes.

One IEEE Fellow whom Sweet consulted for this story was straightforward in his opinion of why projects like the Red Trail plant are being built, and he put the blame squarely on politics. "The ethanol industry has this big-picture view: we do what's good for the ethanol industry," said T. J. Rodgers, founder of Cypress Semiconductor and a prominent supporter of the Second Harvest food bank. "Using hundreds of millions of dollars of soft political money, they have convinced the world that ethanol is currently a green fuel—which it is not."

So, for taking a food crop and distilling it into a fuel using nearly as much energy to produce it as it will supply, with negligible environmental benefit (but handsome profits thanks to government support), we classify coal-generated ethanol plants technological losers."

Corn -- Food -- Ethanol -- High Prices -- Tortillas

Get it? Is everybody on board this train? Anybody having a problem, here? If so, wanna talk about it?

No Dave.

The Mexican corn industry has been devastated by the implementation of NAFTA and the heavily subsidized GMO corn dumping that ensued and although corn ethanol production has increased corn prices there's definately more to it.

"It doesn´t add up," observed an editorial last week in the daily paper, El Universal. "If a kilo of corn costs 2.20 pesos and at the end of the productive chain a kilo of tortillas sells for 10 pesos or more, than most of what the consumer is paying goes to intermediaries, who certainly incur costs and have the right to a profit, but not to take such a disproportionate slice of the pie, much less to speculate with the product to cause an artificial shortage."

Sorry, but I'm not buying the line that using yellow corn in the US is the root cause of raising tortilla prices in Mexico. It makes for a guilt-ridden headline, but show me the beef... Literally. It will raise the price of corn syrup for CocaCola before the Mexicans get hit.

I remember when NAFTA was being negotiated, and that some ag products were among the real hangups, especially corn. There is quite a bit written about these NAFTA issues, including at the USDA. Here are a few quickly grabbed from a search:
In which we find:

[Mexican Agriculture Minister Francisco Mayorga] had asked the U.S. and Canada last month whether it would be possible to slow the opening of corn and beans markets under NAFTA. The executive director of Mexico’s National Confederation of Small Farmers said that exposing Mexican corn and beans farmers to free trade will increase illegal immigration to the U.S. because they cannot compete.

Mexico adds tariffs to US corn (to end in 2008 when the quota exception expires.) Mexico desires to keep US corn MORE expensive than Mexican corn... and yet you want to blame the price of US corn (which is mostly yellow and not white, the kind usually used in Mexican food) for raising tortilla prices?

Mexico Grain and Feed Annual Report 2006:
Which has many interesting tidbits, including this:

SAGARPA officials stated that 611,516 ha were planted [of beans], which is greater than the original intended beans plantings of 530, 330 ha. The increased planted area is related to unseasonably late rainfalls, which caused a shifting of hectares from corn to dry beans. The drought this past year also created a favorable environment for screwworm, which damaged nearly 50,000 ha.

Here by the way is a background report on NAFTA and corn:

I'm not denying that the rising prices of corn in the US gets into the milieu of corn on the international market. Raising prices in one part of the international market (Domestic US) will propagate to the entire market. However, the immediate issue at hand rests in the lap of the Mexicans. Mexico has subsidized farmers for years, and taxed and limited imported corn. And they've regulated tortilla prices. Thus the Mexican tortilla buyer has been lulled into prices that reflected a false economy. Mexican tortilla prices are principally the result of Mexico's policies, with a bit of bad weather thrown in.

I have talked about it upthread. Everyone hides their eyes to factual data.

If you have any pull with TPTB would you please tell them to delete the account of AIRDALE....I have had enough of this nonsense and wish to never be enticed to post here again.

I am serious. I have more important things to do and this is a big time sink.

Any others listening that have a hand on the controls? Please please delete my account. I will know it when I am no longer see the reply tab.

I would sincerely appreciate it.

To those who I have chatted with here I wish you well and don't get as discouraged as I did. I have a low anger threshold for bullshit and hatred for Americans. I will check in just to read but no more Drumbeats thank you. I will see what West Texas has come up with. Thats all that matters.

And so ......


Asta la vista assholes and don't forget to kiss a farmers hiney in the future , if your still alive that is because it will have been those in the outback that saved your miserable hides

IP, Hottie, dmathew1,,all you make bullshit look proud instead of just being plain jane shit.

Dave I am counting on you. The Prof doesn't answer emails. Thats what I asked for the last time, deletion of my acct. No turning back. I will pass on to my farmer friends what a passel of fruitcakes I tried to communicate with, well maybe thats not necessary. I think they already told me I was wasting my time.

Berashith Bera Elohim Ath Hashamaim Vaath it.

Yeah thanks Airdale....freak.

Airdale - You should keep commenting - you bring a perspective that otherwise is completely missing from this site. As for the idiots, just ignore them. Their ignorance is its own punishment. Most are just spouting off, like drunks in a bar.

Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed.
Mark Twain

You're spot on brother.

Eh...somewhat off topic. Is anyone here able to direct me to any articles concerning the energy cost of manufacturing and using computers? I know I've seen such articles here and at other sites, e.g. Energy Can't seem to find any right now, though. I figured someone might have a link on the top of their head, [Dick Cheney voice] if you will.

BTW, this is first time I've commented. I love this site!

Now it becomes clear where you Yanks will get extra land to produce the ethanol Pres GW says you need, take over another continent!

The President: Today I'm pleased to announce my decision to create a Department of Defense Unified Combatant Command for Africa. I've directed the Secretary of Defense to stand up a U.S.-Africa Command by the end of fiscal year 2008.
This new command will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa. Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and to promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth in Africa. We will be consulting with African leaders to seek their thoughts on how Africa Command can respond to security challenges and opportunities in Africa. We will also work closely with our African partners to determine an appropriate location for the new command in Africa.

my security + your opportunity = our ethanol
command location = Khartoum, Sudan

All this acrimony on this thread is exactly what happens when you put a primary food crop (corn) in competition with an energy "requirement" (liquid fuels).

There is no doubt that current plans on the board to raise ethanol production from corn to much higher levels will

  1. raise yellow corn prices everywhere
  2. result in less corn available for food and feed
  3. not achieve much energy "security or independence" for the U.S., despite the hype
  4. yield low net energy
  5. not result in much CO2 net savings given the natural gas (maybe coal) fossil fuel inputs

Look Airdale, I don't want to see you go. We all get disgusted from time-to-time. The farmer is looking to profit. Fine. On local and small scales, corn can be a workable alternative. On a global and large scale, the outcome will be destructive. Also, NAFTA and other "free" market mechanisms or policies are currently fucked up beyond repair. So, that complicates the situation.

But, really, we have much bigger fish to fry. The peak in the world's oil production is coming soon. Demand growth is unsustainable. Western economies are about to go belly-up in the next decade unless serious mitigation steps are taken. Corn is not one of those steps.

Why am I talking about corn at all? Fuck it.

And furthermore, it's called The Oil Drum, not The Corn Bushel. Have I at least made this point clear?

The hunt for viable substitutes continues...

The last time I checked this was an ETHANOL thread Dave, ergo corn will become a topic at some point in the discussion due to the teeny tiny fact that corn is presently the primary feedstock of the US ethanol industry.

How you can justify your remarks about thread direction when you yourself are guilty of fostering the discussion away from corn into tortillas I don't know.

At any rate, if you had read my post above re: Petroleum Input Ratios, then you would understand that ethanol is in fact a viable Peak Oil mitigation strategy and I dare say that Peak Oil is MOST relevant to TOD.

Yes, the last time I looked it was an ETHANOL thread too. I said that in certain localities, where lots of corn is grown — like IOWA — ethanol is a good alternative. Otherwise, it is not a solution. NOT A SOLUTION.

And, I am sick & tired of talking about corn, which is fiddling while Rome burns, on The Oil Drum. As a long-time contributor, it is certainly my prerogative to say so.

But, sorry, I am interrupting the "corn fantasy" everybody is having here. Go ahead, be my guest.

It would help if you would take your head out of your ass long enough to discover what the fucking subject is. Ethanol, get it? Corn is mostly the base for ethanol in this country.

Do I have to get irate and join the rest just to get banned?

Get a clue and don't be am example for the rest of the howling pack to follow.

I sent emails to THEOILDRUM@GMAIL.COM . no answer.

For Smaley: You better forget what little you have googled up on crops.
Do you really think we can grow sugar cane in the corn belt?
Sugar beets yield even less.
You are clueless as well.

Its going to be corn as far as the eye can see. Live with it. Shut up about it. You know squat about the subject, Mr. Instant Google Expert.

Re: I sent emails to THEOILDRUM@GMAIL.COM . no answer.

Prof. Goose is very sick this week.

Sorry about his being sick.Something is attacking me as well, something going around. Anyway I sent the email via the generic email address and not addressed to anyone. Only Staniford is different.

I must explain that I simply cannot communicate with a room full of trolls and a lot of open animosity towards my nation of birth. I also do not like the directions the site is taking as IMO good conjecture and debate is being rendered almost impossible due to those with extreme agendas they wish to espouse before an audience that is not into those areas. Religion , racial hatred, hatred of other countries and so forth just doesn't make my day.

I tend to reply in kind to this sort of jabberwocky and bullshit but then I lose my temper and it spoils my sojourn on the net. Best I remove myself from being allowed to post and quit giving my opinions on the few issues I am knowledgeable about.

I would suggest that TPTB do something fast before this becomes nothing but a shithouse full of malcontents,hatemongers, BS artists and trolls.

It looked satisfactory when I first arrived but now the vultures are flocking hither. It can only go downhill from here unless steps are taken. On my slow dialup I do not enjoy enough bandwidth to continually refresh screens due to posting or even much for just viewing. The trash floods the good away.

Airdale your comments are not at all becoming of you.

You've added many a good discussion point but seem to have been sidetracked recently by a propensity for crudeness in response to baiting from some contributors.

There's no need for the profanity nor constant barrage of insults and complaints as to why you haven't been banned.

If you no longer wish to participate at TOD anymore then don't - it's as simple as that.

As a flyer, I submit that you were once an officer. Please act as such.

What's wrong with you? Settle down. Yes, Corn is mostly the base for ethanol in this country. And, on this — yet anotherd maize thread — I have said that corn-based ethanol doesn't scale, competes with food and it's energy return sucks. And, it doesn't improve the carbon emissions scenario much at all. Sugar cane is better. Palm oil, soybeans (biodiesel) are better. Jatropha (biodiesel) is better. I could go on and on.

In this view, I have about 95% of the scientific community in my corner. So, I'm supposed to back down because it's good for Iowa?

Screw it.

A colleague of mine in Chemical engineering has a paper in the pipeline on this topic. It is possible to work out the land area required to grow the corn needed to replace our liquid fuel supply. The number is unworkable. One can alternatively talk aboutother plants, or plant oils to diesel, but that process requires vast amounts of methanol (or any of several replacements), leaves you with vast amounts of glycerol, and the required land area is still unworkable.

Also, in practice at this time the distillation process is usually coal fired and drops the energy return to very near 1 (there is a one calculation that makes the number far worse). On the bright side, one could say that this is an energy efficient process for converting coal to a liquid fuel.

The core obstacle is that photosynthesis is not very efficient, and plants insist on doing things other than growing the plant part that you want.

As a farmer I would like to say that it is all about PHOTOSYNTHESIS whether you like it or not.

In this latitude corn is and has been the main crop that sustains us and I doubt you will find a better one but , it and our dwindling soils can only do so much.

From the Future Farmers of America (FFA)...............

"The cross section of the ear of corn provides the foundation of the emblem, just as corn has historically served as the foundation crop of American agriculture. It is also a symbol of unity, as corn is grown in every state of the nation."

"As the blue field of our nation's flag and the golden fields of ripened corn unify our country, the FFA colors of national blue and corn gold give unity to the organization."

Your wasting your time with these yahooligans. I tried the nice approach and all you get is smeared with innuendos and trashtalk.

They are city slickers and are in denial. Like to bladder and bitch while their mouths are full of cheap food.

'The farmers look to profit' or so Dave Cohen says.
What does that mean then? They are supposed to break even?

I am not going to attempt to reason with the majority of idiots here. You can but I give up. I have posted data. They ignore it.

Some here are reasonable people and courteous as well. They would be welcome at my home and table anytime. The rest will perish screaming and whining to the end.

I have tried to walk away from this nonsense but the few here do post good analysis and data on the energy/oil issue. I use that to make my lifestyle decisions and thank them gratefully for their work.

The trolls have driven me into anger for the last time.

They hate the USA and they hate Americans. They next are selecting the farmer for they ugly remarks and anger. I refuse to listen to a bunch of foreigners who despise us....


In case no one has heard, Kansas City, MO has an ongoing chemical plant fire about 2 miles from downtown.


Feb 7, 2007 04:25 PM CST