Peak Oil Media: Food v. (Bio)fuel, Fast Money saying "It's Supply, Stupid" and Cramer on Ending the Ethanol Mandate

Thanks to TOD reader Tim R. for pointing out this piece on the food v. fuel problem in the Seattle PI yesterday. One takeaway message (but is it a valid one?) is contained in this chart from a group at The University of Washington (click to enlarge):

UNDER THE FOLD, you will find two youtube videos that are worth your time. The first is from Fast Money (CNBC) yesterday entitled "It's Supply, Stupid." After a bit of discussion on the panel, Joe Terranova provides a really nice discussion (about 4 mins) of the reasoning behind why the price oil is rising: supply and demand. Sure, it's a little bit the weak dollar, it's a little bit speculation, but Terranova makes an elegant argument as to why it's mostly the fundamentals--which is kinda what we've been saying for a while around here, eh?

The second video, is Jim Cramer of CNBC's Mad Money (1:30) discussing ethanol and its implications for food; he uses the words "Wall of Ethanol Truth," "that issue is killing Americans," "ending the ethanol mandate," and "Malthusian." Wow. Let's discuss.

Here's the Fast Money crew and Joe Terranova..."It's Supply, Stupid..."

and here's Cramer...he's not very happy with ethanol.

Thanks Leanan! :)

The rise and fall of ethanol as the answer to all our problems is quite dramatic. Now that the idea of alternatives to oil is dying we will see a re-awakening of the "drill everywhere at all costs now!" panic. Once they go through their own dramatic refutation we will begin to finally seriously address our problems.

Hi, I drive between London and Bristol twice a week in the South of the UK -about 100 miles- and there are bright yellow Rapeseed fields cropping up everywhere. I would bet a chunk of the UKs biodiesel is going to come from this crop and looking at the chart above it is a good mix to the UK.
The Algae looks like a winner but would probably be orders of magnitude more expensive than simply spraying seed onto cropland. One possible way would be to create vast algae blooms -either at sea or in lakes. With bio-engineering -e.g. one of Craig Ventures new breed of superalgae- the oil content could be raised substantially. This looks like it could eventually be a winner...


I don't know why rapesed hasn't been tried before. It seems a lot better than corn and in England it's high water use will not be a problem.

The problem, as is so often the case, is scale. A study by Strathclyde University suggests that using all the set aside (deliberately unused) farmland in the UK to grow rape could meet 4% of the country's diesel fuel needs. That's less than the current 5% biodiesel target set for 2010.

I don't know how much biodiesel is being produced from crops on currently productive land in the UK. Quite a lot, I guess, although since the UK is less than 70% self sufficient in food production, some of the familiar arguments over biofuels vs food must eventually raise their heads in time.

Strathclyde University offers an online simulator allowing one to play with the outputs and implications of using various crops as sources of biofuel.

I agree with you about the amount of water we can count on in England.

RME (rapeseed methyl ester) is a solution to an EU farm price-support dilemma.  By removing land from production of foodstuffs and producing non-food fuel products instead, it reduces the downward price pressure on everything from grains to cheese which results from chronic overproduction.  The overproduction was in turn a product of excessive farm-price supports....

Remind you of American price supports for corn?  It should.  And neither one has a thing to do with energy policy, despite the language used to tout them.

As is becoming quite clear, we have not had overproduction of food in the past. We have had an underproduction in the last couple of years. We presently have inadequate food stocks. While price supports may not be the best way to assure adequate buffer surplus they have not been excessive in terms of performing that function.


Each year we've produced about 2,100Mt of grain. We need 1,230Mt if we feed people nothing else - give 'em their calories and protein, no nutrition.

About 750Mt goes to livestock, and 350Mt to biofuels. World stocks are about 420Mt, and these float up and down by 5-20Mt each year.

If not for biofuels, world grain stocks would rise by 340Mt or so each year - not far off doubling.

We produce enough food, it's just that a lot of it isn't used as food, but fuel.

We can easily feed the world twice over from what we grow. But we cannot both feed it and fuel it. When it comes to grains: food, livestock and fuel - choose any two.

yes Kiashu I think this is a valid piont, thus fuel must suffer!

.... food, livestock and fuel - choose any two

Rapeseed (huile de colza, biodiesel, in fr.) is commonly used in Switzerland and Germany. Links are in french sorry. Ex: newspaper:

On the only measure that I have looked up, that is CO2 emissions (gives a very handy overall picture, not the whole story of course) biodiesel (rapeseed, palm oil, soya oil, other biomass, and used vegetable oil, which is collected in CH and parts of France..) does not perform well altogether in comparison with ethanol, methanol, or methane (from grass, potato, beet, corn, sorghum, barley, sugar cane, bio detritus, all from all countries, with cane being from Brazil, corn from the US, etc.)

This can be seen in the second chart in the pdf which is easy to understand from any language; the better performing are few - French and Swiss used vegetable oils (they come as a kind of free lunch, or I suppose, post prandial gift...) and sugar cane from Brazil, no surprise there. Of course that is just eye balling, and much detail cold be dug into.

the study is swiss, from swiss pov, by the fed. energy agency. PDF, ecological evaluation of bio - energy, in french. Note the different rubrics counted; exploitation, transport, infrastructure, etc.

Right on brother. You make sense, a lot of these turkeys have their heads in the sand :) .

The reason why soybean planting is far wider than rapeseed may be the different usefulness for animal (cattle, swine and poultry) feed of the respective meals.

That's where you're wrong. Most of England has a severe water shortage problem. Contrary to popular myth, rainfall in London is significantly lower than in Rome

I saw something in today's Wall Street Journal that nearly made me choke on my coffee - a band of economists in a survey saying "It's supply, stupid" - economists mind you, who have always had creed about oil that says "It's speculation, stupid". Here is the survey:

I guess this means it's time to sell all your oil futures. They have been such a trustworthy contrary indicator. But we still have Yergin.

But since when do typical economists understand supply constraints?

they don't.

OMFG, no wonder people hate economists, they suck at their jobs.

Can it really be true that only 9% of economists put 'central bank policy' as the prime driver of prices?

Assuming that 'central bank policy' is a euphemism for 'printing like mad', I can assure you that the 15%-18% rates of growth seen in the macro money supply in the major economies of the world has a LOT to do with rising prices. If instead they meant that 'negative real interest rates' were to blame, then they are partially right there as negative real rates always drive investment dollars towards 'things'.

In my mind the causative factors for the recent surge in inflation, prioritized, are: Money supply growth --> negative real interest rates --> demand growth --> supply

I remain consistently amazed at how it is even possible for such a survey to go out without even a single direct mention of monetary growth rates as possible explanation for inflation.

/smacks head/

You think that's crazy-you've got Deflationists like Mish trying to spin the argument that 17% broad money supply growth is actually deflation.

Try this quote out from the latest Credit Bubble Bulletin from Doug Noland (emphasis mine):

Crude oil closed today above $126. The most vitally important commodity in the world has now posted a stunning year-to-date rise of better than 30% and has now doubled in the past year. It is worth noting that during the ten-year period 1996 through 2005 crude averaged about $29 a barrel. It’s now at four times this level - and running.

I don’t believe it is mere coincidence that crude has posted about a 30% y-t-d price surge at the same time as international reserve positions have expanded at about a 30% annualized rate - to a stunning $6.769 TN. Over the past 4 ½ years, official international reserves have ballooned an unprecedented $3.921 trillion, or 138%. During this period, crude prices surged almost 300%. Chinese reserves ballooned more than four-fold over this period to $1.68 Trillion; India’s reserve position tripled to $303bn; and Brazil enjoyed a four-fold increase to $189bn. After beginning 2004 at $73bn, Russian reserves have almost reached the half Trillion mark ($493bn). And in just the past year, OPEC reserves have inflated 42% to $490bn. To be sure, the world is awash like never before in excess “liquidity” for which to bid up prices of critical tradable resources.

Mish, whom I respect in some ways, is fixated, to the point of being blinkered, on the belief that we *must* face deflation.

The evidence to the contrary is pretty clear. A more than doubling of the central bank reserves in the past 4 years tells us that the global check kiting, circle jerk scheme being operated by the world's central banks is running at full tilt.

In my mind ANY analysis of prices has to include the growth in monetary aggregates and the best place to track those, at least tangentially, is in the reserve assets of central banks...

/I'm an inflationist
//Have a hard time believing that Bernanke won't continue to do exactly what he's said he will do and has been doing.
///3,800 failed currencies from history all died from inflation, not deflation...
////Our leadership is as morally weak as any that ever existed.

I just ordered some paint from a US company and the list price ran to just over $605 (including discounts) plus a 19% shipping charge (par avion Canada). The 19% I felt a bit on the extortionist side so I gave them a call and queried them on it. The upshot was that I got a return call shortly after to tell me that my total would be $599 including shipping. Brian, I don't know what you want to call this, maybe 'enlightened price decrease' would suit you or could we possibly use that old standby 'J'exige deflation!' for what occurred, anyway it's something that I think will be gathering vogue. (Only problem is who's going to be left with the bucks to benefit by that process?) I think any buck saved now will have a lot more purchasing power in the future. Save that pretty penny and you may end up feeling as bright as one:)

BTW if existing capital were to be destroyed at a rate of 18% while and the same time money supply were to grow at 17% what have you got? I think you got trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with Bubble here in Deflation-River City.

Try that call at the gas station or the grocery store-try it with your heat or electricity provider-try it with your insurance company or your property tax bill. They lowered the price of the paint because they are floundering-the next step is they are out of business when you call them. That isn't deflation-a depression can coexist with hyperinflation and destroy many businesses-ask the paint supplier if THEIR costs are magically "deflating".

No, don't think I will, the gas station is too far to walk and I think instead I will buy your house, soon for peanuts, and use it for fire wood to heat mine. Anyway there is a big credit derivitive thingy, the size of the Hindenberg, out there crashing away so I'm not going to worry about the current price of gas for my rusting Hutmobile. Soon all but the filthy rich will be riding shanks mare and who knows what the price of gas could be then? The few I have known have not been easy to part from their gelt unless it was in what they considered a good cause ,... namely themselves. Would you, at least, agree with that last little bit:)

You aren't seriously suggesting that with unemployment in excess of 9%, that inflation in the US is demand-driven, with the Fed fueling the demand-driven inflation by setting interest rates too low?

Are you?

Because, not to put too fine a point on it, that would be silly. Its almost as silly as people who think that a Reserve Bank directly decides on how much money is created in a modern monetary production economy.

What you said is complete gobbledegook. Unemployment has nothing to do with money supply.

It's really simple math. If you inflate the money supply by 100%, you're going to have prices increase by about 100%. If you inflate the money supply by 1000%, prices will increase by 1000%. It wont be exactly 1000%, for a variety of reasons, but the money supply is the primary factor.

economists mind you, who have always had creed about oil that says "It's speculation, stupid"

Huh? Oil suppliers have this mantra of late that the speculators are to blame - I'm not aware of economists taking that line (I might be wrong, but I've been generally watching for economists talking about what the oil companies and opec etc are spouting).

From the little I have garnered from a couple of blogs and lengthy discussions with my economics student brother, standard economic theory discounts speculators as a cause without increasing storage (ie: the speculators would have to drive up price by buying actual gloopy oil, rather than futures contracts)

Dropping the Ethanol mandate would probably cut gas spending this summer more than the silly tax holiday proposal would.

It may not lower the price at the pump, but ethanol lowers gas mileage, so getting rid of it means you fill up less often. That plus an eventual drop in food prices, is a win win situation. (Unless you are ADM)

It may not lower the price at the pump, but ethanol lowers gas mileage, so getting rid of it means you fill up less often.

It's not that simple. Ethanol has a higher octane rating than gasoline. Adding 5-10% ethanol to gasoline can allow you to use higher compression ratios without knocking which is more efficient.

You know, I've been saying this since I started posting on this site. Physics does not change, people! As much wishful thinking as you may wish to apply, PHYSICS DOES NOT CHANGE.

That means that all the other predictions are likely to come true as well--specifically, WE WILL NOT HAVE A TECHNO-SOLUTION that lets us keep things THE WAY THEY ARE.

Powerdown is inevitable. A population crash is inevitable. We either do this the smart way, using relatively cheap energy to facilitate and prepare the way for a low tech society, or we can floor this mother and see just how damned hard and fast we can drive this polluting, stinking, riotous, warring bus we call "Western Civilization" into a the side of a mountain.

My guess is that many here will say, "Drive on!"


really? no plug-in hybrids? no electric cars? no switching from an SUV to a smaller car? no conservation?

things might not be the way they were but isn't that a GOOD thing?

plug-in hybrids, electric cars, switching from an SUV to a smaller car

All are temporary experiments that are not the best use of remaining fossil fuels

We need to redesign / rebuild communities especially housing and agriculture

In addition, we need to redesign people's brains. In the city, at least, I agree the car should be made obsolete. But that's just me.

I agree that cars should be made obsolete in the city. I have been living in a house just beside a highway the noise from the cars are disturbing. I guess it's mainly the people living in the suburbs around the cities that use the highways but it's the people in the cities that have to live with them.
I think building more Public transit and using corn or other crops to make drinkable alcohol would be a lot nicer.

"All are temporary experiments that are not the best use of remaining fossil fuels"

some people will always drive to work and we need emergency vehicles to get around so these cars will be needed. of crouse we should use the most fuel efficient cars. they are temporary until something better comes a long.

The something better that is going to come along is relocalization, working where you live, and generally staying put.

The something better that is going to come along is relocalization, working where you live, and generally staying put.

No, but ok.


you obviously didn't follow my advice to watch Albert Bartlett's show on

I would still recommend it to you.


J. Daehn

Right On!

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, there were a lot fewer talking heads who are into promoting their own livelihoods and 1. know nothing about energy, 2. wouldn't know the public good if it bit them.

Today there are so many heads with personal or purchased agendas that it is nearly impossibly for the average person to know who is telling the truth. So folks stick with the head the best fits their desired view of the world.

Things need to get much worse before people start to seriously doubt their favorite head. Of course the head will come up with some excuse, or simply never be called onto the carpet for their past balarney.

Given all that, it will be a near miss if we don't smash into the side of the mountain.

My guess is that many here will say, "Drive on!"

Have you forgotten where you are posting?

LOL. Indeed.

I think Chernekov meant HERE as in Western Civilization. But...I bet many here are driving on ... old habits are hard to break!

"Powerdown is inevitable"

so why don't you get us started and powerdown your computer!

(personal anecdote)

My jokey plan; son, 22, is keen, as is a friend, to go

motoring in France

for the last time ever.

We would have the silver bird with wheels, and stop at castles, scenic spots, nice restaurants, small hotels, see the center of small provincial towns. Wear sunglasses, eat snails, daube, canard à l’orange, dutifully gaze at four poster beds, tapestries, ancient wells and walls, paintings in the local museum; visit the local vineyards and cellars, and taste; go to fairs, antique markets, drive on, slowly, merry on the country roads, to the next destination. We wondered if we should have hats - if so what kind, men can wear panama hats, they never go out of style.

Drink too much in the Café du commerce, or smoke a joint on the terrace, or lying on the lilo in the pool.


A ritual .. to give up. What went before.

Robert is that a hint of anarchy on your breath? ;-)

Chernkov writes: "Powerdown is inevitable. A population crash is inevitable. We either do this the smart way, using relatively cheap energy to facilitate and prepare the way for a low tech society, or we can floor this mother and see just how damned hard and fast we can drive this polluting, stinking, riotous, warring bus we call "Western Civilization" into a the side of a mountain.

My guess is that many here will say, "Drive on!"

Actually if I remember correctly that was Jay Hansen's recommendation. He thinks a quick, hard crash at 7 billion will be less destructive than a long, slow decline at 10 billion that consumes all our resources and extincts most species. He suggests that after the long. slow decline there will be nothing left to support civilization and hence a decent into Olduvai.

As long as human population keeps growing, and that appears to be so today, this problem will not abate. Mitigations will be used but if population growth keeps on keeping on the long, slow decline seems to be our future. I just hope it doesn't happen in my lifetime.

There is no motivation to address population growth-for the top 1% of the human population, it is global GDP that is paramount, not per capita GDP. As the median standard of living declines, the standard of living at the top level increases-I realize this stage is not permanent, but nobody cares about 50 years from now.

Olduvai is not a perspective I had considered before. There is no question "Powerdown is inevitable!" I have commented here numerous times that population is the major issue ala Malthus. So the question becomes: "Is 'Drive On!' our last best hope to cap this baby at 7 billion?"

No-the chances of global population peaking at 7 billion are slim and none.

I happened to be at home from work yesterday (recovering from dental surgery) and tuned into CNBC. Most of the day's coverage was on the price of oil. CNBC seems to be getting it. My impression is that the business reporters are more intelligent than the rest of MSM and can actually decipher the difference between hype and reality. So there is just a glimmer of hope since once business realizes that there is a problem, the politicians will be taking notice.

My impression is that the business reporters are more intelligent than the rest of MSM

Just barely and many of them are infected with the "stocks only go up buy the dips" disease.

Can you add hemp to the chart? I'm very, very curious to see it's potential vs. the others you have listed.

Hemp oil is much better used as a source of omega 3 and 6. The rest of the plant is very useful for making clothes, paper, building material and in some cases can be used in composites.

I think using bio-gas is a much better idea, and vehicle engine should move towards LNG / CNG which can be supplemented with an amount of bio-gas. Low emissions and is moving in the right direction towards fuel cells (ducks). Unfortunately you would quickly hike the price of natgas to match that of oil.

Microturbines are lightweight and simple, and IMO would be ideally suited to act as range extenders on plug ins, unfortunately they are not cheap, but if they could act as CHP units in addition to range extenders there might be a cost saving. They can also run any many fuels.

Also digestion of various feedstocks is a scalable, modular process suitable as an alternative to waste disposal. I think the process waste can be pressed and vermi-composted (worms) then the liquid can be fed into the next batch as it contains all the right bugs.

The gas could also come from gasification of various feed-stocks as the Choren process has shown, again with the waste being used as a soil amendment.

Also grow lots of willow to gasify to make charcoal for water filters, or burning.

Biogas power plants have a unique factor of being renewable and controllable, they play a part regulating the output of wind turbines in the 'virtual power plant' model, chuck in some hideously expensive NaS batteries, smart meters, frequency responsive heating/cooling and you might get a working system. Pure speculation, just throwing some ideas around.

As far as investing goes, I think investing in refiners is currently a bad bet, and very likely to stay that way.

Mark Folsom

"I think investing in refiners is currently a bad bet, and very likely to stay that way."


Have you looked at the crack spread lately?

As oil production falls, there will be greater and greater excesses of refining capacity.  Refiners will have no market power, and margins will be roughly equal to costs.

"Have you looked at the crack spread lately?"

is it going to stay that way for awhile? refineries if they can't make any money will go out of business until such a time as the industry can finally make money. just a year or two ago the crack spread was huge and the refiners were printing money.

is it going to stay that way for awhile?

If the world is past peak, it is going to stay that way permanently.  Capacity which was in use last year will be idle next year.

Jim Cramer. Arghghh!

I think people should be really careful about trusting or referring to anything he has to say. He is so consistently wrong, biased and off-the-wall on a purpose, it's not funny (anymore).

On the few occasions he happens to be correct, it seems to me it's more like pure luck or that whatever he is saying is now in line with his own portfolio changes (i.e. he's trying to make a buck).

To me his program is the worst of the worst @ CNBC and that is saying a lot for that 'channel'.

Goldman calling for $200 oil, and other media people pushing the idea that oil always goes up, makes me nervous. Have the people on Wall Street come over to Peak Oil? If so, they will come in their own way.

My prediction: a run-up in the price of oil to the $130-$150 range, then some kind of generated frenzy caused by a series of bearish events happening at about the same time, such as: Bush pulls a few million barrels out of the SPR, the Saudis SAY that they will increase production; some hedge fund involved in energy gets in trouble and sells off lots of positions (or some non-oil event rocks the market); the Wednesday morning crude-gasoline-distillate numbers show a big uptick into storage, the ECB makes a huge purchase of dollars, a wave of shorts wash into the oil market at the same time, plus maybe also bearish information about gold or other commodities surfaces as well (for example: a larger than expected sale of gold by the IMF).

The result: a good whacking of price. It is then that Wall Street will back up its new found understanding of oil with action, and establish seriously decent positions by buying into the temporary frenzy of the downswing.

The problem is that, IMO, oil prices are being set at the margin as importers bid against each other for declining net oil exports, and our model, and several case histories, show that net export decline rates tend to accelerate with time. While there will certainly be pullbacks, I expect to see what amounts to a geometric progression in oil prices--the price of oil doubles, and then doubles again. A steady exponential decline rate would show up on this chart as a flat line, parallel to the horizontal axis:

Declining net oil exports will inevitably result, absent a severe decline in demand in importing countries, in continued rapid increases in oil prices, as oil importing countries furiously bid against each other for declining oil exports.

Just saw the CFTC report.
Commericials INCREASED their net long by 14,000 contracts in the face of the biggest tuesday to tuesday rise in oil prices.
The small investor SHORTED 31,000 contracts. Ouch!
Does not look like a top to me.
$165 before $105.

A symmetrical shaped oil production curve and a rising or flat consumption will cause the export to fall a lot faster after a peak than it increased before.

Agreed. I didn't post it to pimp Cramer, I posted these to pimp what they were saying...just the fact that these memes are making it into the media (prompted by the price of a resource, yes), is a big deal.

But I did think the first video was a good explanation of why this is supply...etc.

"He is so consistently wrong"

no he isn't. he's very wrong about some things and very right. he was right on gold commodities and the agflation plays.

I loved his Bear Sterns play - genius

"don't take your money out of's FINE!!!!

cramer was talking about the firm in that instance not the stock. I don't know if he had a buy or sell on the stock.

Starvation was being wiped out until ethanol came along!??! What planet is Cramer living on?

In North America, it takes 10 calories of fossil fuels to put 1 calorie of food in your mouth.

You are DREAMING if you think that a doubling of corn prices is going to have a greater negative impact of food prices than a 300% increase in the price of oil.

And don't give me the, 'Oh, but the farmers are taking away food acreage for corn' - because they're not.

Combined corn, soybean, and wheat planted area is projected at 225 million acres, the highest since 1984.

- Wheat planted area in 2008 is expected to increase 3.6 million acres to 64 million.
- Corn acreage for 2008 is expected to decline 3.6 million acres (to 90 million) from 2007.
- Soybean area is projected to recover to 71 million acres in 2008, up 7.4 million from last year.
- Rice planted acreage for 2008 is projected at 2.70 million acres, down 61,000 acres from last year.

Source: USDA Agricultural Outlook (May 9th official)


Peak Oil is a liquid transport fuel crisis - one that the market will not be able to react to in time to offset the consequences.

Mitigation of said crisis, requires smart government mandates for renewable, liquid transport fuels with a low PIR or petroleum input ratio as part of an overarching, integrated bio-refinery construct that complements a transition to an all electrical or bio-hybrid transport system.

Ethanol -including corn ethanol- is a low PIR fuel but more importantly, however, ethanol can be made to a global standard from anything, by anyone, anywhere in the world.

The fight to see this not happen… has been 100 years in the making.

Ethanol is not the answer

as far as the Agricultural Outlook ....
you left out the full report

In North America, it takes 10 calories of fossil fuels to put 1 calorie of food in your mouth.

How is it, then, that we are told that 10 calories of fossil fuels can put 13 calories of ethanol in your tank? Ethanol advocates like to have it both ways. They blame high food prices on higher fossil fuel prices. And I agree that they have a big impact. On the other hand, when arguing ethanol's energy return, they try to downplay the fossil fuel inputs. Which is it? Do they have a major impact, or don't they? Or does it depend on the point you are trying to make?

"How is it, then, that we are told that 10 calories of fossil fuels can put 13 calories of ethanol in your tank?"

I don't know but to take the example of corn we plant corn and use only the kernals. doesn't ethanol use the husk and etc.?

doesn't ethanol use the husk and etc.?



dude, do some resarch, please:

You can also produce ethanol from wood, but the process only uses the sugar released and not the cellulose.

I used to live near a plant in Switzerland where proceesed wood that way. (Solothurn)

The nearby river Aare smells pretty bad once it has passed the plant and swimming is not recommended. There are constant quarrels with the neighbours over the smells and they will probably close it down if they continue to ignore environmental standards again.

The statement about calories of fossil fuels applies to all food. The amount of calories gained versus inputs depends on what you eat. If eating lower on the food chain, it takes less fossil fuel calories for food calories. A vegan requires way less fossil fuel calories than a meat eater.

I take your point but it would be more meaningful to compare fossil fuel calories to produce corn. Corn, however, is very fossil fuel intensive compared to, say, soybeans. Therefore, increased fossil fuels costs will probably have a greater impact on corn and, therefore, ethanol, than many other crops.

The questions remains. What is more significant? The increase in fossil fuels or the proportion of corn taken by the ethanol industry?

The statement about calories of fossil fuels applies to all food. The amount of calories gained versus inputs depends on what you eat. If eating lower on the food chain, it takes less fossil fuel calories for food calories. A vegan requires way less fossil fuel calories than a meat eater.

Not if the vegan in question is eating corn produced from petroleum derived fertilizers and the meat eater is eating pastured beef which is solar powered. If the vegan is eating vegetables from the back yard grown with zero inputs and the pastured beef is being shipped cross-country then yes the beef requires more oil.

Perhaps, more important, the following:

Ethanol plant profits fell sharply following a rally in the corn futures market that pushed July contracts up 17 1/4 cents per gallon. July corn is currently priced at $6.30 per bushel on the futures market, which translate to a net cost of $2.03 per gallon of ethanol produced at our hypothetical plant in South Dakota. This is the first time corn costs have moved above $2, but if planting delays continue, this cost could increase even more. Net profitability at Neeley Biofuels fell 5.7 cents per gallon of ethanol produced to a net loss of 14.3 cents per gallon. Neeley Biofuels is used to measure the affect changing commodity prices have on overall plant profitability.

takes lots of calories in as well as water etc to make one cow, chicken, or pig

veggies don't consume much, livestock do

for beef it can easily be as high as 40 cals in per 1 cal of beef out

Re: the 10 calorie vs. 13 calorie assertion

The net energy of ethanol from biologic feedstock, includes the photosynthetic conversion of solar energy i.e. it is not all fossil fuel energy.

As for the fossil fuel inputs of ethanol, I am not downplaying them as opposed to highlighting the fuel's low petroleum input ratio - a key difference.

Smart ethanol advocates blame higher global food prices on a host of factors, not just fossil fuels. However, in this post I was responding to Cramer's rant re: the price of American food - likely the most fossil fuel intensive food on the planet.

So here's my question:

Are you paying more for your pizza because the price of corn has increased the cost of production for the 50 cents worth of cheese and meat on it?

Or is it the new $5 surcharge imposed by the owner to cover the increased cost of gas for pizza delivery?

The net energy of ethanol from biologic feedstock, includes the photosynthetic conversion of solar energy i.e. it is not all fossil fuel energy.

Are you under the impression that the production of corn for eating does not also involve that same photosynthetic conversion of solar energy? Your answer is a non-sequitur.

How is it, then, that we are told that 10 calories of fossil fuels can put 13 calories of ethanol in your tank?

You may have to bend the truth a bit, but it's probably not that difficult.

North americans eat a whole lot of meat and as a rule of thumb you lose about 90% of the energy each step up the food chain; ignore whether the person in question actually eats meat and refer to the average diet instead. Be sure not to neglect the energy that goes into packaging materials, especially thick aluminium foils, steel cans and glass.

Use small scale farms and older statistics if you feel that you can get away with it.

Make sure to include electricity used in refrigeration, pumping and sanitation of water and mining of fertilizer(not N) as fossil fuels considering how much of it is from coal and gas in the US.

Don't forget to count the energy used by an average person in bringing the groceries home from the store in a personal vehicle.

Corn production will decrease significantly which means that the impact of ethanol will even be greater on corn prices. This will cut the supply of corn available for other purposes like feeding cattle and direct consumption. Reduce the supply, increase the price. Whether or not farmers are taking acreage away from other crops is not really the issue; the issue is whether ethanol has an impact. Unless the law of supply and demand has been repealed, ethanol has a significant impact.

One of the reasons that corn planting is being reduced is because of the increased prices for fossil fuel driven inputs like fertilizer and diesel which just reinforces the idea that corn is a poor choice for biofuel, just as the chart implies.

"In North America, it takes 10 calories of fossil fuels to put 1 calorie of food in your mouth. "

This is an assertion you here all the time on peak oil sites.

If it's ever been true it doesn't matter because it doesn't HAVE TO be true.

The vegetables reaching my plate from my backyard have ZERO fossil fuel input.
It is quite conceivable to walk or bicycle to a farmers market.
It is quite possible to take transit to the store in many cities.

So I dispute the "we're eating oil" line.

But feel free to continue to quote one of the main tenets of the dieoff religion.

Obviously you are are narcissist and a liar and in denial.
You preach to the rest of the world because you grow a few vegetables........maybe. Maybe you are a liar.
Could you show me how families living in suburbia, high and low rise apartments, mcmansions and shanty towns can grow vegetables year round in their back yards even with the assistance of oil?
Then show me how farmers markets grow and transport their crops oil free.

I defy you to support your family with your back yard season after season?
What vegetables do you grow and when?
How big is your vegetable patch?
What do you use for fertiliser?
What do you use for pesticide?

Why don't you get back in your hole.

Abuse is characteristic of the doomer. Neither abuse nor doom-crying are productive and useful. As Professor Goose says, our comments ought to only be posted if they'd improve the silence.

(I just about recommended him for deletion based on that comment, but I figured that anybody could be having a bad day.  Once.)

You're right.
I went way over the top.
It won't happen again.
If I could delete, I would.

Don't worry about it. You obviously have the religion pretty bad.

Here's a tip: instead of ONLY reading peak oil sites like, instead choose to read sites like Engineer Poet's ergosphere. Also go take a look at JD's site (ignore the name of it and some of the sillier posts).

You'll find that things are not quite as bleak as they may appear.

I'm not a dieoff believer, so get over the fact that some people don't share your religion.
If you really believe we're all doomed, take some time out to enjoy life while you still can.
Call me an agnostic if you will. And I'm neither a liar nor in denial.

Thanks for the recommendation, but my best advice is just three words:

Do The Math.

We are just about swimming in energy; if you calculate the amount of sun that hits the world, or even your roof, and compare it to what you really need, you'll see that we could get by quite nicely with the right amount and type of RE gear.

The "all-effort-is-futile" doomer attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We can only make RE work if we build it, and building it requires that we believe it's workable.  If enough people take the position of either "nothing is wrong" (so don't bother) or "we're all gonna die" (so don't bother either), yeah, that's what you're going to get.

Again I was way out of line.

Dan we all have opinions but I really resent being preached to.
Your original post hit bone with me because you appear to not grasp the severity of the coming crisis, it was flippant and overly simplistic.

The future is not just about you and your circumstances. A wider appreciation and some empathy for your fellow inhabitants would be nice.
It seems you and others of the engineer-poet ilk always confuse what we can/should do with what we will do. It's an just an ego trip, an expression of a perceived intelligence and an avenue of narcissistic supply. That is no condemnation, as we all to varying degrees are narcissistic.

A bleak future does not worry me. There are people in numbers beyond count now and yet to be born, who will feel the effects of a hundred years of wanton waste.
I'm as prepared as I can be, what will be will be. I also have an appreciation of human nature. That is by far my biggest concern.

As Alan From Big Easy would say.......Best Hopes
And good luck, we'll need it.


It's interesting because if you follow the idea that I'm presenting it's the idea of dieoff as a religion. If anything I'm trying to get across the idea that it was you that was preaching your religion to me and I rejected it, causing you to get all bent out of shape.

I do indeed grasp the severity of the worst case scenarios. I just am not arrogant enough to know exactly which one of the possible scenarios is going to take place. We have everything from a hard recession followed by a renewables powered recovery to a failure-to-do-anything-collapse which leads to war then nuclear war then the olduvai gorge.

It appears that you have already decided that you just KNOW which future we're DEFINITELY going to have. That smacks of religion rather than science.

Please try not to project your idea of the-one-true-future onto others.

As for empathy for fellow inhabitants: I think that EP and others of his ilk (including myself) want to SOLVE the problem as best as we can which is by showing people what is possible and disseminating the knowledge.

I don't agree with simply giving up, throwing ashes in the air and donning sackcloth.

That's not arrogance or lack of respect for opinions: it's refusal to lie down and die.
Another way of looking at it is human spirit.

But to conclude: if you choose to continue with your religion that's great. I'll continue trying to spread the idea that we're NOT all doomed as long as we DO SOMETHING about it.

"I'll continue trying to spread the idea that we're NOT all doomed as long as we DO SOMETHING about it."

Yeah, good luck with that.

"If we don't change where we're going, we're liable to wind up where we're headed."

It seems you and others of the engineer-poet ilk always confuse what we can/should do with what we will do. It's an just an ego trip...

Have you looked at the radical shift in vehicle sales over the last year?  The public is Doing Something, voting with their wallets.

I'd like to see you answer three questions:

  1. What is it that we can/should do?
  2. Can you make this option sound attractive (at least compared to the alternative)?
  3. Are you/can you be an example of your own position?

A big factor in the move toward cars like the Fit and Yaris is social trends.  If you can get enough folks to come along with you, you can do things that would otherwise be impossible.  I just don't see doomerism as either an attractive position or a worthwhile goal.

It would be more accurate to say that "X calories of oil are used to produce 1 calorie of food." I don't know if the 10:1 ratio is correct, thus the "X".

"it takes" implies that things must be this way; "are used" implies that things are this way, but don't necessarily have to be this way.

If things are done in a certain way, and suddenly cannot be anymore, then there can be great disruptions. To do things in a certain way requires skill. My old Greek neighbours don't know how to grow hundreds of hectares of wheat with tractors and combine harvesters, but the wheat farmer doesn't know how to grow a quarter tonne a year of fruit and vegetables in his backyard without any fossil fuels at all. And most people don't know how to do either.

So if fossil fuels were suddenly unavailable for agriculture, we'd expect to see that kind of wheat production drop, but there not be fruit and vegetable production to replace it. It'd take a few years for the skills to spread around.

However, I don't expect fossil fuels to suddenly be unavailable for agriculture. For example, we often speak of declining energy returns on energy invested with oil, gas and coal extraction; but if what we're extracting isn't going to be used for energy, instead for fertiliser or whatever, we don't care about that. I think we'll still be using artificial fertilisers, pesticides and so on long after we stop burning stuff for transport and electricity.

But.......what did the growers heat their houses with, and did they truck stuff to market, and where did the fertilizer come from? If from horse manure, cow manure, or human manure, where did the feed/straw/food come from, where were the animals kept, under the roof of corrugated metal or fiberglass, and was plastic stuff used to feed and water them? where did your seeds come from, from far away on the Interstate?. Did you use plastic buckets, use water pumped from somewhere, and on and on for pages I could go. But you get the idea, growing your own veggies depends heavily on oil, nature gas and coal. Growing veggies will be tough when the grid goes out and everything stops. P.S. I don't read, but you should read some of the stuff on Countercurrents.

Looking at the top table, algae seems to be the winner but it takes a lot of energy input however greenhouse gas emission is negative, how is that? what kind of energy are we talking about?

Algae is in almost exactly the same boat as cellulosic ethanol. Those energy returns are hypothetical; they have never been demonstrated at scale. It's like when someone claims cellulosic ethanol has an energy return of 5 to 1 or something like that. In reality, it is almost certainly less than 1 to 1, but they are speculating that if you could burn the spent biomass for steam....

"In reality, it is almost certainly less than 1 to 1, but they are speculating that if you could burn the spent biomass for steam...."

how are they speculating?

some algae projects seem to be good because they use waste products.

Your link is speculation. They haven't actually demonstrated it. That's the point. All of these projects are speculations.

It is not just speculation, it is a falsehood that a cellulosic ethanol plant can power itself from the remaining lignin. We imposed a mass-conservation balance on a hypothetical switchgrass ethanol plant, and found that if you achieve the 380 liters/tonne output that most assume (EBAMM, etc), then the remaining lignin is sufficient only to provide 50% of the plant's power (at 100% efficiency of recovery and combustion) and certainly less given lower combustion efficiency. Ironically, only if you get lower yields from switchgrass than corn could the remaining biomass theoretically provide enough energy to run the plant.

The EROI is decidedly negative at this point. EBAMM and other models (e.g. GREET) credit the entire energy content of the biomass back to the ethanol to achieve a positive return.

Interesting. I didn't realize it was actually false, not just speculation. How soon will this information filter back to those working on this issue?

As soon as our report on the topic for the state of California is released in late June this year :)

Wasn't it Pimental that assured us, after a similar study, that the "theoretical" limit was 2.7 gallons of ethanol from a bushel of corn? And, now we're averaging 2.8, and some are getting 2.96?

It strikes me that there are an awful lot of really, really smart gene-splicers out there working like the dickens to make your work obsolete.

How do you Discount that?

ps. Is yield per acre an important factor in driving the eroie negative? If so, what yield/acre did you base your study on? Or is it just that using enough biomass to power the process 100% will render the remaining output insufficient to cover the energy inputs in the building of the plant.

Mass conservation is a fundamental principle of the universe. You can't create it and can't destroy it. When you put 1 kg of switchgrass in a biorefinery, there's only so much cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin available (about 28% lignin), and you can track it through to output including waste products such as CO2. There is a limit to conversion, based on 100% recovery and fermentation of glucose and xylose, which is technically infeasable. The 380 l/tonne yield is based on 90% efficiencies for recovery and fermentation, which are far above the current level.

So if you achieve 90%, there's not enough lignin and unrecovered cellulose to provide process energy to the plant. It doesn't even consider indirect energy in building the plant, nor does it consider the energy to recover and dry the lignin.

Yield per acre has little effect on EROI. We tested 7, 9, 11 and 13.5 tonnes per hectare yield. The killer is the process energy per kg of input.

Sparaxis, thank you for the reply.

It's still confusing, to me, though. It looks to me like if you used 40% of the remaining cellulose, and hemicellulose in the process you would still end up with about 230 liters/tonne with no fossil fuel inputs. Not Great; but if you factored in growing the switchgrass in the SE, where you could expect yields of 10 ton/acre, or more, it just seems awfully counterintuitive that you would end up with more fossil fuels in than biofuels out.

Anyway, as I said, thanks for the post, and the reply. I'll be looking forward to hearing more about your paper.


Try this link: I think the trick is not to burn all the stuff you make by feeding ff power plant flue gases to the algae, i.e. do something else with the crispy algae flakes left over from making biodiesel.

Maybe some algae residues remain unburnt and stored or thrown away. If this "sequestered algae" is bigger than the carbon emissions produced from FF inputs during its production we'll have negative carbon emissions. Just a guess.

I like algae for the potential growth volumes.
It's making the bio-reactors that cannot (yet) be done.
I (unscientifically) have assigned algal-biodiesel to the same category as fusion.
50 years away on a moving average.

A bit of critical thinking also shows the flaw in the system. The most often touted system described is a vast array of bio-reactors (complete with electric spades to stire the algae) and a network of gas flue pipes coming from waste c02 on e.g. COAL fired electrical plants.

What we're really doing is recycling the c02 from burning coal twice. We're not actually removing c02 from the atmosphere in this system.

But I digress: the investment required in both dollars and energy to build such a massive scale plant would probably be better put to use elsewhere e.g. wind, nuke, solar-csp, new electrified rail systems etc etc

It's possible, though as yet unproven that waste-to-biodiesel using algae in sewage treatment plants may provide *some* biodiesel but I doubt it will provide enough to make more than a tiny dent in our current usage though it *may* contribute to the transport costs of running water utilities.

On the biofuels chart above, I am having difficulty reproducing the result that 50% of US consumption of fuel could be replaced by biofuel made from rapeseed, grown on 30% of US cropland.

According to the Wiki Biodiesel article, there are 470,000,000 acres of arable land in the United States, and rapeseed yields about 102 gallons of biodiesel per acre. Using these amounts, 30% of the arable farmland will yield the equivalent of 938,000 barrels a day of biofuel.

Based on EIA data, total petroleum consumption in the US in 2007 amounted to 20.7 million barrels a day. The 938,000 barrels a day amounts to only 4.5% of this amount. According to the same chart, the amount of distillate fuel oil used in the United States amounted to 4.22 million barrels a day. The stated amount of biofuel is only 22% of this, not the 50% claimed.

Perhaps they are defining the "fuel to be replaced" in a narrow fashion - perhaps the distillate fuel used as diesel fuel in certain applications. I could see how they might exclude home heating oil, but it looks like they excluded more than this. They may also be assuming higher yields per acre, or more farmland.

The other thing is, none of those are net energy numbers. It takes a lot of energy to make a lot of those fuels - and that isn't subtracted from the total production.

Algae based energy production is a sham, some stock promoters claimed it is "the" solution to energy problems, their statements lack credibiility as they have not shown any ability to sustain such projects based on income after expenses. Am not sure why it is on that chart as a viable energy solution. Consumers want cheaper gas/fuels, not inventors learning how to make it for five times the cost of gasoline. America as a massive sugar cane producer is also a deception. More than 90 percent of your land is in areas where sugar cane was not being planted. You will not see it grown in Kankakee, IL unless you build massive greenhouses, and to do such would cause you to lose money.

Energy credits for solar water heating, solar electric, hybrids, windmills, etc. would be better than subsidies and mandatory ethanol gasoline blending. Alkylates were added to gasoline and reduced ozone pollution without using half the nation's corn crop.

What makes ethanol unique, and what these stories keep missing, is the Co-Product, "Distillers Grains." Distillers Grains are Corn with the CO2, and Starch removed. They, actually, have a greater capacity for weight-gain in cattle than straight does straight corn.

You get back approx. 17.5 lbs of distillers grains for every 56 lbs of corn that's run through the refinery. Considering the fact that you retain 40% of your cattle feeding capacity through distillers grains it would be accurate to divide the output of the plant (up to 2.96 gal/bu, as per below link - see table 2) by 3/5, or .60.

If I divide 2.96 by 2/3 I get 4.44 gal of ethanol for every bushel of cattle feed (corn) that's diverted into fuel.

Take all this recent ranting with a grain of salt, folks. Oil, through it's proxies, is putting on a last-ditch, full court press to try and derail the move toward biofuels. With Gasoline at $3.80/gal it isn't going to work.

I, like you, have been concerned about the ever increasing price of gasoline. I’m also puzzled about some of the alternatives that have been developed, such as bio-fuels from corn. When you stop and think about the time and money allocated to produce these products, the overriding effect they have on the cost of food, as well as the enormous amounts of resources used to manufacture them - it’s amazing that the public has bought into their viability. Ah – the magic of public relations.
Within the past year I happened to be watching the Science Channel on television when I came across an incredible story about some vehicles, more specifically their engines and the fuel that powers them. I was awed by their potential, inspired by their inventors, and relieved by their practicality.
The Air Car is a thing of beauty. Using compressed air to power both a piston engine, as well as a rotary engine, the results are superb. I continue to wonder why the main stream news media, political candidates, the automotive industry, and the public-at-large have not raised their voices about this fantastic invention. Could it have something to do about special interest groups? Hmm.
Air in, air out - what can be better, cleaner, and more efficient?
If you’d like to see the air car video; the same segment that appeared on the Science Channel, click on the link below (or enter "air car" in google). Once you’ve watched it I urge you to tell your friends.

Please tell your friends to consider the thermodynamics of heat exchange, mechanical & aerodynamic losses and electrical efficiencies in regards to any air car. These effects may reduce efficiency below EV options.

Thanks for the PDF. The conclusion section of the document you provided does seem to substantiate the viability of the air car.

The Air Car is a thing of beauty.

It's quite a marketing coup, that's for sure.  But its technical merits are quite a bit less than the hype.  You can tell by the amount of double-talk around it and the reluctance of the advocates to give straight answers.

Of course, we've been over it before.

Air in, air out - what can be better, cleaner, and more efficient?

Just about any battery you could name.  The paper you think is so good mentions that the energy loss in just the air compression system is about 50%, and overall efficiency about 40%.  Even with equalizing charges lead-acid hits 70% efficiency, and Li-ion is 95% or so.

Compressed air only has a future if batteries are expensive but energy and high-pressure tanks are cheap.  I don't see us going to that world.

Yes. Electric cars are the way to go to try to maintain a semblance of business as usual. Best bang for the energy buck.

Of course, if we were smart we'd invest in a rail & light rail based electric backbone for the intervening period of time (coming real soon now) where we don't buy enough electric cars fast enough during the recession to make enough difference.

But maybe we will.

It's pretty exciting to have a front row seat in what may turn out to be a historical epoch.

Just in case you missed it in Wednesday's WSJ...
The Biofuels Backlash

Corn ethanol can now join the scare over silicone breast implants and the pesticide Alar as among the greatest scams of the age. But before we move on to the next green miracle cure, it's worth recounting how much damage this ethanol political machine is doing.

To create just one gallon of fuel, ethanol slurps up 1,700 gallons of water, according to Cornell's David Pimentel, and 51 cents of tax credits. And it still can't compete against oil without a protective 54-cents-per-gallon tariff on imports and a federal mandate that forces it into our gas tanks. The record 30 million acres the U.S. will devote to ethanol production this year will consume almost a third of America's corn crop while yielding fuel amounting to less than 3% of petroleum consumption.

Pimental, I don't know if he's an old fool, or a crook (but, ya gotta pick one.)

He didn't mention that that imported ethanol gets the same $0.51/gal tax credit that domestically produced ethanol does. I love it; the same people that get mad over a tax credit for American Ethanol get mad over the lack of a subsidy for Brazilian Ethanol. Ya just couldn't make this stuff up.

As for acreage - what a tool. We will produce 9 Billion Gallons of Ethanol this year. We will average somewhere over 150 bu/acre. The average plant produces 2.8 gal of ethanol (and 17.5 lbs of distillers grains from every bushel processed. The distillers grains are 33% more efficient at the primary job of putting pounds on steers. That means we're only using 60% of that bushel for ethanol (actually, it's even less than that since 31% of the plants sell their CO2.)

So 150 bu/acre X 2.8 = 420 Divided by .60 = 700 gal/acre. To get to 9 Billion Gallons we divide 9B by 700 = 12,858,000 acres, or 14.29% of our 90 million planted acres.

The distillers grains are 33% more efficient at the primary job of putting pounds on steers. That means we're only using 60% of that bushel for ethanol (actually, it's even less than that since 31% of the plants sell their CO2.)

So 150 bu/acre X 2.8 = 420 Divided by .60 = 700 gal/acre. To get to 9 Billion Gallons we divide 9B by 700 = 12,858,000 acres, or 14.29% of our 90 million planted acres.

You mean if you feed the ddg to cattle you magically increase the ethanol yield by 60%?

He likes to play games with numbers, but doesn't understand dimensional analysis. I have pointed out numerous times that what he is doing has no physical meaning. See, for instance, my response to him here:

So, just to use your figures:

9 Billion Gallons of Ethanol this year, divide by 365 to give a daily "average" = just under 25 million gallons per day.

The US uses 20 million barrels per day, x 42 = 840 million gallons per day.
As a percentage 25 million gallons out of 840 million gives about 3%.

So by using 14.29% of the planted acres we get 3%. Suppose we use ALL the planted acres then we will get 100/14.29 x 3 = 21% of our total needs.

It doesn't sound too great to me, all our land for one fifth of our consumption.

Tony, I appreciate your attempt to work through the numbers. Just a couple of points. Only about Nine, something, Million of those barrels go toward our primary focus - Gasoline.

The 90 Million Acres are those acres that are, Currently, being planted in Corn. In total, we rowcrop 246 Million Acres; and, we have another couple hundred million we could easily convert to some sort of rowcrop - corn, switchgrass, Sweet Sorghum, etc - or some sort of bush/trees, such as poplar, or jatropha.

So, what we want to do is focus on what we think we will need, Real Soon. Gasoline, or it's equivalent. Toward this end, we are talking about replacing approx. 15 Billion (10%) of our current gasoline usage with Corn Ethanol. The beauty of this plan is that it's Doable, right now. Are our current technologies the most efficient achievable? NO. Will they incrementally Improve? You Betcha.

Net Result: We will be able to take somewhere, depending on seed development, between 18%, and 23% of our Current Corn Crop (btw, this is just about the amount we, currently, export for use as cattle, and hog feed) and replace 10% of our gasoline usage.

Keep in mind, that this is just about 2% of the 1.2 Billion Acres of U.S. land that the USDA considers, "Arable," in other words, fit for agriculture.

Cramer most be long energy stocks or oil. Ethanol is killing Americans? Give me a break. Name one American killed by ethanol. I can name over 4,000 killed by oil in the ongoing war in Iraq.

If ethanol is killing anything, it's factory hog farms. These environmental monstrosities are the result of subsidized corn which made it so cheap that hog producers went nuts with expansion. The sooner they die the better.

The days of cheap meat are over. We do not need it. It is much more energy efficient to use corn for ethanol than to push it though animals and onto the tables of overweight Americans. Exporting corn does the same thing only the meat appears on tables abroad with transportation costs added into it.

The Post Peak World is about localization. We can no longer afford to ship a low value coarse grain around the world or feed it to animals. Meat needs to become much more expensive. It should be mainly from grazing type animals (ruminants).

Hopefully this will put the hog and chicken factories out of business, although I doubt it. It would be nice if high meat and egg prices enabled small farmers to survive on plots raising animals as they did 60 or 70 years ago.

I believe the current anti ethanol campaign is orchestrated behind the scenes by big oil. There is no food crises in the United States. That the corn in a box of corn flakes now costs 10 cents instead of 5 cents can't be the reason.

The reason behind the anti ethanol propaganda is that oil refiners are feeling a profits pinch due to high crude prices and the competition from ethanol. Ethanol refiners are experiencing the same thing due to rising corn prices. It is all due to Peak Oil and Westexas's ELM.

To suppose that energy policy in the U.S. should be dictated by rioters against the dysfunctional governments of the world like Haiti, Mexico, Egypt, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Pakistan or any of the other mismanaged third world economies defies logic. U.S. energy policy should be our own self interest disregarding foreign rioting.

That means we should maximize our energy resources including corn and the infrastructure that has been built up over the decades surrounding corn production. Those who think they can create a whole new high volume infrastructure based on switch grass or some such must be smoking it or something like it.

Similarly those who think that eliminating ethanol mandates will lower food prices are in for a shock. If oil continues up to $200 or $300 expect food prices to follow right along even if mandates and subsidies for ethanol are eliminated. States like Iowa will simply switch to E85 to use up the cheap ethanol that has lost its market and thus avoid paying the ever rising price of gasoline.

"Name one American killed by ethanol."

Ever hear of drunk driving...?

Name one American killed by ethanol.

Ethanol deserves a pro-rata share of all the deaths due to growing corn.  How about this guy?  Or this guy?

Farm equipment is very dangerous stuff.  The more things we have to grow for fuel, the more people we put in danger and kill.

"Alternative energies" is an oxymoron, and biofuels are moronic. When ALL of the energy inputs are considered, none have a positive EROEI.

The Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that:

“Even if we used all our corn to make ethanol, with nothing left for food or animal feed, we could only displace perhaps 1.5 million barrels per day of this demand [U.S. consumption is 21 million barrels per day]. Clearly, corn ethanol is a part of the solution but by itself is not a sufficient long-term solution to our oil dependence. Ethanol is currently transported mainly by tanker truck or rail cars because it cannot be shipped in existing gasoline pipelines. The potential capacity for ethanol production from corn is fairly limited. In addition to concerns about feedstock limitations, corn ethanol derives much of its energy from fossil fuel inputs.”

In fact, a thorough study by Tad W. Patzek reveals that there is no net energy gain from the production of corn ethanol.

A 2007 study by the U.S. Congressional Research Service, “Ethanol and Biofuels: Agriculture, Infrastructure and Market Constraints Related to Expanded Production” concluded:

“While recent proposals have set the goal of significantly expanding biofuel supply in the coming decades, questions remain about the ability of the U.S. biofuel industry to meet rapidly increasing demand. Current U.S. biofuel supply relies almost exclusively on ethanol produced from Midwest corn. In 2006, 17% of the U.S. corn crop was used for ethanol production. To meet some of the higher ethanol production goals would require more corn than the United States currently produces, if all of the envisioned ethanol was made from corn. Due to the concerns with significant expansion in corn-based ethanol supply, interest has grown in expanding the market for biodiesel produced from soybeans and other oil crops. However, a significant increase in U.S. biofuels would likely require a movement away from food and grain crops. Other biofuel feedstock sources, including cellulosic biomass, are promising, but technological barriers make their future uncertain. Issues facing the U.S. biofuels industry include potential agricultural “feedstock” supplies, and the associated market and environmental effects of a major shift in U.S. agricultural production; the energy supply needed to grow feedstocks and process them into fuel; and barriers to expanded infrastructure needed to deliver more and more biofuels to the market….There are limits to the amount of biofuels that can be produced and questions about the net energy and environmental benefits they would provide. Further, rapid expansion of biofuel production may have many unintended and undesirable consequences for agricultural commodity costs, fossil energy use, and environmental degradation. As policies are implemented to promote ever-increasing use of biofuels, the goal of replacing petroleum use with agricultural products must be weighed against these other potential consequences.”

Switch grass my kiester :) . Even if there is a way to produce alcohol from switch grass, it still must be harvested, transported, "brewed," and fossil fuels must be used in "cooking" the brew for distillation. The solar hardware needed to provide such heat would be immense. Alcohol can never replace oil as it cannot be transported by the pipeline system used for oil and gasoline.

Ted Patzek is founder of UC Oil Consortium.

We're going to replace 15 Billion Gallons with Ethanol. That will require, after allowing for distillers grains, 23.8% (see above link) of our current 90 million acres devoted to field corn. Actually, that number will Go Down, substantially, as we will probably, within a decade, be getting over 200 bu/acre (that would bring it down to around 18%.)

I've shown in previous posts that the ethanol coming out of at least one U.S. plant has a life cycle yield of, at least, 3:1.

Cellulosic Test:

One pipeline in Fl is being prepared to transport ethanol as we speak.

You've seen pictures of ethanol refineries. Have you ever seen a picture of the TAR SANDS!?!

Have a "Barf Bag" ready:

Those pictures are disturbing, and lead me to predict that there's no way in hell we're ever going to see even a 0.25 Saudi Arabia yield from the tar sands.

Actually those pictures make me question whether humans are smarter than yeast....

Cellulosic Test:

I always considered this one a highly deceptive article - yet you still don't hesitate to post these sorts of articles (as long as they are supportive of your position). If similar standards had been used to discredit ethanol, you would be screaming loudly. In fact, this is certainly as shoddy as those Pimentel studies you are always talking about. Why?

Look at the title:

Net energy of cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass

Now from the abstract:

Switchgrass produced 540% more renewable than nonrenewable energy consumed.

Now, for the kicker. They didn't actually produce any ethanol. It was a paper exercise - a model. The only actual analysis was done on switchgrass cultivation. Big whoop. Guess where the big problems are going to be? First, the energy density is so low, you have to do your exercise presuming the ethanol plant is very close. But guess what? Any plant of reasonable size consumes so much biomass that you have to go far afield to secure it. That problem is simply assumed away in the model. And, knowing what you have said about models in the past, I am stunned that you jumped onto this one. Are models fine, or aren't they? Or doesn't it depend on whether they support your position or not? Look at their assumption:

Conversion of corn grain and cellulosic biomass to ethanol was estimated at 0.4 literkg and 0.38 literkg, respectively

You know what Iogen is getting? After all, they are the only ones with long-term experience in this area, so shouldn't we find out? Their published yields are in the range of 0.2-0.25 liter/kg. But make a few generous assumptions in the model, and life is good.

Second, nobody has ever demonstrated the ability to burn the (sopping wet) biomass that is left over at the end of the fermentation. All of those studies presume this; none have ever actually done it. It isn't a trivial matter to throw any old biomass into a boiler. It's the equivalent of "assuming we have a spaceship that can travel back and forth to Mars" and then claiming that commercial Mars travel is feasible.

Let's face facts. If they were actually able to generate energy at a 540% return, these plants would be getting built at record speed. They would be putting the corn guys out of business. Since they aren't...

Cellulosic Test:

I always considered this one a highly deceptive article -

That PNAS article is NOT peer-reviewed. At the bottom of the article, it says "Direct submission". It is loop hole that is available to members of the National Academy of Sciences, that is sometimes abused.

That explains a lot, because I have spent some time asking myself how on earth that article made it through peer-review. I have seen much better articles than that get rejected.

Corn Plus in Winnebago, Mn is Gassifying their syrup quite successfully. They've replaced half of their nat gas by doing this.

I showed that you could feed one of your "Choren" plants by putting it in the middle of a 3 mi sq Switchgrass Field in N. Florida. That would put every stalk, basically, within a little more than a mile and a half from the refinery.

Transport, and logistics, probably, won't be the problem.

Coskata, Syntec, KL Process Design Group, Choren lead us to believe that producing the ethanol won't be the problem.

Coordinating the start-up by getting large groups of farmers in an area to plant switchgrass while the refinery is still being built will be a job. That said, I would bet on seeing these start popping up in 3, or 4 years.

I haven't paid any attention to Iogen since Shell bought the controlling interest.

I haven't paid any attention to Iogen since Shell bought the controlling interest.

Nice attempt at a character assassination, but Shell does not have a controlling interest.

The thing is, of all of those companies, Iogen is the only one with long-term experience.

I missed your Choren calculation, but remember two things. First, that is for a demonstration scale plant. Second, it is a lot more efficient to produce diesel via gasification than to produce ethanol by either gasification or fermentation. So the logistical challenges for the Coskata's, etc. remain.

Have a read:

LINCOLN - The logistics of collecting and storing a million tons of corn stubble each year for an ethanol refinery are mind-numbing.

It would take 67,000 semitrailer loads to haul the baled stubble out of the field. That's 187 truckloads a day, or one every eight minutes. To complicate matters, the need for trucks, machinery and manpower would come during harvest, already the busiest time of the year on the farm.

A three-year study in Chase County indicates that an 80-million-gallon ethanol plant would require corn stover from 500,000 acres of corn within a 50-mile radius of the plant and 500 acres to store it after harvest.

"That will give you an idea of the logistical nightmare this thing is," said Lex Thompson, one of the Chase County coordinators.

Piece of cake. Make a few of your now infamous assumptions, and it should be no problem.

68,000 Tons is a pretty good-sized Demonstration Plant. I wouldn't be surprized if the average cellulosic plant didn't turn out to be only a couple of times larger than that.

As for your link. That dealt with harvesting corn stalks at the same time as the kernels. A bit of a different animal than planting, and harvesting switch grass.

However, as someone who has, actually, Put Up Silage in his youth I'm pretty sure that if there's money in it John Deere, and the American Farmer will figure out how to do it.

I believe Abengoa (I meant to have them on the list) is as far along as Iogen, and they're not corrupted by Shell's influence.

I believe Abengoa (I meant to have them on the list) is as far along as Iogen, and they're not corrupted by Shell's influence.

Such language! This is the same Shell that is backing Iogen. But right, I am sure they are deliberately taking Iogen down the tubes.

Your level of bias is almost comically absurd.

What is Absurd, is thinking that, in a battle between those who own cornfields, and those who own "Oilfields," Shell would come down on the side of those that own Cornfields.

Do you think it has escaped Shell's attention that their reserves are falling? Do you think oil companies are run by a bunch of 3rd graders?

As you will see in my link, below, Shell is still financing Patzek's ridiculous, anti-ethanol Lobbying efforts. Strange behaviour for a company that wants to "further" ethanol development.

You know, when I checked, the UC Oil Consortium was doing projects like "Smart Control of Large Oilfield Projects." I don't see that the consortium has anything to do with ethanol. In fact, it is about computer modeling and such of oil reservoirs.

But that doesn't matter to you, does it? Having facts to back up your arguments has never been a strong suit. Did you ever think that maybe Patzek passionately believes that corn ethanol is a huge misallocation of resources? No, you wouldn't have gone there. Wouldn't suit your agenda.

Anyway, another strike. Are you going to post anything factual today?

it is a lot more efficient to produce diesel via gasification than to produce ethanol by either gasification or fermentation.

Say, Robert, as long as we're discussing Choren, have they released any figures on quantity and composition of the unused gas from their F-T process?  I'm pondering compatibility with CAES, and the fact that e.g. Iowa has huge amounts of both wind and corn stover should attract at least a little attention.

Say, Robert, as long as we're discussing Choren, have they released any figures on quantity and composition of the unused gas from their F-T process?

I have not seen anything like that in the public domain.

The only useful part of this paper was the average yield in large-scale multi-year trials. Their mean was 7.1 tonnes/hectare on highly managed high-input farms. EBAMM/GREET and other models assume 13.5 tonnes/hectare yield.

This article also assumes 3 or so MJ/liter export of electricity, which is fatuous. If you refer to my response above, there's not not enough remaining biomass to provide process heat (in theory--drying is indeed the problem), much less enough to generate the plants electricity use and export electricity.

What does Patzek's affiliation have to do with this?
Patzek has quantified all of the energy inputs for producing ethanol, and he published his paper for all to see. Rather than attempting to denigrate his ideas by focusing on his affiliation, you must deal with his analysis. Your LCA does not include many of the energy inputs that his analysis includes. One pipeline is FL does not offer much. How much energy and capital to build pipelines all over the U.S.? As I said, you can't transport ethanol in great quantities. It is mainly used to increase the octane rating in gasoline. The problem with ethanol production is that it wastes valuable fossil fuel energy and reduces food production.

It would be possible for someone making hundreds of thousands/yr from his big oil lobbying efforts to give a legitimate analysis; but, in Patzek's case, that's not the way it is.

I'm NOT a "Scientist," but I've read that the FIRST RULE of Life Cycle Analysis is to use the most accurate, up to date numbers; and, Patzek doesn't do this. Ex. He gives, if I remember correctly, 130 bu/acre. The average over the last several years has been about 153 bu/acre. I've shown, here,

that corn can be refined into ethanol with as little as 17,706 fossil fuels/electricity btus/gal. He gives a number that's almost 3 times that. I've shown, in the same post, that some refineries can get as high as 2.96 gallons of ethanol per bushel processed. His number is 15% less than that.

You could say, "Well, yeah, but his numbers were generated several years, ago. But, He Still Uses Them. Don't you think that a "disinterested referee" would go back and update them?

A pound of beef is up about $0.15 as a result of ethanol.

A Gallon of Gasoline is Down somewhere between $0.29 and $0.40 according to a study from Ia State University.

Which is more important to YOU?

It would be possible for someone making hundreds of thousands/yr from his big oil lobbying efforts...

You really should be ashamed of yourself for slandering people like that. Or maybe you aren't? Show me the proof of what you claim, or admit you made it up.

I've read that the FIRST RULE of Life Cycle Analysis is to use the most accurate, up to date numbers

What an LCA attempts to do is to take the long view. For instance, if we are talking about oil production, a proper LCA wouldn't suggest that 85 million bpd is long-term sustainable.

corn can be refined into ethanol with as little as 17,706 fossil fuels/electricity btus/gal.

It's amazing the things you are willing to believe - but only when it suits your agenda. If he used numbers of 3 times that, then that's about what the last comprehensive energy survey showed. That's what an LCA would use, not a spurious claim.

Slandering? Hell, you posted the number, yourself. Remember?

Spurious? Corn Plus has Investors. They have to, accurately, publish their expenses (or go to jail.) I've seen interviews with the guy; and, he doesn't look to me like someone who is longing for a nice long vacation at the Crossbar Hotel.

UC Oil Consortium/Ted Patzek, HERE!

Slandering? Hell, you posted the number, yourself. Remember?

No I don't. Why don't you post a link?

UC Oil Consortium/Ted Patzek, HERE!

Again, I am going to ask you for proof that Tad Patzek is earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in oil lobbying. I know your burden of proof when slandering oil related things or promoting ethanol related things is very low - but this is pretty bad even for you. I think you need to take a deep breath, and ask yourself if you really want to continue to spread lies. Or did you find that link about the controlling interest Shell has in Iogen?

Spurious? Corn Plus has Investors. They have to, accurately, publish their expenses (or go to jail.)

We aren't talking about their expenses. We are talking about their specific energy usage related to ethanol production. If you think they have to accurately publish that number of face jail, you are completely delusional. Companies do not have to report those kinds of things.

You are batting about .000 today.

When I first brought this up you stated that UCOC's income is Down To $120,000.00 In the past they have received $60,000.00/yr pops from Shell, Chevron, Philips, and many others (I'm too lazy to go back to the link and look it up (but, the link I posted gives their past contributors.)

CJ, see above link.

And, you betcha Corn Plus has to publish the amount of their expenditures for Nat Gas, and electricity. No one would invest in a plant that didn't; and, a CEO that published "false" numbers would, definitely, be guilty of Fraud.

When I first brought this up you stated that UCOC's income is Down To $120,000.00

No, I didn't. I have no earthly idea what you are talking about, but if you are going to continue to assert this, I insist you provide a link.

As far as the topic goes, there is a UC Oil Consortium. You still haven't demonstrated that 1). Patzek personally gets this money; or 2). It is for oil lobbying. Don't you think you should, if you are going to make accusations against people? Or do you simply lack scruples?

And, you betcha Corn Plus has to publish the amount of their expenditures for Nat Gas, and electricity.

Would you stop with the bait and switch already? Is your argument so shoddy that you have to constantly resort to misrepresentation? That's not what I said. What I said was, they don't have to report "specific energy usage related to ethanol production." If you assert otherwise, you are either badly misinformed, or a liar. That sort of information is well-protected by many companies; they don't want others to know what their usages are.

Without getting a detailed energy balance, you can't say whether their claims have merit. No doubt, if you burn part of your co-products, you use less natural gas. That positively affects your energy balance on the ethanol piece, but then you get less energy credit for co-products. It doesn't necessarily improve your energy balance, since you were already taking BTU credit for the co-products. Comprende?

If I reported a Million Dollar expense for Natural Gas how long would it take you to figure out how much gas I used?

Corn Plus gets, I believe, 20% less distillers grains as a result of burning the syrup. That's why I Always use 33% (instead of 40%) when adjusting their numbers. It does, of course, improve their energy balance, dramatically.

Look, Guys, we've Got to have Transportation; and, it's very unlikely that we can get enough battery-powered cars on the road fast enough Not to need some Liquid Fuel. That said, at $3.80/gal for gasoline I could make ethanol, profitably, out of your Grannies' Tennis Shorts.

In short, rather than chasing red herrings like "using valuable farm-land" (we've got good, fallow land running out our ears) those of us that don't spend our days daydreaming about the anticipated TEOTWAWKI should be concentrating on "The Best Solution for Specific Situations.

jes sayin

If I reported a Million Dollar expense for Natural Gas how long would it take you to figure out how much gas I used?

First, why don't you pull up their reported gas expense, and show it to me? Second, I can't tell if you are playing dumb, or just not following along. If you burn your co-products, you will reduce your natural gas bill. Now you don't have co-products.

Corn Plus gets, I believe, 20% less distillers grains as a result of burning the syrup.

That statement is not supported by the link I showed below. Do the energy balance. Start with the BTUs in corn, and then go from there.

Look, Guys, we've Got to have Transportation; and, it's very unlikely that we can get enough battery-powered cars on the road fast enough Not to need some Liquid Fuel.

That doesn't mean that we need to start fabricating things in order to push the ethanol agenda.

at $3.80/gal for gasoline I could make ethanol, profitably, out of your Grannies' Tennis Shorts.

Funny then that ethanol producers are struggling. Maybe you don't know as much about all of this as you think? Or maybe you should go and try running your own ethanol plant. I presume you saw that Pacific Ethanol has delayed their earnings report? That's not usually good news.

The ethanol battle : Robert Rapier vs. kdolliso or "reality vs. delusion" ..... 10 - 0
Sorry kdolliso you simply don't understand the shear scale of this problem. Not even close.

Aw, I don't know about that.

A couple of months ago Robert was excoriating me for saying some ethanol plants were getting close to 3 gal/bu. I'm sure he made several people think I was nuts.

Now? I have "Proof" to post; and we have to go back and readjust ("Hansenize?") the Score.

I guess I'll just keep plodding, stupidly, along:)

Now? I have "Proof" to post; and we have to go back and readjust ("Hansenize?") the Score.

Of course as we have seen, what you and I consider "proof" differs by a great deal. Heck, what you consider proof differs by a great deal. If it's pro-ethanol, the bar is low. Anti-ethanol, and you set the bar very high.

Kdolliso , you are quite transparent to read. You are baking your own cake !

Now to understand this bio-fuel “thing”, we no longer need to look at the energy-numbers (eroei, calories, kwh … and such) we just have to have a look at the spiraling food prices, IMO. The world’s grains are evidently becoming squeezed between the concepts of food and energy … or rather food OR energy - it doesn’t take any Einstein to grasp this, just read the MSM. Since this fact has turned reality we (the world) have to make a selection: personally I stay with food …..

To really understand this Kdolliso ………. Try the mental stunt of seeing this from a shantytown dweller's standpoint, living on ONE dollar/day…. This year he can afford only half of that of last year’s food. Maybe a little too remote anecdote for you to understand, but far too many are approaching this scenario Kdollios. Did you make it?

Okay, YOU try THIS:

Haitian Women are paying $0.60/lb for Dirt Cookies! If TPTB would let them they could buy all the field corn they wanted from the U.S. for $0.11/lb (At TODAY'S PRICES.)

She has "Problems;" but, it has NOTHING TO DO WITH BIOFUELS!

Try to Understand This: Corn is, at today's prices, only a touch over eleven cents/lb. There's about a dime's worth of wheat in a loaf of bread. Look to the failed, idiotic policies of these despotic, corrupt, genocidal government, Not ethanol. We ain't got nothing to do with it.

BTW, Paal, I know Nothing about you. You, in turn, know nothing about me. I will tell you this; I have, absolutely, NO financial stake in agriculture, Biofuels, or Energy Distribution. Nor does my Family. I, simply, am a Redneck 'Merican with a lot of time on his hands, and a deep concern for the World his Grandchildren inherit.

Again I read what you write, but you have not yet gotten the biofuel/food havoc-link. Those stories have been daily in the Drumbeats for months now, but you just skip them, don't you ?
You know this world is more than Haiti. It's like all the developing world is having doubling prices in the span OF ONE YEAR. Try to imagine these scenarioes 5 years from now, or dear I say 10 ?

All this bold text, was that to underline the truth of some kind? Never mind kdolliso, stay with your reality. And I'll stick to mine.


I was surprised when I looked back, just now, and realized I'd Bolded the whole second half. I think I was trying to bold two different things, and ..... aw, to heck with it :)

Paal, I think we used something like two percent of the world's grains for ethanol last year. For a variety of reasons, of which biofuels is probably 3rd or 4th, or 5th grains/beans prices spiked this year. Wheat harvests were terrible all over the world. Europe held 10% of their Wheat-land out of cultivation, etc. But, Wheat prices are dropping, rapidly, and are just about back to "normal."

Corn, and Beans, due to Incredibly growing demand from Asia, are still up, substantially, and probably will be for another year, or two. Argentina, India, and China, among others instituting idiotic export rules aren't helping.

Having said all that, the only commodity that seems to have the potential of actually hurting someone is long-stemmed rice; AND we have absolutely NOTHING to do with Long-Stemmed Rice. There is NO VECTOR between Corn land, and long stem rice paddies. Nada.

As for 5 years from now. WE will have a lot more land under cultivation. The rest of the world? I don't know; there are a lot of really nutty governments out there.

I was surprised when I looked back, just now, and realized I'd Bolded the whole second half. I think I was trying to bold two different things, and .....

Preview is your friend, unless you've gone and alienated it too. ;)

Robert Rapier and Kdolliso:

86 million barrels of oil per day is clearly not sustainable. Contrary to what most peak oilers say ("we are running out of cheap oil, but we are not running out of oil"), we are indeed running out of oil globally, completely by 2075, and it will actually come sooner than the decline production curves show, and a lot sooner than that the U.S. will face complete energy collapse.

The problem is that the corn ethanol uses up fossil fuels and yields less energy in return when you consider ---- (1) all energy inputs: the energy used in mining iron ore, bauxite and other ores, transportation and processing of ores, coal mining, train transport, the transportation to work of all the people making all of the equipment, the heating of all of the buildings that make ethanol, advertise for it, selling it, maintain it, the international shipping of all the parts, the Fedex air shipments, the national and international travel of the ethanol execs, the salaries of all of the people starting back at the mining phase, including all personnel and people who earn salaries and then spend them, and thus consume more fossil energy, the maintenance of all of this, etc, etc. (2) the transportation costs for ethanol by truck/train (not done in most EROEI/LCA), and (3) the opportunity costs of lost food production, which means more production and transportation of food in other sectors of the U.S. and international economy.

LCA takes the long view only if the people applying it are thinking about the long view. Show me where your LCA for corn ethanol takes into account the costs in the paragraph immediately above. If you are proposing to use oil, natural gas, and coal you should do this and publish it. This is no mere discussion; this concerns peoples' lives and you are proposing major energy policy changes that will impact those live. You must defend what you are proposing.

CJ, you state:

"The problem is that the corn ethanol uses up fossil fuels and yields less energy in return when you consider . . "

Then you name a bunch of second, and third derivative inputs, and challenge me to spend a few hundred thousand dollars, and several years to "prove you wrong."

I've got a better idea. I'm going to posit that all of those energy inputs are in the "Costs," and that, by definition, they are less than the energy produced.

Now, You prove Me, Wrong.

The study is $50,000 and a few months of study -- well worth the money. Because you are proposing major changes in energy policy and food policy, you must present the evidence that what you are doing makes sense. The Union of Concerned Scientists (which favors renewables) indicates that your plans don't make much sense. The corn ethanol lobby has no such study. Until they publish one showing that this is good public policy, the public and Congress should say not to your boondoggle.

Wrong, the first rule of LCA in the context of energy, EROEI, is to include all of the energy inputs. Because you are proposing to waste fossil fuel energy on corn ethanol production, you are responsible for including all of the energy inputs that Patzek has, but you have not. Please provide this and publish it.

Is Patzek "making hundreds of thousands/yr from his big oil lobbying efforts?"

corn can be refined into ethanol with as little as 17,706 fossil fuels/electricity btus/gal. He gives a number that's almost 3 times that.

I fear that you can't catch a break. I have been doing some calculations based on some of Corn Plus' published numbers. If you want to work them out yourself, see the link:,%20Doug.pdf

Pay close attention to Slide 12, where they are doing a case study on Corn Plus, and suggesting that a 46 million gallon a year ethanol plant produces 100,000 lbs/hr of steam with the co-products.

Turns out - and this should be obvious - that you can indeed reduce natural gas usage by burning your co-products. But guess what? You know all of those claims you keep making about higher weight gains on DDGS? They are now null and void. You have burned most of the BTU value of the co-products. And if you run through the math above - 100,000 pounds of steam based on 46 million gallons of ethanol, you will see that you had to have burned up most of your co-product BTU value. (Hint: Start with the BTU value of corn).

And remember, the number you posted above was 1). The best reported number from a bunch of different plants. (Yet you ran with it). Furthermore, 2). The number doesn't include the BTU inputs from growing the corn. So given that the product BTU balance no longer has all of those coproducts to hide energy inputs into, you still aren't getting those 2+ EROEI numbers you keep fantasizing about. The only way you get those is to cherry-pick the best data points. The problem is, they are mutually exclusive.

I'm pretty sure they're only losing about 20% of their distillers grains through the gasification process, and, when discussing Corn Plus I have always cut my calcs. down to 33%. BTW, it does make it cheaper to "Dry" the Distillers Grains, also.

But, guess what; Now we have a New Co-Product. ASH.

As a result, a nutrient- and mineral-rich ash is produced, which is difficult to transport in its original form. Farmers have been using the ash as a fertilizer in fields on a trial basis, and they like it. “Actually, there’s a waiting list for the ash,” Kor told EPM.

The "Bad News" just keeps comin, don't it?

I'm pretty sure they're only losing about 20% of their distillers grains

You don't have to be "pretty sure." You can do the math for yourself, and see if 20% of the DDGS can produce 100,000 lb/hr of steam. In a plant that size, it can't come close. So, someone is lying, or mistaken.

BTW, it does make it cheaper to "Dry" the Distillers Grains, also.

Right, burn part of your product to dry the rest. I am sure it is cheaper. Of course I almost hate to point out...

But, guess what; Now we have a New Co-Product. ASH.

With no BTU value, per the USDA's calculation methodology. This is what you don't seem to get. You are trying to mix and match inconsistent measurement methods. That is exactly what Corn Plus has done. I saw Kor mention the 1.6 energy return (the one where the USDA hid the energy inputs into the co-products) and then build from that. But how did he do it? By burning co-products. You have now invalidated the methodology that gave the 1.6. There needs to be a consistent methodology for calculating energy inputs and outputs.

The "Bad News" just keeps comin, don't it?

I am afraid so. It just wasn't a good day all around for you yesterday. If we were playing baseball, you got shut out.

I wouldn't assign a btu value to the ash pellets; BUT, to the extent that they replace an input (fertilizer) that has a btu value, I'd have to consider it a positive.

I don't Assign a BTU value to the distillers grains. I merely point out that, for all practical purposes, all of the cattle feeding potential (aka: corn) is not being used up. ie I start with 56 lbs of cattle feed, I process it, and I end up with 2.8 gallons of ethanol, some fertilizer, in some cases, some CO2 for sale, and 17.5 lbs of Superior Dry cattle feed. In the Real World I've used up 60% of my cattle feed to create my coproducts.

As for the 100,000 lb/hr of steam: I wonder if they didn't say that poorly. ie, that the gassification of the syrup produced 52% of the steam needed? I don't know. I do remember reading that Kor stated that their product of distillers grains was cut by about 20%, and that they Only used the syrup.

Anyway, It looks like a pretty good deal to me. If it doesn't to you, so be it. I'm sure it will be much clearer in a few years who was right. I'm betting on me :)

But, guess what; Now we have a New Co-Product. ASH.

Does this mean you'll be arguing with me against the people who claim that taking corn stover and returning ash will deplete the soil?

Just askin'.


One thing that excited me was the reception it got with the local farmers.

One other point about corn ethanol. Rapeseed or soybean oil, even though it stinks, would be better than this mess of corn ethanol with such a horrendously bad EROEI, as well as the pollution it creates. What a mess :(.


Here, Let me Show You Some POLLUTION!

This is your Marginal Barrel of Oil.

Good point, because corn ethanol has a negative EROEI, it produces not only it's own nasty pollution, but the pollution from the oil it uses.

An editorial and some letters to the editor aren't usually considered "news".

I would have thought that articles published on the 10th and 11th May are news and relevant especially since corn ethanol has been such a controversial subject lately. Have you actually read the articles in question?

They aren't articles and they contain no news.

The first is an editorial. Some guy's opinion that ethanol mandates must be changed but no idea how to do that.

The second is a bunch of letters to the editor. Which again contain no news.

Did you read them?