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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-20-2006, 03:58 PM Thread Starter
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Competition for grain to be used for fuel.

I found this story in a E-newsletter at work and foubf it intersting since it seems to be written from the 'green' opinion and not the corporate side of the fence but some of the details are surpirising like the 14 tons grain will be used for fuel consumption in the future and the article also states that Ethanol has been produced in Brazil and the U.S. since 2005.

ENN FULL STORY

Supermarkets And Service Stations Now Competing For Grain

July 14, 2006 By Earth Policy Institute
WASHINGTON, DC "Cars, not people, will claim most of the increase in world grain consumption this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that world grain use will grow by 20 million tons in 2006. Of this, 14 million tons will be used to produce fuel for cars in the United States, leaving only 6 million tons to satisfy the world's growing food needs," says Lester Brown, President of Earth Policy Institute. (See www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2006/Update55.htm)

In agricultural terms, the world appetite for automotive fuel is insatiable. The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year. The grain to fill the tank every two weeks over a year will feed 26 people.

Investors are jumping on the highly profitable biofuel-bandwagon so fast that hardly a day goes by without another ethanol distillery or biodiesel refinery being announced somewhere in the world. The amount of corn used in U.S. ethanol distilleries has tripled in five years, jumping from 18 million tons in 2001 to an estimated 55 million tons from the 2006 crop.

In some U.S. Corn Belt states, ethanol distilleries are taking over the corn supply. In Iowa, a staggering 55 ethanol plants are operating or have been proposed. Iowa State University economist Bob Wisner observes that if all these plants are built, they would use virtually all the corn grown in Iowa. In South Dakota, a top-ten corn-growing state, ethanol distilleries are already claiming over half of the corn harvest.

With so many distilleries being built, livestock and poultry producers fear there may not be enough corn to produce meat, milk, and eggs. And since the United States supplies 70 percent of world corn exports, corn-importing countries are worried about their supply.

Since almost everything we eat can be converted into fuel for automobiles, including wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, and sugarcane, the line between the food and energy economies is disappearing. Historically, food processors and livestock producers that converted these farm commodities into products for supermarket shelves were the only buyers. Now there is another group, those buying for the ethanol distilleries and biodiesel refineries that supply service stations.

As the price of oil climbs, it becomes increasingly profitable to convert farm commodities into automotive fuel, either ethanol or biodiesel. In effect, the price of oil becomes the support price for food commodities. Whenever the food value of a commodity drops below its fuel value, the market will convert it into fuel.

Crop-based fuel production is now concentrated in Brazil, the United States, and Western Europe. The United States and Brazil each produced over 4 billion gallons (16 billion liters) of ethanol in 2005. While Brazil uses sugarcane as the feedstock, U.S. distillers use grain - mostly corn. The 55 million tons of U.S. corn going into ethanol this year represent nearly one sixth of the country's grain harvest, but will supply only 3 percent of its automotive fuel. (For additional data, see http://www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2...ate55_data.htm.)

Brazil, the world's largest sugar producer and exporter, is now converting half of its sugar harvest into fuel ethanol. With just 10 percent of the world's sugar harvest going into ethanol, the price of sugar has doubled. Cheap sugar may now be history.

In Europe the emphasis is on producing biodiesel. Last year the European Union (EU) produced 1.6 billion gallons of biofuels. Of this, 858 million gallons were biodiesel, produced from vegetable oil, mostly in Germany and France, and 718 million gallons were ethanol, most of it distilled from grain in France, Spain, and Germany. Margarine manufacturers, struggling to compete with subsidized biodiesel refineries, have asked the European Parliament for help.

In Asia, China and India are both building ethanol distilleries. In 2005, China converted some 2 million tons of grain - mostly corn, but also some wheat and rice - into ethanol. In India, ethanol is produced largely from sugarcane. Thailand is concentrating on ethanol from cassava, while Malaysia and Indonesia are investing heavily in additional palm oil plantations and in new biodiesel refineries. Within the last year or so, Malaysia has approved 32 biodiesel refineries, but recently has suspended further licensing while it assesses the adequacy of palm oil supplies.

The profitability of crop-based fuel production has created an investment juggernaut. With a U.S. ethanol subsidy of 51 per gallon in effect until 2010, and with oil priced at $70 per barrel, distilling fuel alcohol from corn promises huge profits for years to come.

In May 2005, the 100th U.S. ethanol distillery came on line. Seven of these distilleries are being expanded. Another 34 or so are under construction and scores more are in the planning stages. The soaring demand for crop-based fuel is coming when world grain stocks are at the lowest level in 34 years and when there are 76 million more people to feed each year.

The U.S. investment in biofuel production in response to runaway oil prices is spiraling out of control, threatening to draw grain away from the production of beef, pork, poultry, milk, and eggs. And, most seriously, the vast number of distilleries in operation, under construction, and in the planning stages threatens to reduce grain available for direct human consumption. Simply put, the stage is being set for a head-on collision between the world's 800 million affluent automobile owners and food consumers. Given the insatiable appetite of cars for fuel, higher grain prices appear inevitable. The only question is when food prices will rise and by how much. Indeed, in recent months, wheat and corn prices have risen by one fifth.

For the 2 billion poorest people in the world, many of whom spend half or more of their income on food, rising grain prices can quickly become life threatening. The broader risk is that rising food prices could spread hunger and generate political instability in low-income countries that import grain, such as Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria, and Mexico. This instability could in turn disrupt global economic progress. If ethanol distillery demand for grain continues its explosive growth, driving grain prices to dangerous highs, the U.S. government may have to intervene in the unfolding global conflict over food between affluent motorists and low-income consumers.

There are alternatives to using food-based fuels. For example, the equivalent of the 3 percent gain in automotive fuel supplies from ethanol could be achieved several times over - and at a fraction of the cost - simply by raising auto fuel efficiency standards by 20 percent. Investing in public transport could reduce overall dependence on cars.

There are other fuel options as well. While there are no alternatives to food for people, there is an alternative source of fuel for cars, one that involves shifting to highly efficient gas-electric hybrid plug-ins. This would enable motorists to do short-distance driving, such as the daily commute, with electricity. If wind-rich countries such as the United States, China, and those in Europe invest heavily in wind farms to feed cheap electricity into the grid, cars could run primarily on wind energy, and at the gasoline equivalent of less than $1 a gallon.

Contact Info:

Lester R. Brown
Earth Policy Institute
Tel : 202-496-9290
E-mail: [email protected]

http://www.enn.com/net.html?id=1575



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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-20-2006, 11:44 PM
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Re: Competition for grain to be used for fuel.

Yet again, proof that Ethanol is bad.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-21-2006, 12:07 AM
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Re: Competition for grain to be used for fuel.

if every car ran off ethanol. or even 50%.

there wouldn't be enough corn in the world to supply all those cars.


BTW - there's that video passing around the internet about the welder dude who has the water for energy invention. someone invented something like that in the mid 1980's.

you can YouTube it and find it. he had a dune buggy. but he 'died' from 'food poisoning' in 1999. more like the gas companies had him killed and destroyed his dune buggy.

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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-21-2006, 12:10 AM
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Re: Competition for grain to be used for fuel.

I've been saying that all along (why doesn't everyone listen to me?lol).
Thanks for the posting, as now i can rub it in my co-workers' faces as an "I told you so." *

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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-21-2006, 08:06 AM
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Re: Competition for grain to be used for fuel.

[quote author=small town king link=topic=52009.msg836262#msg836262 date=1153454856]
if every car ran off ethanol. or even 50%.
[/quote]

I'm quoting stats off the top of my head, but I believe there is not enough excess grain capacity in the US to even go to 20% ethanol in gasoline. And that includes planting in low-yield fields and such that we don't currently use.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-21-2006, 09:23 AM
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Re: Competition for grain to be used for fuel.

There is enough arable land in the US to run vehicles on 30% or more ethanol...however in terms of current land used to raise corn there is not enough to run more then about 10% on ethanol.

However if all vehicles used 3% ethanol that would not soak up undue amounts of corn production and would yeild sizable reductions in emissions (a slight bit of ethanol mixed in with gas results in a fairly decent reduction in VOCs, CO, and NOx emissions, especially during cold startup). Also going to alternatives to corn (as Bush loves to say switch grass, etc) would mean that no food crops could be used to produce ethanol.

Lastly there are other alcohols that are more energy efficient then ethanol that can be produced from the same volume of food/input. IE same input energy, higher output energy in the resultant alcohol. The techinques to make this alcohol have only in the past year or so been shown to be feasible however. So figure you now have a 10-20% great energy yield for the same input, pretty impressive I think.

Anyway I don't think we should go to full on 100% ethanol, but a 3-5% mix in all gasoline would not be excessive and it would help emissions and reduce gasoline usage slightly (even 1-2% is SOME reduction in usage). Combined with 20-30% biodiesal mixes (this HUGELY reduces diesal particulate and NOx emissions), maybe organically produced biopetroleum down the road (if it is feasible), and increased fleet fuel economy (as was said 10-20% would be substantial) and we would have true reductions in usage.

Also as the article mentioned wide spread usage of wind power and also solar power. 1 kilometer of desert absorbs 1 million KW of power. Currently the three gorges damn being built in China has an expected output of 18,200 MW, or about 18,200,000 KW of output. 18.2sq km of desert absorbs the same amount of power as the three gorges damn outputs.

If we are talking about realized amounts of power from use of solar panels you would have to multiply that by say 10 times (single crystal solar panels are up to about 14% efficient) and you have 182sq km of desert. To manage to suplant all of the US use of hydro (which supplies something around 20% of our total power needs) would take about 80,000 MW of production, or around 800sq km of desert if you want to be conservative. Even if you figure that the solar panels aren't working half the day (as it is night time) you get 1600sq km of say nevada or Arizona.

The US miliatary controls more area of both states. 1600sq km is a big area, but we are a HUGE country and could manage it without serious difficulties. The biggest downside is the cost of doing it, solar panels aren't cheap; however, they have an extremely long life (none have died since they started being made...that was about 40 years ago now), require no real maintenance, and so on. They can generally repay their cost plus installation costs, and power regulation and storage costs within 10-20 years depending on the setup, the panels, etc. That is awhile, but not to a power company. Almost all of the cost is up front with almost no costs once it is setup. So the total setup probably would be into the tens of billions, but it would repay itself within a decade or two and would produce about as green energy as you can get.
-Matt

PS that total solar generating capacity, even if it only operated at 6 hours per day (and it would be more in the desert) would yield something like 17 billion dollars a year in electricity assuming a cost of 10 cents per killowatt hour (and currently it is more like 20 cents a killowatt hour). So even if the setup cost 200 billion, it would pay itself back in 12 years and then be making money hand over fist for electric companies.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-21-2006, 11:46 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Competition for grain to be used for fuel.

Great info Matt, thats some impressive knowledge there. Ethanol is not the answer to the environmental prayers and these are all great points.

I thought there would be some good responses from this article, but Matt threw out some good raw facts that contradict what most people think, and the use of ethanol varies from state to state like in NJ where the sale of ethanol has been banned, if it doesn't feed the pockets of the politicians, it doesn't fly here bu thats for a different thread.

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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-21-2006, 02:58 PM
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Re: Competition for grain to be used for fuel.

Quote:
Anyway I don't think we should go to full on 100% ethanol, but a 3-5% mix in all gasoline would not be excessive and it would help emissions and reduce gasoline usage slightly (even 1-2% is SOME reduction in usage). Combined with 20-30% biodiesal mixes (this HUGELY reduces diesal particulate and NOx emissions), maybe organically produced biopetroleum down the road (if it is feasible), and increased fleet fuel economy (as was said 10-20% would be substantial) and we would have true reductions in usage.
and, as I see it, most importantly it would show that alternative fuels have a place and hopefully encourage further development to increase the efficiency of ethanol and create complimentary/alternative alt fuel sources.

ethanol isn't the cure, but it's a step worth taking to get things rolling.
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-21-2006, 03:09 PM
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Re: Competition for grain to be used for fuel.

we should all just use jetfuel.

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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 07-21-2006, 03:26 PM
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Re: Competition for grain to be used for fuel.

[quote author=small town king link=topic=52009.msg837194#msg837194 date=1153508997]
we should all just use jetfuel.
[/quote]

Jetfuel is essentially Kerosene with some extras mixed in...diseal is also effectively kerosene...there is basically just a dye added to kerosene so that inspectors know it has been taxed appropriately. Jets and ships are also the prime pollutors (though not the prime users) using petroleum products. No catalytic converters and not a very clean burn either.

One thing I also wanted to throw out there is that the average fleet fuel economy today is no greater then the peak average fleet fuel economy achieved. This occured in 19 F ME 87! Engines are more efficient and cleaner...but almost all lines of vehicles are larger, and heavier (and tons of SUVs now) along with larger engines in the vehicles. Just think what would happen to fuel consumption if only the people who truely needed them drove light trucks (IE pickups and SUVs). We would probably see motor fuel use reduce by 20-30%.
-Matt
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