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By Robert Rapier on Oct 20, 2010 with 144 responses

Food Versus Fuel – Again

Upcoming

I am off to Malaysia on Saturday for a business trip. I will actually spend some time in Bintulu, so I am looking forward to driving by and seeing Shell’s gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant there. I am unsure about my prospects for Internet access over the following week. When I was in India, I was without Internet for eight days, but I have been told that most likely I will have Internet for the duration of my stay. But this is a business trip, so I probably won’t have all that much time to write anyway.

I do have three essays in the pipeline that I will trickle out while I am gone. The first is a guest essay from Global Intelligence Report on oil exploration in the Caspian Sea. The second is an interview that I recently conducted with Tom Hicks, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy). We spoke at length about what the Navy is doing to secure energy supplies for the future, the greening of their fleet, and what they are doing internally versus the work that is being done externally. The third is an assessment of using hemp to produce biofuel. Since I started writing about energy, I have probably had 50 people ask me about the viability of hemp, but this will be the first time I have ever addressed the subject.

Food Versus Fuel

Today I want to revisit the food versus fuel debate. This debate has started to gain strength again due to rising corn prices, arguments that ethanol production is fueling the price rise, and reports that food prices will be higher as a result. I have taken a pretty conservative position in this debate. I generally agree with those who have suggested that the increase in food prices is driven more by high energy prices than by higher corn or soybean prices. I also agree that in the U.S., food is cheap. In fact, junk calories are very cheap, which is a reason that nearly 70% of Americans are overweight. So one could argue that there would be health benefits from making certain foods in the U.S. more expensive. If junk food was more expensive and healthy foods were less expensive, we would all be better off.

However, I think it is naive to suggest that there is no impact on food prices from things like corn, soybean oil, and palm oil being diverted into biofuel production. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) investigated this issue in 2009 (See The Impact of Ethanol Use on Food Prices and Greenhouse-Gas Emissions), and concluded “CBO estimates that from April 2007 to April 2008, the rise in the price of corn resulting from expanded production of ethanol contributed between 0.5 and 0.8 percentage points of the 5.1 percent increase in food prices measured by the consumer price index.” They further indicated that a larger portion of that 5.1 percent increase in food prices was due to escalating energy prices.

So an American family that spends $200 per week on food saw their annual food costs increase by a total of $530 on the year, with ethanol contributing between $52 and $83 per the CBO report. While other studies have suggested that the impact is much greater, I would tend to think that for Western countries the CBO numbers aren’t that far off the mark. Cumulatively, $52 per year across 115 million families in the U.S. amounts to annual increased food costs due to ethanol of nearly $6 billion, but for individual families in wealthy countries the impact is not large.

However, one doesn’t have to travel far to find starving people. Many of those people are starving because they can’t afford food. For them, this is a more serious issue. So if one views the argument from a Western-centric point of view, you could indeed make the case that the increased costs due to biofuel competition are insignificant. But from a global perspective, some people are going to be impacted by a much larger degree than those of us in the west. Further, certain food producers are impacted far more than others. Poultry and beef producers are hit hard by rising grain prices, which is why you see those industries lining up against policies that would increase corn ethanol production. In this case what happens is a transfer of wealth from the cattle rancher to the corn farmer. My father is a cattle rancher, so I am well aware of the impact rising corn prices has had on him.

In addition, when we use arable land to produce fuel, we set up the potential for a much more serious crisis in the future. As long as there are record crops year after year, the issue may not come into sharp focus. If there are droughts, floods, etc. that cause crops to come in much lower than expected, when food and fuel are both competing for the same feedstocks, there is the potential for much higher prices for both food and fuel at the same time. I have discussed these risks several times, including recently in The Lesson from Rising Ethanol Prices.

But There’s a But

But, the fact is that we need both food and fuel. And some of the so-called solutions to this issue have not been well-thought out. When someone proposes to grow a non-food crop for the purpose of biofuel production (wood, jatropha, etc.) — but they do it on arable soil, there is no difference than if a food crop was grown there and then diverted into energy production. What we need to do is to make sure we are maximizing the use of marginal soil, or land otherwise unsuitable for crop production, for energy production. For instance, trees can grow well on marginal or hilly soil that is otherwise unsuitable for food production. To the extent that they can be used in those situations to produce energy, the food-versus-fuel debate can be avoided. But it can’t be avoided by growing non-food fuel crops on arable land.

There are instances in which energy components can be extracted from the food crop, leaving the food value intact. I would rather see high fructose corn syrup (which is now being rebranded “corn sugar“) diverted into ethanol production instead of ending up as a cheap sweetener in many of our foods. That is the sort of situation that could be a win-win; the corn can produce energy but then its value as food is undiminished. This happens to some extent now with the DDGS co-product from ethanol production. Ethanol can be produced from corn, and then the DDGS can be fed to animals.

But unintended consequences are an ever present danger, and we need to keep a close eye on the risks as we try to supply the world with both food and energy. We saw this happen with palm oil as a result of Western biofuel policies. Due to Western mandates, demand for palm oil increased, and therefore an incentive was provided for converting peat bogs and rain forest into palm oil plantations. That is an unintended consequence that can’t be undone, so we have to put more forethought into the potential risks of our energy policies. But this also brought an overreaction from many Western countries that painted palm oil as undesirable, period. While we don’t want to incentivize the destruction of virgin rain forest for palm oil production, we should also recognize that palm oil is a very cost-effective biofuel that can be a good source of income for developing countries. We just have to balance our desire for fuel with the value of the orangutan, which could see its habitat completely destroyed in a rush to produce fuel.

We need to be aware that just because energy policies in Western countries may have seemingly minimal negative impact to those countries, the impact on developing countries can be much more pronounced. We also must clearly recognize the risk that crop shortfalls pose to both food and fuel when they are competing for the same arable land. In the long run, we need to minimize the potential for food-versus-fuel conflicts.

  1. By ronald-steenblik on October 20, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Very balanced post, RR. Just one thing. I have seen this argument a hundred times before: “producing corn ethanol is a good thing because it means less HFCS.” Actually, if you look at the numbers, that has not been the case. HFCS production rose sharply until 1985, then more gradually over the next 14 years, peaked in 1999 (several years before the ethanol boom started) and then flatlined since, at around 9.2 million short tons, dry weight, a year. Production in 2008 and 2009 was down, but that can be attributed to the recession. Here are the annual U.S. production figures since 1999, from the USDA’s Economic Research Service:

    1999 … 9.41

    2000 … 9.32

    2001 … 9.24

    2002 … 9.30

    2003 … 9.15

    2004 … 9.06

    2005 … 9.23

    2006 … 9.38

    2007 … 9.27

    2008 … 8.87

    2009 … 8.57

    Per-capita consumption (shown in the graph below in lbs per person) has declined slightly since the boom in ethanol production, but not by any degree to the same extent as the increase in the use of corn starch for ethanol. The slight decline can just as probably be attributed to bad press for HFCS, a greater perception among consumers about the health effects of HFCS and which products are made with it, and a switch among diet-conscious soft-drink consumers to low-cal versions of their sodas.

    So, in short: please don’t contribute to the spreading of this myth. The reality is that producing corn ethanol has had little to no effect on the production of HFCS.

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  2. By mus302 on October 20, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    As we learned during biblical times, you have to overproduce during good times so that you have enough during lean times. Because of that, our agricultural system is set up to overproduce. It ensures that we always have adequate supplies even in years where the weather has worked against us, but it also means that we flood the international market with cheap food.

    Years of flooding the market with cheap, subsidized grain has forced the world’s poor farmers out of business and has forced the world’s poor to depend on us.

    Ethanol has helped to a certain extent to correct the market distortion created by our need to overproduce.

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  3. By ronald-steenblik on October 20, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Mus304 wrote:

    Ethanol has helped to a certain extent to correct the market distortion created by our need to overproduce.

    That supply response only works over several seasons. Developing-country farmers were not able to respond that quickly when food-commodity prices rose sharply in 2008, so their urban poor simply had to make do with much higher prices.

    Over the longer run, supply increases, including supply in developing countries. But that is a mixed blessing. On existing land, farmers can then afford more inputs and obtain higher yields. But some increase comes from the conversion of former pasture land or forests — i.e., the phenomenon that the regulators call indirect land-use change.

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  4. By Kit P on October 20, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    “However, one
    doesn’t have to travel far to find starving people. Many of those
    people are starving because they can’t afford food.”

     

    Who, where, why? I
    certainly would have to travel very far. I suspect the root cause
    has nothing to do with US policies.

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  5. By OD on October 20, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Some 90% of the expected 3 billion increase in world popuation is projected to be in countries already on the brink of starvation. The situation is very likely to become more dire. I’m not sure what the solutions are, if there are any. Ethanol production seems to be playing a small role in a much bigger problem.. overpopulation. Sad situation all around.

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  6. By rrapier on October 20, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    So, in short: please don’t contribute to the spreading of this myth. The reality is that producing corn ethanol has had little to no effect on the production of HFCS.

    That’s not what I am saying. I am saying that I would rather see the HFCS going into ethanol than into our food. I have never analyzed the issue to say what is happening, I am just saying that if it did we would be better off.

    RR

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  7. By Duracomm on October 20, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    High fructose corn syrup exists because of government policy. Predictably people are calling for more government action to fix a problem that government action caused.

    The simple fix is to end the sugar import tariffs.

    In addition to making HFCS uneconomical it would have the beneficial side effects of helping to alleviate poverty in the third world and it would allow the return of thousands of US jobs the sugar tariff destroyed.

    Employment Changes in U.S. Food Manufacturing:
    The Impact of Sugar Prices

    1. Employment in sugar containing products (SCPs) industries decreased by more than 10,000 jobs between 1997 and 2002

    2. For each one sugar growing and harvesting job saved through high U.S. sugar prices, nearly three confectionery manufacturing jobs are lost.

    3. For the confectionery industry in particular, evidence suggests that sugar costs are a major factor in relocation decisions because high U.S. sugar prices represent a larger share of total production costs than labor.

    In 2004, the price of U.S refined sugar was 23.5 cents per pound compared to the world price at 10.9 cents.

    4. Many U.S. SCP manufacturers have closed or relocated to Canada where sugar prices are less than half of U.S. prices and to Mexico where sugar prices are about two-thirds of U.S. prices.

    5. Imports of SCPs have grown rapidly from $6.7 billion in 1990, to $10.2 billion in 1997, up to $18.7 billion in 2004.

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  8. By Duracomm on October 20, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    It looks like the epidemic of concern of HFCS and its relation to obesity is due to the author of an article misunderstanding the statements by researchers and a follow on internet misinformation cascade.

    Finding Patient Zero in the High Fructose Corn Syrup Hate Epidemic

    She quoted the lead scientist as saying, “This is first evidence we have that fructose increases diabetes and heart disease independently of causing simple weight gain.” Put simply, fructose—which is simple fruit sugar—can be bad for us.

    But Rogers, as Dan Mitchell reported in Slate, somehow got it in her head that fructose and high-fructose corn syrup were the same thing.

    Here’s her lead: “Scientists have proved for the first time that a cheap form of sugar used in thousands of food products and soft drinks [that is, HFCS] can damage human metabolism and is fuelling the obesity crisis.”

    This viral sentence—one that should have referred to fructose—infected the entire article. Unsuspecting readers were led to believe that fructose was a sweetener solely derived from corn and, more alarmingly, that it was interchangeable with HFCS.

    The scientist quoted in the piece later remarked that “almost every sentence in the article contained at least one inaccurate statement.”

    The article, of course, proliferated.

    Two days after the Times piece ran, Tom Laskawy, writing for the popular environmental website Grist.com, rehashed it. High-fructose corn syrup, he began, was “fueling the obesity crisis.”

    He then replicated the same errors that marred Rogers’ debacle.

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  9. By Duracomm on October 20, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Negative unintended consequences resulting from government policy driven toward helping favored industries is not an ever present danger they are a 100 % guaranteed certainty.

    Idiot government policy has produced decades of social, economic, and environmental disasters in agriculture.

    The government needs to get out of agriculture and let creativity and innovation back in.

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  10. By perry on October 20, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Ethanol had zero effect on this year’s corn prices. It was already factored into demand when farmers decided how many acres to plant. Farmers can look at prices 24 months down the road when deciding what to plant. If futures surge for corn, more farmers plant it and prices drop again. If ethanol production had been halted last year, fewer corn acres would have been planted this year. And, when Russian wheat gets smacked by a drought and cattle ranchers are scurrying for alternative feed grains, an even smaller corn crop would have to satisfy that demand.

     

     

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  11. By rrapier on October 20, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Ethanol had zero effect on this year’s corn prices. It was already factored into demand when farmers decided how many acres to plant.

    You can’t say that all. First, farmers don’t operate that way. They don’t go out as a collective and jointly determine how many acres to plant based on anticipated demand. When prices are high they go out and plant as many acres as they can. There isn’t a calculus there in which they decided to plant a bit more or less corn depending on ethanol demand.

    And since the crop is now expected to come in lower than expected – and a large chunk of that is devoted to ethanol – it had a great deal to do with this year’s corn prices.

    RR

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  12. By perry on October 20, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    And since the crop is now expected to come in lower than expected -


     

    That would have affected prices with, or without, ethanol. Any change in supply or demand has that effect. Ethanol demand for this year was well known, and hasn’t changed. The two factors that did change were the increased demand for feed corn due to the Russian drought, and the smaller than expected crop projection from the USDA. Futures prices are always in flux. But, not because of ethanol. That part of the demand equation was decided years ago by Congress.

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  13. By Rufus on October 20, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Actually, the farmers I’ve known decided what they were going to plant, and then Lied to everyone who’d listen. :)

    Most, I think, just stick with their crop rotation; Although, if these prices persist through the winter some marginal land in the South might get planted in corn.

    Pretty well-balanced article. I can’t find much to fuss with.

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  14. By rrapier on October 21, 2010 at 1:07 am

    Ethanol had zero effect on this year’s corn prices. It was already factored into demand when farmers decided how many acres to plant. Farmers can look at prices 24 months down the road when deciding what to plant.

    If that is the case, then why didn’t they plant proportionally more acres? From 2007 to 2010, ethanol demand more than doubled. The amount of corn required to cover that increase in demand was 2.5 billion bushels. Yet in 2007 the corn harvest was 13.1 billion bushels, and in 2010 was estimated to be 13.2 billion bushels — before the estimate was recently lowered.

    So where is the evidence that farmers are deciding how much to plant on the basis of ethanol demand? In fact, that is not at all what they do. They decide to plant based on what they expect the price to be — but there is a limit to how much they can plant.

    Consider this. You claim that ethanol had zero effect on this year’s corn prices. What if demand from the ethanol industry tomorrow dropped to zero? Do you believe corn prices would maintain their present level? If not, then you can say ethanol had zero effect. It is in fact propping up corn prices.

    RR

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  15. By Rufus on October 21, 2010 at 1:42 am

    Corn is getting more and more expensive to grow. The two main costs, seed, and fertilizer have skyrocketed.

    On the other hand, Demand is flaky. China said for months that it wasn’t buying any corn, and then, Voila – they want to buy corn. Lots of corn. And then, of course, is the weather. This year, way too much rain early, and hotter’n hell, and dry, in the middle, and late.

    The farmers won’t jump in and plant a whole lot more corn next year, just like they didn’t in ’09. They know that next year they could have a bumper crop, and China really might “not buy.” They’ll raise a little more.

    Let’s put it this way: We can “up” our corn harvest a heck of a lot more than we can up our “oil harvest.”

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  16. By Rufus on October 21, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Overlooked in a lot of this is that Soybeans are trading for $11.00/Bu.

    Eleven Dollar Beans will make you just about as much money as $5.50 Corn on a lot of land. Again, it’s that magic word: C.H.I.N.A. That big, old rompin’, stompin’ bull in the . . . . . . er, China Shop?

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  17. By ronald-steenblik on October 21, 2010 at 2:28 am

    RR wrote initially:

    I would rather see high fructose corn syrup (which is now being rebranded “corn sugar“) diverted into ethanol production instead of ending up as a cheap sweetener in many of our foods.

    … and then

    I am saying that I would rather see the HFCS going into ethanol than into our food. I have never analyzed the issue to say what is happening, I am just saying that if it did we would be better off.

    OK, I apologize for suggesting that you were implying that ethanol production is displacing HFCS production. I hope that means we can agree on the facts: that increasing ethanol production has had no discernable effect on HFCS production.

    If you are not suggesting that a side benefit of ethanol production is reduced HFCS production, what are you saying? OK, you’d rather see corn starch going into ethanol instead of going into the production of HFCS in our food (actually, mostly into soft drinks). But that’s not going to happen on its own. So how is your wish going to be fulfilled? Would you make subsidies to ethanol contingent on a promise that ADM and the others will stop producing HFCS (a legal product)? Or would you have the FDA ban the use of HFCS in food altogether?

    Duracomm has it right: the only way to pull the rug out from under the market for HFCS is to end the policies that prop up prices of HFCS’s main rival commodity: sugar.

    On that topic, it would be very interesting if you could at some point, RR, find out what ever happened to the USDA’s plan to buy up surplus sugar and sell it at a discount for ethanol production.

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  18. By Bernd1964 on October 21, 2010 at 2:36 am

    “If junk food was more expensive and healthy foods were less expensive, we would all be better off.”

    Junk food is an elitist creation to sicken and dumb down the people; there is actually no need to use highly refined food with a lot of industrial chemistry such as high-fructose-corn syrup, MSG etc. The main objective to produce this bad food is to dumb down the majority of the people so no-one will rebel against the owners of the system, the corporate elite.

    Just making bad food more expensive therefore is not enough. We need to implement a new system of money creation and a new culture of living. At the moment super rich private money elites create the money we use. Higher taxation will therefore benefit these elites in first place.

    I guess the future will be less complex than today because of peak oil and peak everything. Many junk foods won’t be available anymore if the downslope of global resources really starts to kick in. The corporate elite of course will try to compel us to eat their gen-tech Frankenstein-foods but I don’t think many people will follow their strategy.

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  19. By rrapier on October 21, 2010 at 3:37 am

    OK, you’d rather see corn starch going into ethanol instead of going into the production of HFCS in our food (actually, mostly into soft drinks). But that’s not going to happen on its own. So how is your wish going to be fulfilled?

    I am just pointing out that it could be possible to have the best of both worlds in specific cases. We could direct that starch into ethanol instead of into HFCS. We could replace the HFCS with other sweeteners. It doesn’t mean that we will, but there are specific policies that go us to where we are, and specific policies could get us to a different place.

    RR

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  20. By rrapier on October 21, 2010 at 3:52 am

    Duracomm said:

    It looks like the epidemic of concern of HFCS and its relation to obesity is due to the author of an article misunderstanding the statements by researchers and a follow on internet misinformation cascade.

    Finding Patient Zero in the High Fructose Corn Syrup Hate Epidemic

    She quoted the lead scientist as saying, “This is first evidence we have that fructose increases diabetes and heart disease independently of causing simple weight gain.” Put simply, fructose—which is simple fruit sugar—can be bad for us.

    But Rogers, as Dan Mitchell reported in Slate, somehow got it in her head that fructose and high-fructose corn syrup were the same thing.


     

    Two things on that, Duracomm. First, if the issue is one of fructose increasing diabetes and heart disease, what exactly do you think is in high FRUCTOSE corn syrup? I will give you a hint – it is over 50% fructose. So the article is being misleading by suggesting that HFCS is fundamentally different in some way. If fructose is a problem, and HFCS is made from fructose and glucose, then it is also going to be a problem.

    Second, studies on HFCS have shown correlations between diabetes and HFCS consumption. There are a number that I could cite, including:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re…..094819.htm

    In the current study, Chi-Tang Ho, Ph.D., conducted chemical tests
    among 11 different carbonated soft drinks containing HFCS. He found
    ‘astonishingly high’ levels of reactive carbonyls in those beverages.
    These undesirable and highly-reactive compounds associated with
    “unbound” fructose and glucose molecules are believed to cause tissue
    damage, says Ho, a professor of food science at Rutgers University in
    New Brunswick, N.J. By contrast, reactive carbonyls are not present in
    table sugar, whose fructose and glucose components are “bound” and
    chemically stable, the researcher notes.

    Reactive carbonyls also are elevated in the blood of individuals with
    diabetes and linked to the complications of that disease. Based on the
    study data, Ho estimates that a single can of soda contains about five
    times the concentration of reactive carbonyls than the concentration
    found in the blood of an adult person with diabetes.

    I saw a graphic once that overlaid the rise in HFCS consumption with the rise of diabetes and obesity. I think it was in King Corn, and the correlation was pretty shocking. But there is an active lobby that goes into high gear each time something like this is published, and they put out things like the first item you linked to.

    RR

     

     

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  21. By ronald-steenblik on October 21, 2010 at 4:09 am

    RR wrote:

    We could direct that starch into ethanol instead of into HFCS. We could replace the HFCS with other sweeteners. It doesn’t mean that we will, but there are specific policies that go us to where we are, and specific policies could get us to a different place.

    Sorry to keep harping on this, RR, as I thought the rest of the article was very good. But I have read a lot of blogs on ethanol, and a lot of comments on those blogs, and I would estimate that at least 20% of the positive comments I have read in favor of continuing government support have been based on the belief that ethanol production is crowding out HFCS production. So this is not a minor point.

    OK, “specific policies could get us to a different place”. Such as?

    If you can’t answer that question convincingly, the conclusion has to be: HFCS is irrelevant to any discussion of corn-ethanol. One might as well say, “I’d rather see corn ethanol produced than North Korea continue as a hereditary Communist dictatorship.”

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  22. By Duracomm on October 21, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Perry said,

    Ethanol had zero effect on this year’s corn prices.

    Please stop being so willfully blind.

    Ethanol production consumes 20 + percent of the corn crop. That amount of usage has a substantial impact on corn prices and market behavior.

    Period, full stop, no argument.

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  23. By perry on October 21, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Duracomm said:

     That amount of usage has a substantial impact on corn prices and market behavior.

    Period, full stop, no argument.


     

    Ethanol was priced into $3.50 a bushel corn. The drought in Russia wasn’t. These futures traders are pros. They know how much corn will be produced, and how much demand there will be for it. It takes a change in the supply/demand picture to move prices. China orders more than expected, prices rise. It rains too hard in the Midwest, prices rise even more. Markets trade on news. Ethanol demand isn’t news. Congress set that number years ago. Would corn prices drop if ethanol production was halted? Of course. THAT would be news.

     

     

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  24. By perry on October 21, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    If that is the case, then why didn’t they plant proportionally more acres? From 2007 to 2010, ethanol demand more than doubled. The amount of corn required to cover that increase in demand was 2.5 billion bushels. Yet in 2007 the corn harvest was 13.1 billion bushels, and in 2010 was estimated to be 13.2 billion bushels — before the estimate was recently lowered.


     

    Farmers don’t decide what to plant based on demand. They plant based on the price they think they can get.  2007 was a record year for corn acres planted. If you look at a price chart you’ll understand why. 2009 saw 10% fewer acres planted than 2007. Once again, look at the price charts and you’ll see why. I won’t aregue that ethanol isn’t propping prices up. There could be a $1.00 premium baked in. But, if anything, ethanol adds stability to prices. It’s a known factor. It’s the many unknown factors that whipsaw prices.

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  25. By Duracomm on October 21, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Robert,

    HFCS is a complicated issue and it is important to get the details correct.

    The lesson here (and one I think you understand from how the popular press handles energy issues) is this: Do not blindly trust what popular media and activist films say about a technical subject until you get a look at the actual technical details and science they are reporting on.

    The popular media simply gets too many technical issues wrong.

    You said,

    Two things on that, Duracomm. First, if the issue is one of fructose increasing diabetes and heart disease, what exactly do you think is in high FRUCTOSE corn syrup? I will give you a hint – it is over 50% fructose.

    Apparently true for some forms of HFCS, not true for others.

    The problem is (according to the article linked below) that honey, cane and beet sugar, maple syrup have the same amount of fructose as does HFCS.

    (to be agonizingly precise, HFCS has slightly less, and HCFS 55 has slightly more).

    One other point: Apparently cane or beet sugar (sucrose) in carbonated beverages spontaneously breaks down with 50 % of the sucrose being hydrolyzed to fructose and glucose within 30 days of bottling.

    Good roundup at this link

    High Fructose Corn Syrup: Tasty Toxin or Slandered Sweetener?

    So, what are the take-home messages from all of this?

    1. HFCS 42 and HFCS 55 have essentially the same amount of fructose, as a fraction of their total sugar, as honey, sucrose (cane or beet sugar) or maple syrup/sugar

    (to be agonizingly precise, HFCS has slightly less, and HCFS 55 has slightly more).

    2. HFCS 42 and HFCS 55 have an equal or smaller amount of fructose, as a fraction of their total sugar, as many commonly consumed fruits.

    3. Agave syrup has higher fructose content than any type of HFCS except HFCS 90.

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  26. By Jetty on October 21, 2010 at 9:30 am

    I would like to make one comment on the percent of corn used to produce ethanol. It is true that about 30% of the corn crop ends up at an ethanol plant. However, one third of that crop by weight goes back into the food chain as a high nutrient feed. The only thing used to make the ethanol is the starch. That high nutrient feed (DDGS) is easier to digest than corn and has 1.7 time the nutritional value of corn. If you do the math that means that about 12% of the nutritional value of the corn crop is used for ethanol. I don’t feel that is a significant reduction in food loss. What is not mentioned is the savings for Americans at the fuel pump. It is estimated that if you took ethanol out of the fule supply, gasoline prices would be 15% higher.

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  27. By ronald-steenblik on October 21, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Jetty wrote:

    That high nutrient feed (DDGS) is easier to digest than corn …

    Only by ruminents (cattle, sheep, goats, deer, and giraffes), not by pigs or poultry.

    He (she?) then wrote:

    It is estimated that if you took ethanol out of the fule supply, gasoline prices would be 15% higher.

    Only if somebody yanked all of the ethanol currently being used off the market, all at once. It ain’t going to happen that way  — notably because some will still be used as an oxygenate or octane enhancer.

    You know from where that figure comes from? I do, because I talked with the analyst who came up with it. He had been pressed by a WSJ reporter to come up with an estimate of the effect that biofuels (all biofuels in the world, not just U.S. ethanol) were having on the oil price. So he took the share of biofuels in world petroleum demand, which he estimated was 1.5% and divided that by the short-term elasticity of demand, which he reckoned was 0.05. That yielded a 30% effect, which he judged to be too high. So he divided the number in half, to get 15%. That’s it. No accounting for potential supply responses, and only in the least bit valid if one assumes that somehow one could withdraw all the biofuels production from the worlld market in one fell swoop. Hardly scientifically, politically or economically meaningful.

    [link]      
  28. By Duracomm on October 21, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Robert said,

    I saw a graphic once that overlaid the rise in HFCS consumption with the rise of diabetes and obesity. I think it was in King Corn, and the correlation was pretty shocking.

    How does it go “correlation is not causation”

    Correlation

    Diet is a horrendously complex issues and confounding factors are an ever present issue.

    One big confounding issue is the push by public health officials to get people to switch to low fat diets.

    The problem for the public health officials is that it increasingly looks like low fat / high carbohydrate diets actually increase obesity.

    In other words obesity is a very complex issue and one graph cannot give the complete story.

    What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?

    In particular, that we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic that started around the early 1980′s, and that this was coincident with the rise of the low-fat dogma. (Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, also rose significantly through this period.)

    They say that low-fat weight-loss diets have proved in clinical trials and real life to be dismal failures, and that on top of it all, the percentage of fat in the American diet has been decreasing for two decades.

    ”For a large percentage of the population, perhaps 30 to 40 percent, low-fat diets are counterproductive,”

    says Eleftheria Maratos-Flier, director of obesity research at Harvard’s prestigious Joslin Diabetes Center.

    ”They have the paradoxical effect of making people gain weight.”

    [link]      
  29. By Duracomm on October 21, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Robert,

    I have to give you some good natured abuse over one of your statements in this thread which was.

    But there is an active lobby that goes into high gear each time something like this is published, and they put out things like the first item you linked to.

    Which sound suspiciously similar to the drive by comments that show up on your posts on energy.

    1. Some commenter is always happy to drop the “paid for by big oil” slander

    2. Others gleefully shout “big oil conspiracy”

    The fact is Pollan, the producers of the movie King Corn, many food writers, and many environmental writers have an axe to grind. Just as much as “big corn” or “big business” or “big oil” does.

    Never, ever, forget that fact.

    Focusing on the science, technology, and economics of issues allows insight beyond the axe grinding.

    [link]      
  30. By perry on October 21, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Oil is 400% higher than it was ten years ago, even with the added production of 600,000 bpd of oil equivalent from ethanol. Take that off the market and we’re looking at a price spike much higher than 15%. I don’t think the spare capacity is there. A lot of folks smarter than myself think oil production capacity peaked this year. They forecast an ever worsening shortage beginning in 2-3 years. Cutting ethanol production would just exacerbate what is already gonna hurt like hell. Don’t even think about it.

     

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6169

     

     

    [link]      
  31. By Duracomm on October 21, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Perry,

    Ethanol production is tightly linked to the petroleum markets. Fertilizer, transportation, distillation, etc. all require substantial petroleum usage.

    The peak oil being good for ethanol argument completely ignores the massive petroleum inputs that are required to produce ethanol.

    [link]      
  32. By perry on October 21, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Duracomm said:

    The peak oil being good for ethanol argument completely ignores the massive petroleum inputs that are required to produce ethanol.


     

    The only input that matters in this case is oil and its derivatives, because that’s where the supply crunch is. It takes 4 gallons of diesel to produce an acre of corn that yields 400 gallons of ethanol. It might take a few more gallons of liquid fuel to transport it around. But, nowhere near 396. If nat gas is ever in short supply again, that argument might fly. Hopefully, we’ve gone electric by then.

    [link]      
  33. By OD on October 21, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Do other countries use HFCS as much as the US? Mexico has in fact passed the US for the highest obesity rate and if you look at other countries their obesity rates are growing exponentially. What is their HFCS consumption rate compared to the US? We have also become more much sedentary as a society in the past 2 decades, which by itself would lead to obesity. There are many contributing factors and I would say it’s impossible to put the cause on just one.

    [link]      
  34. By ronald-steenblik on October 21, 2010 at 11:42 am

    There are many contributing factors …

    Indeed: let’s not forget trans fats, for example. Remember how butter was supposed to be bad for us, so loads of people switched to using margerine made with hydrogenated vegetable oils?

    “It’s not nice to fool [with] Mother Nature!”

    [link]      
  35. By perry on October 21, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Here’s a website with lots of interesting stats. The most interesting to me is US corn ending stocks. We had more corn in storage at the end of ’08 than the two previous years, yet corn hit $7.50 a bushel that year. That’s 3X what corn sold for in 2003, when corn stocks were 40% lower. Whatever caused the run-up in ’08, it certainly wasn’t a lack of corn. Corn in storage grew again last year….but you’d never know it in the trading pits.

    http://www.worldofcorn.com/sta…..ption.html

    [link]      
  36. By ronald-steenblik on October 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Perry: a very useful web site. But you are forgetting that it is not simply amount in stocks that matters (in any case, the stocks at the end of the 2007-08 marketing year were measured after the peak in prices), but the ratio of demand to stocks. Ending stocks grew by only 300 million bushels, Meanwhile, total demand, fueled by “industrial” use of corn (FSI on the graph) was growing exponentially:

    [link]      
  37. By savro on October 21, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Here are some charts related to this discussion from the interesting link Perry posted:

    [link]      
  38. By perry on October 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Ronald Steenblik said:

     Ending stocks grew by only 300 million bushels, Meanwhile, total demand, fueled by “industrial” use of corn (FSI on the graph) was growing exponentially:

     


     

    Both statements could only be true if supply was growing faster then demand Ronald. If that’s the case, why the price spike? Could it be the same reason that every commodity spiked, almost simultaneously? Every asset from houses to lead was riding the same balloon. That’s what happens when liquidity reaches extremes. The pop was only a matter of time.

    [link]      
  39. By Optimist on October 21, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Junk food is an elitist creation to sicken and dumb down the people; there is actually no need to use highly refined food with a lot of industrial chemistry such as high-fructose-corn syrup, MSG etc. The main objective to produce this bad food is to dumb down the majority of the people so no-one will rebel against the owners of the system, the corporate elite.

    Just making bad food more expensive therefore is not enough. We need to implement a new system of money creation and a new culture of living. At the moment super rich private money elites create the money we use. Higher taxation will therefore benefit these elites in first place.

    I guess the future will be less complex than today because of peak oil and peak everything. Many junk foods won’t be available anymore if the downslope of global resources really starts to kick in. The corporate elite of course will try to compel us to eat their gen-tech Frankenstein-foods but I don’t think many people will follow their strategy.

    Relax, Bernd, it is NO conspiracy. Simple imcompetence coupled with political favoritism. Add the heartland myth and you have an unstoppable tradegy.

     

    Note, for example that healthy food, much of it grown in California, doesn’t get much in terms of subsidies. Why bother? One party has a lock on the state. The other sure won’t be fighting for it.

     

    The economy of the Midwest (the heartland) depends heavily on Uncle Sam’s generous subsidies. So much for rugged individualism, eh? I guess when you have such a disfunctional political system as what Americans mistakenly call a democracy, this is what you get.

    [link]      
  40. By Optimist on October 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    These futures traders are pros. They know how much corn will be produced, and how much demand there will be for it.

    Oh yeah? You mean like the pros on Wall Street that crashed the economy, and are now doing very well, thanks to Uncle Sam’s boneheaded bailouts?

     

    What I would call the professional myth is very popular these days. It is a myth, though, nonetheless. You see, the main difference between a pro and a dedicated amateur, is that the amateur will spend unlimited time to correct his mistakes. The pro, once he’s been paid, typically could care less. He’s on to making money off something else.

     

    But hey, if you want to believe the pros never make mistakes, be my guest. There is a bunch of hard-working pros on Wall Street, who would love to take care of your 401(k)…Wink

    [link]      
  41. By Duracomm on October 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Optimist said

    Note, for example that healthy food, much of it grown in California, doesn’t get much in terms of subsidies

    That statement could not be more wrong.

    California ag would not exist without massively subsidized government infrastructure delivering cheap water to California.

    Your sneer at the midwest over subsidies is out of line, hypocritical and inaccurate to boot.

    Worse it ignores the fact that while ag subsidies help out a few ag sectors in the midwest they damage ag in general, particularly the parts of ag production that are unsubsidized.

    [link]      
  42. By Duracomm on October 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Optimist,

    I agree with you on the dysfunctional political system. That is the inevitable, unfortunate result of government expanding into ever more sectors of the economy.

    The result is money spent on lobbying probably provides a greater return on investment than money invested in research and development. This is not healthy or economically sustainable.

    [link]      
  43. By Rufus on October 21, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    In 2008 we had the 100 yr floods (that we get about every 15 years) in the Upper Midwest. All the “analysts” that had never been on a farm in their lives (some working for outfits like DTN) were on TV screaming about how “The Crop Was Gone, and Corn wuz goin’ to $12.00.”

    The Specs (Goldman, Morgan Stanlyey, Citi) jumped in and bought like crazy.

    A few, like myself, were warning “Don’t believe it. The Farmers will Replant, and have plenty of time to make a crop.” Which they did; and they did.

    Some popular bloggers were recommending the purchase of ethanol futures at the peak, and I was warning, “if you do, you’re betting on corn staying at these levels, and it won’t.” And, it didn’t, of course.

    Beware of Commodities markets. Them black boxes are tough to compete against.

    [link]      
  44. By Herm on October 21, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    http://www.businessweek.com/ap…..6Q3O80.htm

     

    “South Dakota State University researchers have been cooking up versions of Asian flatbreads that are higher in protein and fiber by substituting dried distillers grains for up to 20 percent of the flour.”

     

    http://www.physorg.com/news192…..81297.html

    [link]      
  45. By russ-finley on October 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Jetty said:

    However, one third of that crop by weight goes back into the food chain as a high nutrient feed. The only thing used to make the ethanol is the starch. That high nutrient feed (DDGS) is easier to digest than corn and has 1.7 time the nutritional value of corn. If you do the math that means that about 12% of the nutritional value of the corn crop is used for ethanol.


     

    Distillers grains have very roughly about 30% more nutritional value than cracked corn when used as part of cattle feed.

    It takes 56 pounds of corn kernels to produce 2.8 gallons of ethanol, 11.4 pounds of distiller’s grain, 3 pounds of Glutan meal, and 1.6 pounds of corn oil. If you multiply 11.4 times 1.3 you will get a conservative estimate for distillers grains ability to displace corn. 11.4 x 1.3 = 14.82 pounds corn equivalent.

    So, 56 – 14.82 -3 -1.6 = 36.6 pounds of corn lost that cannot feed people (or the cows that people eat). In other words, about 65 percent of a bushel of corn is lost to the food chain when you use it to make ethanol.

    If this corn is not being lost to the human food chain (reducing supply/raising price) then how can one explain the high cost of corn even though acreage planted with corn is at record highs?

    [link]      
  46. By perry on October 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Russ Finley said:

     

    If this corn is not being lost to the human food chain (reducing supply/raising price) then how can one explain the high cost of corn even though acreage planted with corn is at record highs?


     

    How do we explain corn costing twice what it did when supplies were half as large? There is no explanation for it. Corn prices turns the theory of supply and demand on its head. For now, at least.

    [link]      
  47. By russ-finley on October 21, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Great comments, all.

    This food verses fuel problem will be cyclic and chronic. It will raise its ugly head every few years when weather or pestilence create crop shortfalls or other liquid fuel market perturbations significantly increase the cost of grains. Our ethanol policy has coupled the price of grain to that of liquid fuels.

     

     

    [link]      
  48. By Rufus on October 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    I’ll mention something that IS going to cause more corn to be planted. Corn farmers are going to be making an extra $50.00 or $60.00/acre baling their cobs, and part of the stover. That fifty, or sixty dollars won’t fluctuate like the price of corn.

    This Will have the result of more corn being planted, and the cost of “cattle feed” going down.

    [link]      
  49. By Douglas Hvistendahl on October 21, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    As long as most are concentrating on lawns instead of backyard gardens, there is no crisis HERE. In several countries, almost every place that can produce food is planted to it. Our household has a small garden – This year harvested maybe 400 Lbs of apples (good year), plus raspberries, strawberries, grapes, squash, peppers, etc. Intensive gardening could support more on a full nutrition diet than most would believe. If interested, “Mother Earth News” can be a good information resource.

    [link]      
  50. By paul-n on October 21, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Russ wrote;

    Our ethanol policy has coupled the price of grain to that of liquid fuels.

    At the risk of being nit-picky, I think a more accurate statement would be that the ethanol policy has put a floor under the price of corn(and other grains).  This does not preclude prices going higher than fuel equivalent, but, barring an ethanol glut,  they are unlikely to ever again be much less than fuel equivalent.

     

    Rufus, just how, and how soon, are the corn farmers going to be making an extra $50/ac from stover?  Other than being used as biomass fuel (for ethanol distilling or otherwise), what off farm use is there for it?  The cellulosic “producers” are not offering futures contracts to buy stover.

    [link]      
  51. By Oxymaven on October 21, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I’m no commodities guy, but it seems to me that the key figure to explain ‘tightness’ of corn market and related higher prices is the ‘stocks to use’ ratio, since that incorporates both supply and demand. If current estimates hold, that ratio will be at a historical low reached only once in the last 30 years.

    One thing corn ethanol has undeniably done is add over 4 billion bushels of demand, and so total demand is much higher today than 10 years ago. Unlike oil production, until next year’s harvest, there is no opportunity to increase the supply of available corn. There are lots of opportunities to ration use (decrease demand), so we may indeed have plenty of corn for all users. It is interesting to note that since the ramp up in US corn ethanol began in 2000 world corn stocks to use has steadily decreased and is headed towards a record low as well. But just like $140 oil, $6 corn tends to discourage use and encourage alternatives, so it’s hard to think prices will get that much higher.

    Finally, the US corn ethanol market has had rapid growth over the last 5 years because of the mandates (increases on average of about 1.5 bil gallons/yr). Those mandated increases will moderate a lot during the next 5 years to an average of only 0.6 bil gallons (~12 bil gallons in 2010 increasing to 15 bil gallons in 2015), so that increase in corn demand will be much easier for the market to fulfill, assuming decent growth in corn yield.

    [link]      
  52. By Rufus on October 21, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Pretty much, “right now,” Paul. Poet is buying cobs/stover bales, now, and Vilsack announced this, Today:

    Vilsack also announced that the Biomass Crop Assistance Program will be finalized by the end of this year, which will provide assistance toward producing advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol, from new feedstocks. When the rule is finalized, growers will be allowed to resume receiving assistance for establishing new feedstocks.

    http://ethanolproducer.com/art…..le_id=7087

    He, also, announced “matching funds” for 10,000 Blender Pumps, and $281 Million for 5 new cellulosic refineries.

    [link]      
  53. By Rufus on October 21, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Actually, Corn Ethanol production is at 12.935 billion gal/yr, now, and at full capacity it will be about 14.6 bgpy. So that leaves just a little under 1.7 bgpy to go, or about 0.366 bgpy. Increases in yields should more than cover that.

    [link]      
  54. By Rufus on October 21, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    Oh, that BCAP program is a matching funds deal; so if Poet is paying $45.00/bu, the BCAP will match with $45.00 (I think $45.00 is as high as they will go.)

    85 Farmers are baling stover/cobs in Iowa this year in a test run. The important thing about the “baling” of stover, and cobs is the farmers have the equipment, needed, already. It’s much cheaper than just doing the cobs, and they get twice as much, or more, biomass. It also doesn’t get in the way of their harvest.

    So, with Poet paying them $45.00, and BCAP paying them $45.00, and using equipment they already have in the shed, they’re going to turn a nice profit off of the program. You can go to Poet’s website – Rhapsodyingreen.com – for pictures of the bales, and whatnot.

    [link]      
  55. By Rufus on October 22, 2010 at 12:27 am

    ^Gacck^

    That should have been $45.00/Ton, not $45.00/bu.

    [link]      
  56. By paul-n on October 22, 2010 at 2:11 am

    Rufus, a handful of corn farmers receiving a subsidy for baling stover does not an industry make.  Those 80 farmers represent – what – 0.01% of corn farmers?  

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making good use of waste biomass (does that include politicos?), but there is still no widespread market for the corn stover – some subsidised demo projects are a start, but that’s all.

    [link]      
  57. By ronald-steenblik on October 22, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Rufus, if you registered on this site, you wouldn’t need to issue corrective e-mails: you could use the edit function!

    [link]      
  58. By Rufus on October 22, 2010 at 2:59 am

    Well, what the heck do you want, Paul? A full-blown industry to jump right out of old Zeus’ head like they did it in the olden days? Jeez.

    I registered once, Ronald. Then I came back a day or so later, and it wanted me to do it all over again. It’s easier just to comment on the blog.

    [link]      
  59. By paul-n on October 22, 2010 at 4:16 am

    Rufus the way you said, it;

    Corn farmers are going to be making an extra $50.00 or $60.00/acre baling their cobs, and part of the stover.

    you make it sound like the market IS already there.  

    Now, I think a more accurate statement, given the facts you have laid out, is something like;  ”Corn farmers will have the chance to make an extra $50/ac (or ton) IF any of the ethanol distillers can get cellulosic ethanol, into successful large scale production.” 

    And, to date they haven’t.  They are trying, but right now, if all the corn farmers that sell corn for ethanol want to bale  and sell their stover, for ethanol production, they can;t, and won’t be able to for a few years yet.

    They may find some other markets for stover – like biomass fuel – in the meantime.

    Did I mention that you can pelletize stover, same way as wood pellets, and sell it for $100/ton, fob, for export to Europe, or $200/ton at Home Depot?

    Or burn it , or AD and then burn it, for energy, at the distilleries?  Lots more options other than cellulosic, no subsidies needed.

    [link]      
  60. By perry on October 22, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Next Step Biofuels pays $20/ton (or, about $60/acre) for stover. They sell the pellets to coal plants. They provide 7-8000 btu’s/.lb, compared to 8-9000 btu’s for a .lb of coal.

    A lot of people use corn pellets for home heating. They’re cheaper on a btu basis than most other fuels, including wood or wood pellets. Corn pellets are made from corn gluten( a byproduct), which can also be fed to livestock. Definately a food or fuel argument to be made there. You’ve got to be careful with corn pellets. They’ve been known to spontaneously combust.

    You can also heat your house with corn itself. It’s cheaper than most fuels, and has less hassle than a wood stove. A “flex fuel” stove that burns corn or wood pellets can qualify for a 30% tax rebate.

    [link]      
  61. By Kit P on October 22, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    “You can also heat
    your house with corn itself. It’s cheaper than most fuels, and has
    less hassle than a wood stove. A “flex fuel” stove that
    burns corn or wood pellets can qualify for a 30% tax rebate.”

     

    You can heat with
    electricity too, no hassle at all. No indoor air pollution either.
    Sorry about the tax rebate.

    [link]      
  62. By rrapier on October 22, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    So, with Poet paying them $45.00, and BCAP paying them $45.00, and using equipment they already have in the shed, they’re going to turn a nice profit off of the program.

    By the way, the BCAP was sweetened and extended this week.

    However, I have seen studies – and heard comments from farmers – that long-range prices are going to have to be in the $100/ton range to make it worth their while. This notion of all this low-cost biomass setting around just waiting to be turned into low-cost biofuels just isn’t accurate.

    RR

    [link]      
  63. By ronald-steenblik on October 22, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    RR wrote:

    This notion of all this low-cost biomass setting around just waiting to be turned into low-cost biofuels just isn’t accurate.

    Indeed. C. Ford Runge and Robbin S. Johnson, in an article just published in the Fall 2010 issue of Issues in Science and Technology, “The Dismal State of Biofuels Policy” (to be posted here soon, I suspect) have written:

    The cost of producing cellulosic ethanol is estimated to be three to four times that of corn ethanol. The [May 2010 USDA] report noted that the cost of growing feedstocks for cellulosic plants is probably underestimated and that “dedicated energy crops would need to compete with the lowest value crop such as hay, which has had a price exceeding $100 per ton since 2007.”

    Meanwhile, there is growing competition for wood for biomass-fired power plants.

    [link]      
  64. By perry on October 22, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    However, I have seen studies – and heard comments from farmers – that long-range prices are going to have to be in the $100/ton range to make it worth their while.


     

    That doesn’t sound right to me. They only get $175 for a ton of shelled corn @ $5.00  a bushel. They already have the cobs out of the field, because they do have to be shelled, so why toss them back on the ground if they can be monetized? Same goes for the stover. At least one company out there pays $20 a ton for it, and appears to be doing actual business. I do understand farmers wanting more, but don’t we all?

     

    http://www.nextstepbiofuels.com/

    [link]      
  65. By perry on October 22, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Duracomm said:

    You did not realize that the combine separates the grain from the cobs on the fly and dumps the cobs and stalks on the ground as it harvests the corn?


     

    Yes, but why dump them if they can be monetized? It’s true that hay goes for $100/ton, but these guys are growing corn. They’re getting $175/ton for that, so anything more is lagniappe. Speaking of hay, it seems to still be for horses. No hay biofuels out there that I can see. And, only 20% of our croplands are devoted to it. Makes you wonder why feed corn gets 25% of those croplands. Maybe a bias towards cows and chickens, eh?

    [link]      
  66. By perry on October 22, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    What I find misleading in the food versus fuel debate is that the food in question isn’t for people. It is food for our food, since people eat the beef, pork, and chicken. But, should it be? Would it be so bad if cows went back to eating grass?

     

    Aside from posing the danger of E. coli, corn-fed beef contains far fewer nutrients than grass-fed beef. Prevention reports that a recent study by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found grass-fed beef to be significantly higher in calcium, magnesium, beta-carotene, and potassium than corn-fed beef. In addition:

    • Meat from grass-fed cattle is lower in both overall fat and artery-clogging saturated fat.
    • Grass-fed meat is higher in healthy omega-3 fats. Meat from feedlot animals has been found to contain only 15-50 percent as much omega-3s as meat from grass-fed cattle.
    • Meat from grass-fed livestock is four times higher in vitamin E.
    • Grass-fed meat is higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a nutrient associated with lower cancer risk.

    http://www.healthytheory.com/c…..s-fed-beef

    [link]      
  67. By Duracomm on October 22, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Two issues with biomass from crops that are frequently overlooked.

    1. Remnant crop biomass material is often needed in place to protect the land from erosion and to preserve moisture.

    2. Remnant crop biomass returns nutrients to the soil. If the biomass is removed those nutrients will have to be replaced with petroleum based fertilizer. May be trivial amount may be large amount but it should be accounted for.

    [link]      
  68. By Duracomm on October 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Perry said,

    They already have the cobs out of the field, because they do have to be shelled, so why toss them back on the ground if they can be monetized? Same goes for the stover.

    You did not realize that the combine separates the grain from the cobs on the fly and dumps the cobs and stalks on the ground as it harvests the corn?

    [link]      
  69. By Kit P on October 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Interesting link
    Perry,

     

    “Next Step’s
    unique, proprietary PowerPellets™ are dense, dry, and free of
    binders. They can be directly substituted for coal in generating
    electricity,”

     

    I wondered how North
    Dakota would meet this requirement:

     

    “In March 2007,
    North Dakota adopted a voluntary renewable portfolio objective that
    aims to have one-tenth of electricity generated from renewable
    sources by 2015.”

     

    http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/state…..cfm?sid=ND

     

    Looking at the
    economic analysis, PowerPellets™ would be about 1/3rd
    more expensive than coal. If 10% is PowerPellets™ then that is a
    0.33% increase in the cost of electricity. That added cost results
    in more jobs in North Dakota and not factories in China.

     

    Sure beats the
    California model.

    [link]      
  70. By Rufus on October 22, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Grass fed beef is too tough for us “old farts.” :) Not as “tasty,” either.

    I believe that, by accepting bales,consisting of both, cobs, and 1/3 of the stover, the ethanol refinery will get product from many (eventually, most) corn farmers. I think the farmers will, on average, want to clear $50.00, or so, an acre to “mess with it.” By doing bales, I think a price of $60.00 or $65.00/Ton will make everyone happy.

    Keep in mind: farming is a business, and half of what you do in business is Not what you want to do, but “what you have to do.” If the extra profitability as a result of selling biomass does cause more acres to be planted, and if the extra acres do drive down the price of corn, then other farmers will have to harvest biomass in order to stay profitable.

    BTW, Dupont Danisco announced, today, that they are looking for a corn ethanol refinery to partner with in the Cobs/Stover to Ethanol Business in Iowa.

    [link]      
  71. By perry on October 22, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    I wish I hadn’t looked into what our cows are eating Rufus. Definately lost my appetite. They used to be fed euthanized dogs and cats collected from animal shelters. After they were ground up, of course. That practice ended with the mad cow scare. Now, chicken shit is a popular low-cost feed for cows. Ick.

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  72. By Wendell Mercantile on October 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    This notion of all this low-cost biomass setting around just waiting to be turned into low-cost biofuels just isn’t accurate.

    RR~

    Correct. If it were, there would be people out picking up the millions of tons of dead leaves that have fallen to the ground east of the Mississippi River in the last 3-4 weeks.

    In my neighborhood right now there are huge piles of dead lives lining the streets. They are there, free for the taking for any cellulosic ethanol company that wants them.

    Rufus~

    Feel free to head north and you can have all the dead leaves you want. All primo cellulosic ethanol feedstock.

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  73. By Rufus on October 22, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    I like it down here; but, thanks anyway. :)

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  74. By OD on October 23, 2010 at 2:27 am

    Grass fed beef is too tough for us “old farts.” :) Not as “tasty,” either.

    Is there anything backing this? Because I have to say, we buy a lot of local meat that is grass fed and it is some of the best meat I have ever had.

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  75. By Duracomm on October 23, 2010 at 8:32 am

    Perry,

    Since you think feeding grain to livestock is bad I’m sure you will never again count the value distillers grains in the ethanol’s energy balance or value. Because feeding distillers grains to livestock = feeding grain to livestock, which you think is a harmful practice.

    Furthermore, feeding distillers grains (a waste product of ethanol) makes something you think is bad (feeding grain to livestock) worse.

    Which is why I am extra sure that you will never ever use distillers grains in any discussion or calculation of ethanol’s energy balance or value.

    How do distillers grains make something you think is bad worse?

    It causes a spike in toxic E. coli levels

    Feeding cattle byproduct of ethanol production causes E. coli 0157 to spike

    Through three rounds of testing, Nagaraja said the prevalence of 0157 was about twice as high in cattle fed distiller’s grain compared with those cattle that were on a diet lacking the ethanol byproduct.

    “This is a very interesting observation and is likely to have profound implications in food safety,” Nagaraja said.

    Distillers grains increases incidence of lethal mulberry heart disease.

    Simple steps can help combat MHD in swine

    many in the pig industry point to changes in pig rations – particularly the increased use of DDGS (Distiller’s Dried Grains with Solubles) and the threat of more concentrated levels of mycotoxins – as adding fuel to this culprit’s fire.

    Once it gets a stronghold, the disease often attacks the heart muscle. Affected pigs often die suddenly or appear paralysed.

    pig nutritionists are seeing increased incidence of the condition with greater percentage of dried distillers grains (DDGS) in pig rations. among the greatest concerns producers have raised over feeding an increased amount of DDGS is an increase in the incidence of MHD in offspring from sows fed high DDGS diets.

    The system was experiencing a number of serious problems with their weaned pigs when they fed DDGS to their breeding herd. …When DDGS was removed from the ration, the problems diminished. When it was returned to the diet, the problems reappeared.

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  76. By perry on October 23, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Duracomm said:

    Perry,

    Since you think feeding grain to livestock is bad I’m sure you will never again count the value distillers grains in the ethanol’s energy balance or value.


     I’m convinced this corn isn’t fit for human or animal consumption Duracomm. It tastes like paper and has no nutritional value, so we don’t have to worry about people eating it. It gives cows diseases, and they will die without antibiotics. It does a good job of making them fat though, and it does it quickly. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that American obesity rates skyrocketed shortly after widespread adoption of HFCS. We probably should go back to sugar, and livestock should go back to eating grass and hay.

     

    I wouldn’t doubt that distillers grains are even worse than the corn itself as a feed. The only way to change the energy balance of ethanol is to take the crap out of our food chain though. My not mentioning it certainly can’t make it go away.

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  77. By Rufus on October 23, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Many in the Cattle, and Hog industry want ethanol to go away so they can return to Subsidized $2.00 Corn. They’re just wasting their time; it’s not going to happen.

    E Coli has been studied to death. None has ever been found in the meat.

    It appears that oil is going to start getting in short supply around the summer/fall of 2012. Ethanol is the only thing, right now, that has a shot at doing much mitigating in that short a time frame.

    I noticed the other day that Cattle are up, nicely. If the Cattle, and Hog farmers will give it a little time the market will probably sort the whole thing out okay for everyone.

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  78. By perry on October 23, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Can we at least stop feeding the cows chicken crap? I don’t think feces in the food chain is ever a good idea.

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  79. By ronald-steenblik on October 23, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Perry asked

    Would it be so bad if cows went back to eating grass?

    Not at all! That’s their natural food, and mostly what cows in New Zealand eat. Grain has become a big input to milk and bovine-meat production because it can be easily stored and can carry cattle through the winter in climates too cold or too snowy for them to stay outside during the winter. So, if the United States and Canada put heir cattle on a grass-only diet, there would likely be much less production in North America of cow milk, veal and beef than there is now.

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  80. By Duracomm on October 23, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Rufus said,

    Many in the Cattle, and Hog industry want ethanol to go away so they can return to Subsidized $2.00 Corn. They’re just wasting their time; it’s not going to happen.

    Great Rufus glad to see you are coming around to the honest, fair, and effective conclusion that subsidies are bad. They harm producers, consumers, third world poor, and the environment.

    Shoveling all that taxpayer dollars to ethanol producers has always been the worst kind of corporate welfare. Glad to see you are agreeing to that fact.

    So lets end subsidies and corporate welfare. Starting with Ag subsidies and the ethanol mandate.

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  81. By Duracomm on October 23, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Rufus said

    E Coli has been studied to death. None has ever been found in the meat.

    Obviously since it has been studied to death you can provide cites. Looking forward to seeing them.

    According to you all of those recalls of hamburger must be a figment of my imagination. Because you are certain that

    E Coli has been studied to death. None has ever been found in the meat.

    Which explains why the search for hamburger recalled e coli returns around 113,000 hits.

    Since distillers grains are dangerously risky to use feeding livestock I’m sure you will no longer use the value of distillers grains when calculating the economic and energy value of ethanol.

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  82. By Rufus on October 23, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Finding E Coli in a processed patty, and finding E Coli in the Meat of an animal that’s been eating distillers grains are two entirely different situations. I would say that the vast majority of the times the E Coli in the hamburger patty is caused by unsanitary conditions in the meat packing plant. Other times, it can be caused by a failure of someone in the supply chain to keep the meat patties refrigerated, properly. But, I reiterate, E Coli has been found in small amounts in the manure of feedlots where cows are fed corn, soy meal, and distillers grains, but has never been found in the meat of the cattle, themselves. That’s just a fact.

    I said we’re not going back to subsidized $2.00 corn. I didn’t say the subsidy that caused corn to be $2.00/bu was bad; I Just said that we weren’t going back there.

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  83. By Wendell Mercantile on October 23, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    I wouldn’t doubt that distillers grains are even worse than the corn itself as a feed.

    Perry~

    This is from the a Purdue University Extension Service study on the value of distiller’s grains as livestock feed:

    The typical levels of DDGS (dry matter basis) that can be added to the diet have been approximately 20% for beef and dairy, 10% for swine, and 5% for poultry.

    Excessively “toasted” DDGS result in heat-damaged
    protein that is indigestible by the cow. Differences in dry
    times, temperatures, and drying equipment may contribute
    to differences in the nutritioplants and between batches.

    The main challenge in using DDG and DDGS in rations
    for cattle is the ability to recognize when these feeds
    have been heat damaged during drying. There is poten-
    tially a wide variability in nutrient content and digestibility,
    especially for CP and neutral detergent fiber. Reduced
    digestibility devalues DDGS, as does inconsistency in
    nutrient profile.

    I don’t know if everyone in the corn ethanol business is aware the percentages of what art of livestock rations can be distiller’s grains is that low. Without a robust export market for distiller’s grains, the American market would likely already be saturated.

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  84. By perry on October 24, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Fact is, we don’t use corn feed because it’s good for animals. It’s used because it’s cheap. Producers switch to other feeds in a heartbeat when they’re cheaper. They’ll even feed chicken poop to those poor cows. Corn is even used as a filler for dog food. Not because it has any nutritional value, but just to fill a bag. Might as well stuff paper into it.

    Robert once figured how much more electricity we’d need to switch to electric transportation. Something like 10-12% more if I remember right. Pound for pound, corn has virtually the same btu value as coal. We use a billion tons of coal per year to make half our electricity. We grow about 600 million tons of corn and stover each year. Enough to produce 30% of our electricity.

    I’m not saying that’s the best way to go. Some of the fertilizers are almost in as short supply as fossil fuels. But, there’s no doubt it would make better use of the energy value. We get 200,000 btu’s per bushel with ethanol. Burning it would give 400,000. For every ton of corn grown, there’s a ton of stover, so we could be getting 4X as much energy from those corn fields as we’re getting now.

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  85. By ronald-steenblik on October 24, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Good points, Perry. Just out of curiosity (not that I’m necessarily advocating it), I wonder how the energy balances would work out if instead of using 125 million tons of corn to produce ethanol, that were used for electricity production, and the coal thus displaced were made into liquid fuels.

    Of course, unlike with ethanol, burning kernels also uses up the protein.

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  86. By perry on October 24, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Ronald, I went back and looked at the number Robert came up with to replace gasoline with electricity. 9.1 trillion btu’s per day. By my calculations, we can get 10 trillion/day just from corn stover….with plenty to spare.

    We could use all that corn, the cobs AND the stover to make ethanol, and it still wouldn’t be enough to replace gasoline. It might replace 50% after the energy difference is taken into account. Going electric seems a far better use of limited resources. It’s not there yet in cost and convenience, but it will be shortly. Very shortly.

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  87. By Rufus on October 24, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Perry, All of the cellulosic ethanol plants are going to produce either biogas, or, in most cases, lignin for electricity generation. IIRC, you’re going to get just about as many btus of lignin, as you are ethanol.

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  88. By Wendell Mercantile on October 24, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    By my calculations, we can get 10 trillion/day just from corn stover….with plenty to spare.

    Perry~

    There is the little matter of the energy needed to collect and transport that stover. That’s the primary reason no one has proposed using the billions of kWh of solar energy captured in the millions of tons of leaves that fall from deciduous trees each autumn — the logistics and energy needed to collect and transport all those leaves from millions of aces of forest land and millions of suburban homes would be daunting.

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  89. By perry on October 24, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    There is the little matter of the energy needed to collect and transport that stover.


     

    The stover is already pulled out of the field at harvest time Wendell. It wouldn’t be so hard to bring it to silos, along with the corn. Corn gluten is pelletized and used for fuel now. How hard could it be to do the same with stover? We literally move mountains to get the coal out. Then, we ship it across the country to burn for electricity. Corn stover contains as much heat energy as coal. And it’s laying right there on top of the ground.

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  90. By Duracomm on October 24, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Regarding grass fed beef Perry quoted from a grass fed beef promoters website.

    # Meat from grass-fed cattle is lower in both overall fat and artery-clogging saturated fat.
    # Grass-fed meat is higher in healthy omega-3 fats. Meat from feedlot animals has been found to contain only 15-50 percent as much omega-3s as meat from grass-fed cattle.

    Wonderful stuff no doubt.

    The problem is apparently no research supports the idea that grass fed beef is healthier for you.

    Even worse recent research flatly contradicts the idea that grass fed beef is healthier.

    Grain-fed healthier than grass-fed? And a bit of a commentary

    “We wanted to see from this study if product from pasture-fed and corn-fed cattle had different effects on LDL or HDL cholesterol,” Smith said.

    “We looked at the scientific literature and could not find any justifications for the statement that pasture-fed beef is better for you.

    “As we talked to some user groups and told them that we had found pasture-fed beef is higher in saturated trans-fat, they were shocked.”

    Next, a group of 27 men completed a three-way crossover study. Each group rotated, consuming five 114-gram ground beef patties per week for six weeks from each of the three sets of cattle used in the study.

    “There really were no negative effects of feeding ground beef from the pasture-fed cattle,” Smith said.

    “We did see many positive effects in men that consumed ground beef from corn-fed cattle. The ground beef from the USDA Prime cattle increased HDL cholesterol and LDL particle diameter. Both effects are protective against cardiovascular disease.

    The Prime ground beef also decreased insulin, so it may have some protective effect against type II diabetes.”

    What I’m trying to show them is that the longer cattle are fed a corn or grain-based diet, the healthier the product will be.”

    “I realize cost is involved – feeding corn is expensive. But, if you want a healthier product, you need more marbling. Time on feed is a big factor.”

    Lesson to be learned here is that diet is complicated. Because of this scientific diligence and consumer caution is needed when making dietary decisions.

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  91. By perry on October 24, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    “There really were no negative effects of feeding ground beef from the pasture-fed cattle,” Smith said. “We did see many positive effects in men that consumed ground beef from corn-fed cattle.”

     

    This “study” was obviously paid for by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. No negative effects from pasture fed cattle, but no mention of whether there were positive effects. Positive effects from grain-fed beef, but no mention of whether there were any negative effects. What the heck?

    The grass fed crowd claims their beef has 3X the Omega-3′s, and 4X the vitamen E, among other things. No mention of any of that. Always look at who pays for these studies. They always get their money’s worth, even if the truth needs to be fudged.

     

     

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  92. By Duracomm on October 24, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Perry you originally said,

    They already have the cobs out of the field, because they do have to be shelled, so why toss them back on the ground if they can be monetized? Same goes for the stover.

    and then you said,

    Yes, but why dump them if they can be monetized?

    and then you said,

    By my calculations, we can get 10 trillion/day just from corn stover….with plenty to spare.

    and then you said

    The stover is already pulled out of the field at harvest time Wendell. It wouldn’t be so hard to bring it to silos, along with the corn.

    How hard could it be to do the same with stover?

    Perry, your calculation show stover is wonderful energy source. So I am sure you can explain exactly how the cobs and stover are going to get out of the field and transported.

    Start out easy, no calculations required just explain specifically how the cobs and stover are going to be gathered out of the fields and transported.

    Cob and stover collection and transport has to work for your other calculations to give correct results.

    Sometimes what seems like the simplest, most straight forward issues are the ones that kill a concept.

    I’m looking forward to hearing what you come up with.

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  93. By perry on October 24, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    “I realize cost is involved – feeding corn is expensive.”

     

    That’s what I mean about fudging the truth. This clown knows damned well pasture cattle cost a great deal more to raise. These cows are stuffed with corn, because it’s the cheapest way to fatten them up quickly.  But hey, the prostitute was just trying to make a buck. Can’t really blame him for a fib or two.

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  94. By Duracomm on October 24, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Perry said,

    No negative effects from pasture fed cattle, but no mention of whether there were positive effects.

    Actually if you had read the article instead of trying to kill the messenger you would have seen.

    “As we talked to some user groups and told them that we had found pasture-fed beef is higher in saturated trans-fat, they were shocked.”

    Read the article instead of trying to spin the results. You will find some other interesting tidbits there.

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  95. By perry on October 24, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Duracomm said:

    Perry, your calculation show stover is wonderful energy source. So I am sure you can explain exactly how the cobs and stover are going to get out of the field and transported.

    Start out easy, no calculations required just explain specifically how the cobs and stover are going to be gathered out of the fields and transported.


     Is this simple enough?

     

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..6k28deSQ7Y

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  96. By perry on October 24, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Duracomm said:

    Read the article instead of trying to spin the results.


     

    The “no negative effects of feeding ground beef from the pasture-fed cattle” was a quote Duracomm. I can’t help it if he contradicts himself in the next paragraph. Sheesh.

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  97. By Wendell Mercantile on October 24, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Corn stover contains as much heat energy as coal. And it’s laying right there on top of the ground.

    Perry,

    Not really:

    * Corn stover ~ 7600 BTU/lb
    * Bituminous coal ~ 10,500 to 15,500 depending how far it has progressed in its evolution to becoming anthracite.
    * Anthracite coal ~ 15,000 BTU/lb

    Millions of tons of dead leaves are just laying on top of the ground too.

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  98. By perry on October 24, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Well, if we’re gonna quibble let’s use the btu value of the coal most often used for making electricity. That would be lignite, with a btu value of 7000.

    What do leaves have to do with anything Wendell? Yes, they’re pretty. But, the btu value must be all of 500 per truckload, LOL.  Thanks, but no thanks.

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  99. By paul-n on October 25, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Wendell/Perry

     

    The issue with corn stover, up until now, has not been the cost of transporting it, it has been that there was no market for it.  It is clearly economical to bale and move hay, as there is a market for it – at a minimum the same process can be used for stover, if there is a buyer nearby

    In theory, you could co-fire it in coal plant, but in practice, that is more trouble than it is worth, as it has quite different handling and combustion characteristics than coal.

    But, you can turn corn stover into pellets, just like wood pellets, and transport and sell those as heating fuel, or even to coal burning power stations. 

    http://www.biomassmagazine.com…..er-pellets

    Taking it a step further, you can torrefy (“roast) the stover, and then pelletise, and you then have a product with an energy density equal to sub-bituminous coal, but with less ash and no nasty heavy metals.

    The real missing link is creating a market for the stover.  Once there are buyers, or competing buyers, the farmers will work out an viable way to service them – they are pretty innovative at that.

     

     

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  100. By ronald-steenblik on October 25, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Um, in all this talk about corn stover, are people taking into account that a certain amount needs to be left on the field, to protect the soil from water and wind erosion, maintain tilth and soil organic carbon, and return nutrients? Here is one estimate that purportedly takes these constraints into account:

    It is estimated that about 1 kilogram of stover is produced per kilogram of corn grain (Glassner et al. 1999). U.S. corn production in 2008 was 12.1 billion bushels, down from 13.1 billion bushels in 2007. The yield was 153.8 bushels per acre. U.S. planted area under corn was 85.9 million acres (NASS 2008). Under the current corn production practices, less than 28 percent of the stover produced in the United States could be sustainably collected at a farmgate cost of less than $33.07 per Mg ($30 per dry ton). More stringent soil loss constraints would lower this value considerably. However, if farmers chose to universally convert to no-till corn management and total stover production did not change, the sustainable supply would almost double. Given current (1997–2000 average) U.S. corn production, 91.8 to 106.1 million Mg (105-117 million dry tons) of stover would be potentially collectable if farmers managed their cornfields to produce harvestable grain and stover (Graham et al. 2007).

    Wind erosion is a major constraint to stover collection. Research suggests that central Illinois, northern Iowa, southern Minnesota and the Platte River region in Nebraska produce sufficient stover to support large biorefineries with one million Mg per year feedstock demands and that if farmers converted to universal no-till production of corn, then over 100 million Mg of stover could be collected annually without causing erosion to exceed the tolerable soil loss (Graham et al. 2007).

    The height at which corn has to be harvested to ensure the most economical and efficient stover harvest is an important factor in ethanol production. Research indicates that a normal-cut harvest results in the most economical and efficient stover harvest for biofuel production. At least 16 inches of stubble should remain on the field for it to be considered normal-cut stover harvest (Perry 2008).

    Hey, Perry, is that you?

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  101. By Duracomm on October 25, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Ronald Steenblik said,

    Um, in all this talk about corn stover, are people taking into account that a certain amount needs to be left on the field, to protect the soil from water and wind erosion, maintain tilth and soil organic carbon, and return nutrients?

    Good point and worth re-emphasizing.

    I made the same point in this comment up thread

    Two issues with biomass from crops that are frequently overlooked.

    1. Remnant crop biomass material is often needed in place to protect the land from erosion and to preserve moisture.

    2. Remnant crop biomass returns nutrients to the soil. If the biomass is removed those nutrients will have to be replaced with petroleum based fertilizer. May be trivial amount may be large amount but it should be accounted for.

    But as is usually the case on these threads the pro ethanol contingent swamps any real world information on ethanol.

    Worth remembering that this thread started as discussion of the problem that competition for grains between ethanol and food are going to cause for food prices and the negative impact that is going to have on hunger and poor people.

    Now the pro ethanol contingent has driven the conversation away from the harm ethanol does to poor people to the wonders of the cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs and stover.

    The problem as you have pointed out is that their wishful thinking with ethanol always grounds itself on the harsh shoals of reality and unintended consequences.

    Which never seems to keep the pro ethanol contingent from trying to drive the ship of energy policy right into the next reef of stupid ideas and unintended consequences.

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  102. By Wendell Mercantile on October 25, 2010 at 9:45 am

    The real missing link is creating a market for the stover…

    Paul,

    There is a market for it. I live in a university town and the university’s decades-old, coal-fired steam plant is being refurbished to burn a combination of coal and bio-mass (most of which will be corn stover since we are in the Corn Belt.)

    Last fall while driving around outside of town I saw several flat bed trailers loaded with compressed and bailed stover pulling out of a corn field west of town. The university’s bio-mass steam plant isn’t done yet, so I don’t know where they were headed.

    in all this talk about corn stover, are people taking into account that a certain amount needs to be left on the field, to protect the soil from water and wind erosion, maintain tilth and soil organic carbon, and return nutrients?

    Ronald,

    That is an important consideration. It would accomplish nothing to take all the stover from a cornfield only to have to replace the nutrients the stover provides with synthetic fertilizer. I’m sure there is a “sweet spot” between what to take and what to leave behind and that some graduate student at some Corn Belt land-grant college is right now doing his/her doctoral research and dissertation on that very subject.

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  103. By Wendell Mercantile on October 25, 2010 at 9:51 am

    What do leaves have to do with anything Wendell?

    Perry~

    The BTU value of dead leaves is the same per unit of mass as corn stover.  And every autumn Mother Nature conveniently drops millions of tons of them on our lawns and in our forests — free of charge.  That’s trillions of BTUs of energy just laying there for the taking.

    Understandably the logistics of picking up most of those leaves is daunting, but in many large cities they are laying there in windrows along the streets just waiting for a cellulsoic company to pick them up and make them into ethanol, or to be bailed and hauled away to a pellet plant.

    Those who are anxious to use the stover should be just as excited about using each autumn’s leaf fall.

     

     

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  104. By Duracomm on October 25, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Perry,

    Thanks for posting that video link it was interesting to watch.

    John Deere 7550 chopping corn.

    It also illustrated the fact that many people who comment on agriculture and ethanol policy are comprehensively clueless about agriculture.

    Your video showed a silage chopper in action. Silage choppers are designed to harvest and chop green corn for production of ensilage.

    Your example of how to get the stover and cobs out of the field is perfect in one sense.

    It does not produce any cobs or stover.

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  105. By perry on October 25, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Ronald Steenblik said:

    Research indicates that a normal-cut harvest results in the most economical and efficient stover harvest for biofuel production. At least 16 inches of stubble should remain on the field for it to be considered normal-cut stover harvest (Perry 2008).

    Hey, Perry, is that you?


     

    I wish. That Perry is way smarter than me.

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  106. By perry on October 25, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Duracomm said:

    Your video showed a silage chopper in action. Silage choppers are designed to harvest and chop green corn for production of ensilage.

    Your example of how to get the stover and cobs out of the field is perfect in one sense.

    It does not produce any cobs or stover.


     

    That tractor doesn’t care if the corn is green, brown, or blue. It chops the whole plant into itty bitty pieces so cows can eat the corn, cob, AND stover. You asked how I would collect and get stover and cobs to market. That’s how i would do it. I’m convinced that kind of corn isn’t fit for consumption. If you ate a handful, you would agree. My whole point was that 80 million acres of land can replace gasoline if we used it for biomass to produce electricity, instead of cow feed and ethanol.

     

    80 million acres of switchgrass could produce almost as many btu’s as the coal we mine annually.  It could power 4X as many cars as gasoline does. And it would be so much cleaner.

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  107. By perry on October 25, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Duracomm said:

    But as is usually the case on these threads the pro ethanol contingent swamps any real world information on ethanol.

    Worth remembering that this thread started as discussion of the problem that competition for grains between ethanol and food are going to cause for food prices and the negative impact that is going to have on hunger and poor people.

    Now the pro ethanol contingent has driven the conversation away from the harm ethanol does to poor people to the wonders of the cellulosic ethanol from corn cobs and stover.


     

    I never mentioned cellulosic ethanol once. I did say that burning the corn would produce more power than turning it into ethanol. Wouldn’t that make me anti-ethanol in this case? Truth is, I’m not pro or anti any damned thing. My concern is what we do when 200 million cars are running on empty. A preference for good old-fashioned gasoline won’t get you to work if it can’t be found. We need to at least have a plan when the fit hits the shan. Better think of something quick. We’ve got 2 years or less.

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  108. By Wendell Mercantile on October 25, 2010 at 11:24 am

    chops the whole plant into itty bitty pieces so cows can eat the corn, cob, AND stover.

    Perry~

    Actually at that point, there isn’t yet any stover. It is all green plant (stalks, leaves, and developing ears and silk) that is chopped and goes into a silo where it ferments into green animal fodder. Silage can be made from green corn, or any of several field crops while still green such as alfalfa or oats. The anaerobic fermentation of silage increases the “shelf life” of the feed, and it does contain more animal nutrients than dried animal feed.

    But silage is also difficult to handle and you don’t see many CAFOs using silage instead of dried corn.

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  109. By perry on October 25, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Never mind the corn Wendell. We could replace gasoline with 20 million acres of Miscanthus, and cut way back on fertilizers and herbicides in the process. Here’s a video of a miscanthus harvest.

     

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..3zen2_u8mk

     

    Miscanthus facts.

     

    http://www.agricarbon.com/Misc…..ntages.php

     

    We’re jumping through so many hoops in a futile attempt to replace gasoline with liquid alternatives. Better to just go electric. There would still be a need for biofuels for airplanes, ships, and heavy equipment, like tanks and big rigs. But, those requirements would be so much smaller without the need for gasoline.

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  110. By Wendell Mercantile on October 25, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    We’re jumping through so many hoops in a futile attempt to replace gasoline with liquid alternatives.

    One hoop we haven’t tried yet, and one I doubt would be futile:

    Methanol from coal, natural gas, and biomass gasifiers. Methanol from our vast reserves of coal and what appears to be an increasingly large reserve of natural gas is our “Ace in the Hole.” Methane from biomass gasifiers would also make a mighty fine feedstock for methanol. (And you can put almost any organic matter* into a biomass gasifier.)

    ______________________________________
    *Although earlier this morning I was reading that the State of California has put roadblocks in the road of their many dairy farmers, saying the biomass gasifiers they want to use to capture the methane from cow manure won’t meet the state’s air quality standards without a several million dollar upgrade per gasifier. That is making many California ranchers and dairy farmers have second thoughts about installing manure gasifiers.

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  111. By perry on October 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I’m fairly agnostic when it comes to solutions Wendell. If capturing methane would work, then go for it. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. Much worse than CO2. The more we could burn off, the better. Whatever we’re gonna do, we should probably get started. Problem is, many of these possible solutions don’t make sense with gas at current prices. And when gas does cost an arm and a leg, it will take time to put them into motion. We’re gonna be caught between a rock and a hard place. Probably for a good number of years.

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  112. By paul-n on October 25, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    80 million acres of switchgrass could produce almost as many btu’s as the coal we mine annually.  It could power 4X as many cars as gasoline does. And it would be so much cleaner.

    Perry, where are you getting your numbers?

    Using that Miscanthus site you linked to, we have a btu content of 7500/lb (dry), and a optmistic yield of 10tons/ac (dry).

    That works out to 17.5gJ/ton, and 175 GJ per acre, per year.  There are 6.1GJ in a barrel of oil, so one ton replaces 2.9bbl, and one acre can produce the energy equivalent of 29 barrels of oil, or 0.08 bbl/day.

    For 80 million acres you then get 0.8bn tons/yr, or 6.4 million barrels/day – roughly equivalent to 2/3 of total gasoline consumption.  But this assumes 100% conversion – in practice, the best you will get is 50%, so instead of 4x the gasoline, we have one third.

     

    Going the electric route, , using an average of  3 miles/kWh, we need 8kWh to replace 1 gal gasoline (24mpg fleet average).  Assuming we can produce and deliver electricity with 40% effciency, one gallon of gasoline is replaced by 20kWh (4.1kg) of miscanthus.  So it takes 184kg to replace a barrel, or 5.4bbl/ton – so twice the round trip efficiency.

     

    So our 80 million acres, at the best possible yield, with the best possible electric generation, and  practical EV efficiency, will replace 5.4/2.9=1.86 x the current gasoline, or the equivalent of 11.9mbbl/day.  So that is 1.2 x current, but still not 4x.

    So clearly the electric route is way better, and we can power the fleet from biofuel -IF, and only if, we can switch the fleet to electric.  But that is an enormous task, and the first (mass produced) electrics haven;t even hit the road yet. 

     

    Either route has massive scale issues –keep the numbers real so that we don;t kid ourselves that it will be easy.

    I should also add that this sort of massive systemic change is exactly the sort of change the political class avoids!  We can expect the ICE, and all the industry behind it, to fight tooth and nail all the way. 

     

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  113. By perry on October 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Paul N said:

    Perry, where are you getting your numbers? 


     

     

    I got them from Robert. The number he came up with was 9.1 trillion btu’s a day to replace gasoline. 80 million acres of miscanthus or switchgrass would provide 1200 trillion btu’s annually, assuming the 15 tons per acre. That’s 32 trillion per day. Pretty close to 4X what we need to replace gasoline with electricity. In his example, we could replace gasoline with 3 million acres of solar.

     

    http://www.consumerenergyrepor…..lar-power/

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  114. By paul-n on October 25, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Perry, in RR’s example he came up with 9.1 tn btu/day of electricity is needed to replace gasoline.  With 40% conversion efficiency, that means 23 tn btu’s of fuel per day, or 8400tn btu/yr.

    One acre, at 10tpy, provides 165m btu/yr, or 450,000btu/day, so 80 m ac provides 36 tn btu/day, or 1.5 x what is needed.

     

    Where you are going wrong is that 1200/365 = 3.2, not 32.

    And your yield estimate is too optimistic.  15t/yr is under favourable conditions, on favourable soil.  The average, especially over large areas and several growing seasons will be much less.  Best yields for corn are consistently over 400bu/ac, but average over millions of ac, and several years is 140.

    10t/ac is more realistic for planning with biomass, be it switchgrass, miscanthus or trees.  Better results will be obtained in many situations, but assuming we keep the best land for food production, we can’t get that 15t/ac over 100 million acres.

     

    In any case, what the numbers do show, regardless of yield, is that electricity to vehicles is a better pathway, its just one that doesn’t really exist, yet.

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  115. By perry on October 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Robert did the conversion thing in his article Paul. The actual energy content of the gasoline is 45 trillion btu’s. Only 9.1 trillion btu’s of electricity is needed, because electricity is that much more efficient. Overall efficiency is 74%, compared to 15% for the ICE.

     

    “so 80 m ac provides 36 tn btu/day”

     

    Even better than the 32 trillion I came up with. Even with only 10 ton/acre yeilds, we could replace gasoline with 30 million acres. Unless I’m still missing something?

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  116. By paul-n on October 25, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Perry, you are still missing the point.  Overall electric efficiency is 75%, but you have to make the electricity first.  The state of the art with coal (supercritical steam plants) is 45%, so 40% biomass to electricity is a good estimate for the upper end.  That is why to get 9.1tn btu of elec, you need 23tn btu of fuel.

     

    Using electricity is very efficient, but making it, especially from biomass, is much less so.  That is part you are missing.

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  117. By Duracomm on October 25, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Perry said

    That tractor doesn’t care if the corn is green, brown, or blue. It chops the whole plant into itty bitty pieces so cows can eat the corn, cob, AND stover.

    You asked how I would collect and get stover and cobs to market.That’s how i would do it.

    Details matter. The video was of a forage chopper, not a tractor and there was no stover present.

    More details you have neglected.

    The forage collected the way you have suggested is going to be wet. Which means more weight to transport, more transport fuel used and more process fuel to get rid of the water you have hauled to the processing facility. Not to mention wet product spoils and so additional effort and energy is going to be required to store the product.

    Which means the energy yield you came up with is going to be wrong.

    Your comments on stover kicked off with the idea that the cobs and stover were lagniappe to the farmer that provided additional money above and beyond the value of the corn harvested. The problem is your preferred solution shreds the whole corn plant meaning no corn will be harvested.

    You then chase off into another rabbit hole discussing Miscanthus.

    Driving further away from the topic of the original article which was the food vs fuels problem biofuels cause.

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  118. By Duracomm on October 25, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Perry said,

    I’m fairly agnostic when it comes to solutions Wendell.

    So you agree that the sensible thing to do is to stop trying to pick specific solutions and let the market sort things out?

    I think the thing to do is to let engineers and accountants work on energy issues and keep politics and politicians far away from energy policy.

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  119. By paul-n on October 25, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    I think the thing to do is to let engineers and accountants work on energy issues and keep politics and politicians far away from energy policy.

     There’s just one problem with that – that accountants, in particular, will work towards the cheapest (monetary) solution, and today that is still oil and other fossil fuels. Even at $100/bbl, oil is stil the cheapest, so the accountants won;t approve money for the engineers to wrok on alternatives.  That is why, for better of for worse, the governmnet has poured billions into alternatives, because without it, their is much less private investment.  

    That doesn’t mean gov is doing it right – the preference for picking winners is awful.   Gov should set the broad policy – i.e. alternatives to oil, then let the engineers, accountants and energy suppliers and users go at it.  

    I think for government to have an energy policy of reducing oil imports is perfectly reasonable – the problem is that any intiatives to work towards that get so politically massaged that they achieve very little.  

    The non food energy sources are not currently used for energy for a reason – they are the least energy dense, and hardest to convert.  It is worth doing, if it is worth doing.  At current energy prices, for the most part, they are not worth doing.  Any attempt to raise prices is politically unacceptable, and any attempt to subsidise alternatives seems to end up favouring specific technologies.

    And any smart accountant will tell you not to invest in anything based purely on government subsidies.

    So, the debate goes on, but biomass energy is not increasing, with the single exception of corn ethanol – the subsidised food to fuel!

     

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  120. By Duracomm on October 25, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Paul N said,

    There’s just one problem with that – that accountants, in particular, will work towards the cheapest (monetary) solution, and today that is still oil and other fossil fuels.
    Even at $100/bbl, oil is stil the cheapest, so the accountants won;t approve money for the engineers to wrok on alternatives.

    I’m not sure you have considered the entire range of incentives.

    The folks who come up with a cost effective replacement for petroleum will mint money. That is plenty of incentive for accountants to fund blue sky research. And blue sky research is probably the only place that can provide the needed breakthroughs

    Gov should set the broad policy – i.e. alternatives to oil, then let the engineers, accountants and energy suppliers and users go at it.

    My impression is that congress is filled with a (being charitable here) bunch of gibbering idiots who do not have the combined common sense or knowledge to touch anything without breaking it beyond repair.

    I am persuadable but I currently see zero benefit and lots of downside to having them try and set energy policy.

    A turing test for congresses readiness to work with energy policy is the ethanol mandate. As long as the ethanol mandate remains they are not competent to deal with energy issues.

    I think for government to have an energy policy of reducing oil imports is perfectly reasonable

    I’m curious why you think this?

    The petroleum market is global. Any oil we don’t use china and other countries will happily use.

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  121. By perry on October 26, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Duracomm said:

    I’m curious why you think this?

    The petroleum market is global. Any oil we don’t use china and other countries will happily use.


     

    Try an experiment with a friend or neighbor Duracomm. Give him $20 a day, while he gives you $5. See how long it takes for him to own your ass. That’s exactly what’s happening with our trade deficit. We transferred wealth equal to the GDP of Norway out of the country last year. Almost twice that amount went out the door in 2008. Two things are responsible for virtually the entire deficit. Oil and cheap Chinese trinkets. Mostly oil though.

     

    We finance the trade deficit by borrowing from foreignors. Run a deficit long enough, and they own us. Literally. Our politicians may well be fat, lazy, and stupid. But, they’re smart enough to know things can’t go on like this.

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  122. By paul-n on October 26, 2010 at 4:06 am

    The folks who come up with a cost effective replacement for petroleum will mint money.

    Quite so, and people have been trying to do that for almost a hundred years.  There may yet be a breakthrough, but, in my opinion, it will be the rising cost of oil that makes an alternative cost effective, not a new breakthrough.  I would not want to bet government policy on a future breakthrough.

    That is plenty of incentive for accountants to fund blue sky research. And blue sky research is probably the only place that can provide the needed breakthroughs

    Well, only if your company is in the fuel development business.  But if you are transport company, or other energy user, you will only be putting your money into proven solutions, and even then, cautiously.  Trucks and trains (especially) could go to CNG/LNG co fuelling tomorrow, no development required, but they are not.

     

    I’m curious why you think this?

    The petroleum market is global. Any oil we don’t use china and other countries will happily use.

    Well, Perry is along my track here – it is a trade deficit issue – I care not that China will use what the US does not.

    It is a continual drain on the economy, and much of it is because a good portion of the oil is used inefficiently (oversize trucks and suv’s, hardly any diesel vehicles, cities with few alternatives to driving, heating oil, etc) – it does not produce much economic value. 

    It is a continual drain on the economy of many households and businesses too (along with other drains like health care, insurance, etc), as they have little alternative.

    Not to mention the considerable efforts the government must go to to ensure continuation of that supply.  Canada, being energy self sufficient, does not need to do that, does not need to worry about an OPEC embargo, does not have a huge oil trade deficit, etc Quite simply, the country can sleep better, with one major worry eliminated. 

    If some miracle oil discovery were to happen in Texas tomorrow, such that America is oil independent again, without even reducing consumption, how much benefit would that be to the country?  About $350bn per year that stays here, instead of empowering thug states – about $1100 per person, per year.  Would the carrier groups in the ME come back?

    I doubt oil independence will be achieved, as I can’t see the collective will for it. But every barrel saved is still money kept in the country.

     

     

     

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  123. By Wendell Mercantile on October 26, 2010 at 9:26 am

    The folks who come up with a cost effective replacement for petroleum will mint money.

    Two comments on that:

    1. If it was easy, it would have already happened. It’s very difficult and expensive to replace something that is the result of millions of years of accumulated solar energy that was transformed to an energy dense liquid by more millions of years of free heat and pressure.

    2. If oil didn’t have such an enormous advantage, it wouldn’t have been our fuel of choice for more than a century.

    When you think about it, it’s rather remarkable that Mother Nature stored reservoirs of millions of years of solar energy underground in pools just waiting for us to tap into. And she didn’t even charge us anything for it.

    The problem is we just squandered it. We used up millions of years of accumulated solar energy in a bit over 100 years.

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  124. By OD on October 26, 2010 at 11:03 am

    hardly any diesel vehicles

    Wouldn’t switching to diesel in mass keep us in the same spot, since you get 1/2 the amount of diesel as you do gasoline from a barrel of oil?

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  125. By paul-n on October 26, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    OD,  The refining process can be adjusted to produce more diesel and less gasoline.  The heavier crudes, like Canadian oilsands, also favour producing diesel.

     

    Also, with diesel cars, there is 30% improvement in mpg, and taking into account the higher btu content, is about a 20% improvement in btu/mile.

     

    A light drving city car, that does less than 10k miles per year, is probably better off staying gasoline, but any vehicle that is driven lots, or any larger vehicles (trucks, vans etc) will benefit enormously by being diesel powered.  Presently, the only options are the VW diesel cars, and the F-350 and equivalent pick ups – there is scope for much, much more.

     

    And, the diesels are also suitable for co-fuelling with methanol, ethanol and NG, and will get 20% more miles per btu from all these alternate fuels.  

    It is a much more efficient engine system – but efficiency has not been a real issue in the minds of the US car market – until recently.  

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  126. By biocrude on October 26, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Paul N. said : “Presently, the only options are the VW diesel cars, and the F-350 and equivalent pick ups …”

    Actually Paul, the US now has several diesel vehicles available from our German friends. VW, Audi, Mercedes and BMW all offer at least two diesel powered vehicles.
    You can find all of the models listed here, and you can buy them TODAY:
    http://www.dieselforum.org/use…..able-in-us

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  127. By paul-n on October 26, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Biocrude, I stand corrected, – though I will say that Audi is of course, part of VW.  Yes, there are a  handful of models from BMW and Mercedes that are available.  But if you can afford to buy the BMW’s and Mercs, then you are not one who has to worry about the cost of fuel.

    Aside from the VW’s none of these are mass market models, and none are “light” commercial vehicles, so they will not make any substantial difference to the country’s oil consumoption.

     

    if you look at what is available in Britain, for example, there is a plethora of diesels, for every size vehicle, in every market segment – that is what is needed to make a difference. There are dozens of diesel cars that get Prius type mileage.

     

    http://www.vcacarfueldata.org……Search.asp

    (note the mpg ratings are for imperial gallons and Uk test cycles.  The Prius is rate at 72mpg, but is 50mpg in US testing.  based on that, most of the small diesel cars listed there will be around 50mpg combined, and 60+ on hwy)

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  128. By perry on October 26, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    OD is right about the diesel. Europe has to import 600,000 bpd from Russia, while it exports 1,000,000 bpd of gasoline to the US. If we burned diesel like Europe does, we’d have to find markets for an awful lot of excess gasoline. And Europe would need a new market for its excess too.

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  129. By paul-n on October 27, 2010 at 2:12 am

    Perry –  My understanding is that you can tweak the process to favour gasoline or diesel – fluid catalytic cracking favours diesel, and hydrocracking favours gasoline.  

    But, RR is the guy that used to refine for a living, so I’ll defer to him on this one.

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  130. By Duracomm on October 31, 2010 at 11:11 am

    The problem with the trade deficit argument is that current “green energy” policies and technology likely makes the US trade and economic position worse.

    How GE’s green lobbying is killing U.S. factory jobs

    WINCHESTER, VA–“Government did us in,” says Dwayne Madigan, whose job will terminate when General Electric closes its factory next July.

    Madigan makes a product that will soon be illegal to sell in the U.S. – a regular incandescent bulb. Two years ago, his employer, GE, lobbied in favor of the law that will outlaw the bulbs.

    Madigan’s colleagues, waiting for their evening shift to begin, all know that GE is replacing the incandescents for now with compact fluorescents bulbs, which GE manufactures in China.

    Last month, GE announced it will close the Winchester Bulb Plant 80 miles west of D.C. As a result, 200 men and women will lose their jobs. GE is also shuttering incandescent factories in Ohio and Kentucky, axing another 200 jobs.

    So, GE gets environmentalist brownie points for selling “clean” light bulbs, and they also get to charge more for their bulbs. But there’s another advantage—they save on labor with fluorescents, because they make the fluorescents in China.

    Not only are wages lower there, but so are the regulatory burdens, both environmental and labor. The Times of London recently reported, “Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs.”

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  131. By paul-n on October 31, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Duracomm, 

     

    That is indeed too bad for those GE workers, but it is  not like this sort of thing hasn’t happened before.  Once upon a time GM and Ford had carburettors made here for their vehicles, and those have gone the way of the dodo, similarly for the companies that made computer floppy disks, or vinyl records, Kodak film , etc etc.  We could probably find many other examples of obsolete technology – in fact, here is just such a place – the Low Tech Magazine

     

    I don’t think this is really the problem of the green energy policies, it is more indicative of the challenge with trade policies in general.  For GE, as a world supplier, China has several advantages – cheap labour is just one.  It’s location is another – it is in the middle of 3bn people in Asia, and equi-distant to both US and European markets.

     

    Cheap labour is a bonus, but not that big of one anymore – the factories there are as mechanised as the factories here, so they don’t actually employ that many people anymore.  But, not only is the labour cheaper, the employer does not have to pay for US health care!  Some companies are moving to Canada just for that reason.

     

    It is an interesting question what would be the response if GE decided to builld a new CFL factory in the US.  What would the local community say about a big factory, that handles lots of mercury and phosphor, being built upwind of them?  In California they would automatically so, in the Rust Belt, maybe yes.  In Connecticut – they would ask that the factory be built elsewhere and be managed from there, so that the money comes to their state.

     

    The real problem here is that the US is one of the most expensive places in the world to set up and operate a factory – that is not the fault of green energy policies.  

     

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  132. By Duracomm on October 31, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Paul N,

    The problem with the low tech magazine argument is that incandescent bulbs produced better light, at less cost, with no mercury.

    They were more popular than CFL so GE,Phillips, and other CFL manufacturers lobbied to get their cheap competition banned.

    You make good points on manufacturing and those jobs might have gone away in any case.

    The fact the “green” legislation was used to kill the jobs makes your good arguments not applicable in this particular situation.

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  133. By paul-n on November 1, 2010 at 1:01 am

    The incandescent are less first cost.  If you put it in the context of the power grid, every bulb needs a powerplant, somewhere, to supply it.  If we assume the powerplant is gas turbine, at $600/kW (cheapest generation available), that 100W incandescent needs $60 of powerplant to supply it (plus the fuel itself, of course). The 25W CFL that replaces it needs only $15 of powerplant to supply it.  if the powerplant is nuke, at $10k/kW, then you are looking at $1000 for the incandescent and $250 for the CFL.

    So, phasing out the incandescents frees up considerable generating capacity, and fuel savings, and I’d say that is a good deal for the country.   The offshoring of the manufacturing is a shame, and could have been addressed by trade policy, to ensure there are home made  CFL’s.  

    I have actually been through a real world example of this sort of cost analysis.  When I was managing the utilities (water, sewer, propane gas and electricity)  for the ski resort I worked at, one of the things I did was work out the marginal cost of capacity for each of the the systems (we did not generate our own electricity, but had to pay for transmission upgrades, so still had to pay for capacity).  It turned out to be $1000/kW and about 15$/gal/day, each for water, and sewer.  At this resort, the company that owned the resort was also the property developer – they would build the houses/condos using the cheapest light and water fixtures available, and electric resistance heat.  This was the cheapest capital cost, and developers like to keep those down.  

    But it turned out, that for each house built using standard fixtures instead of high efficiency ones (CFL’s, twin element off peak electric hot water, energy star fridges, dual flush toilets, venturi showerheads, etc), the developer was saving about $500 on electric fixtures, and about the same again on water fixtures.  However, the capacity cost incurred turned out to be $2000 per house for electric, and $500 each for water and sewer.  These costs had to be paid by the resort when expansion  became necessary, which in this case was within 3yrs for water and sewer and five for electricity.  

    So by saving $500 today, the resort would incur $3000 within five years, and the buyer of the houses/condo would be saddled with higher utility costs for the life of those fixtures, reducing the value of their investment.  So, viewing the resort as a miniature “country”, phasing out incandescents, and other inefficient fixtures, is a very good business decision.

    Scale it up to to a real country, and the decision still makes sense.  The benefits to the country are such that it would even justify the government paying for a CFL factory, and giving them away for for free, to speed up the process.  But unfortunately, most governments don;t think like that.

    The resort I worked at did not implement my recommendations, saying that if they didn’t keep this years capital costs down, there would be no resort next year.  Eventually I resigned in frustration (I had been hired partly to improve the efficiency of these things), but used what I had learned at another ski resort who asked me to consult for them on energy and water efficiency.  They were against the wall of simultaneous upgrades to all utilities within two years, so were quite motivated to put them off for as long as possible.  We came up with a comprehensive plant which they implemented, comprehensively.

    Which approach was better?  The one I used to work for has stagnated, parent company in receivership, unhappy owners, property values dropping, and complaints about utility costs because the resort is asking everyone to pony up for expansions, so the resort doesn’t have to.  Meanwhile, the one that embraced the efficiency plan has not had to expand their water, sewer or electrical supply for the last seven years, has the lowest per-capita water use of any community in BC, has won ski industry environmental awards for water conservation, and is known amongst the property/hotel managers for lower utility costs (not rates, costs) than other resorts.  

    So, there are times when these decisions are the right ones, there is great benefit to be had – enough to make it worthwhile to find a way to minimise the pain for the few that lose everything for the benefit of the many.

    If the US market was big enough to have incandescent factories here, it is probably big enough to have a CFL one.  Much better value than auto and bank bailouts.

     

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  134. By Kit P on November 1, 2010 at 9:02 am

    It would seem that
    Duracomm and PaulN are having an contest on who can provided the most
    absurd argument.

     

    “with no mercury.”

     

    There is no such
    thing as ‘no mercury’ because mercury is ubiquitous in the
    environment. The amount of mercury in CFL is too small to worry
    about even if you break one in your house.

     

    Just as silly as OMG
    mercury is this other favorite liberal silliness from PaulN,

     

    “If you put it in
    the context of the power grid ..”

     

    All my lights have
    an ON/OFF switch. Now if you are really serious Paul about
    conservation which you are not turn off that frig and hot water
    heater you really do not need them, billions do fine every day
    without them.

     

    The point here is
    that lighting is a small amount of the grid and conservation is easy
    without buying expensive stuff. However, there are very few things
    that enhance our lives like electric lights.

     

    I know liberals just
    hate that whole concept of enjoying life and the cost of power plants
    but gosh Paul I have seen how you guys live. The curse of my
    profession is to get lectured about radiation, mercury, and the cost
    of power plants.

     

    “So, phasing out
    the incandescents frees up considerable generating capacity, and fuel
    savings, and I’d say that is a good deal for the country.”

     

    I think passing
    another law to ban Paul’s use of electricity would be a good idea.

     

    Am I the only one
    who sees the irony of the energy OCD crowd about trivial amounts of
    energy?

     

    “ski resort”

     

    Well Paul I know the
    world is a better place because you have identified trivial ways to
    save energy in the pursuit of the most energy intensive pursuit
    leisure activity. At least the resort we go to in Canada has natural
    hot springs.

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  135. By Duracomm on November 1, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Paul N,

    We will have to agree to disagree.

    Incandescent bulbs work well, are popular, and are cheap.

    Being able to purchase that product was unacceptable to the baptist bootlegger combination of CFL manufactures (GE and Phillips bootleggers) and baptists (various green groups).

    So they got together and banned a perfectly acceptable, safe, functional product from the market.

    The application of raw political power in the service of special interests is an ugly thing.

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  136. By paul-n on November 1, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    just hate that whole concept of enjoying life

    Not at all – and being able to go skiing, in a safe manner, is part of that.

    The point here is
    that lighting is a small amount of the grid and conservation is easy
    without buying expensive stuff.

    How small is small?

    According to the EIA;

    EIA estimates that in 2008, about 517 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity were used for lighting by the residential and commercial sectors.  This was equal to about 19% of the total electricity consumed by both of those sectors and 13.4% of total U.S. electricity consumption.

    And for manufacturing;

    EIA’s most recent data available (PDF) indicates that in 2002, 62 billion kWh were consumed for lighting in manufacturing facilities, which was equal to about 2% of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2002.

    So, add these together an you have lighting accounting for 15.4% of total US electricity consumption

    Kit’s nuke plants produce 20% of US electricity, so three quarters of their output is going to keep the lights on.  

    So according to Kit then, 3/4 of nuke output is a small amount of the grid – would we miss it if it wasn’t there?

     

    For residential, according to the EIA, lighting accounts for 8.8% of total electricity use, after HVAC(31%), kitchen appliances (26,7%) and water heating (9%)

    For commercial buildings, the EIA has this to say;

    More site electricity is consumed for lighting than for any other end use.

    Lighting accounts for 38% of commercial building electricity use – hardly a “small amount”

     

     

     

    At the ski resort, most of the buildings are commercial, and they indeed used a lot of electricity for lighting.  

    In the hotel rooms, as per Kit’s suggestion, every single light had a switch, but that did not mean the guests used it. We can’t control their behaviour, and we are not going to lecture people on holiday about energy use, but we can (and did) make sure the lights are efficient, so if they are left on, they are wasting less.  

    The older condo-hotel buildings had individual electric hot water for each of the units (220 of them) – not how you would design it today, but that is what we had and it couldn’t be changed.  We installed a programmable control system that linked the room heat and hot water to the hotel reservation system, so that when a room was vacant, the heat and hot water were reduced to a standby level. On the day of scheduled check in, the systems would come and on bring the room up to temperature.  This system saved the condo owners about $120k each year, and allowed up to one megawatt of load shifting to manage peak demand.

    In commercial buildings the incandescents/halogens are often a double hit.  The heat generated by these lights often has to be removed by the building’s a/c system.  A typical retail space with incandescent lighting, has as much kW of lighting per square foot as is needed for space heating.  In summer, this means quite an additional AC load, so the effective electricity use of the incandescents is about 50% higher.  For the design of the building, there is a significant capital cost for both greater a/c capacity, and greater electrical capacity for the lighting and a/c loads.

    The main retail area of the ski resort had an a/c unit on the main air handler, which was frequently needed in summer as the retail space was getting too hot.  After we did the lighting retrofit, we were able to maintain light levels, but the a/c was never needed again, and the air did not feel “stuffy”.

    Finally, most lighting use happens in the evening, which is peak time electricity, so it is the most expensive to buy, and also the highest value to re-sell.

    Since Kit is in the electricity generation business, he wants people to keep buying it.  I am in the efficiency business, where I look for ways that customers can minimise wastage of it – a completely different approach.  A side benefit for BC is that every bit of electricity we don’t waste here, can be stored (in hydro dams) sold to the US at peak periods – very good business for the province. So when people here put in CFL’s they are not only saving on their electric bill,  they are also effectively saving on taxes, as the government makes good money off the export sales. 

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  137. By Kit P on November 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    “Lighting accounts for 38% of commercial building electricity use – hardly a “small amount”

     

    Let me look, it is already been changed from incandescent bulbs.  Most likely before Paul was born.

     

    When it comes to CFL, just how many light fixtures do you have without a switch to turn it off.  How many lights do you want to leave on all the time?  So Paul if your lighting is “8.8% of total electricity use” it is because you do not know how to turn off a light.

     

    Use some common sense Paul and stop thinking of regulations to control how people live over small things like their electricity use. 

     

    “I am in the efficiency business, where I look for ways that customers can minimise wastage of it – a completely different approach.”

     

    Me too, bull doze those condos for rich people.  Think how much oil you will save if they stay home.  You can not have it both ways Paul.  Please stop bragging about how efficient you are at wasting energy.  

     

    Paul, I am not against CFL.  Just the dumb idea that people have about them.  Penny wise and pound foolish.  

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  138. By paul-n on November 1, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    KIt, you said lighting (total) was a small amount, though you giove no definition of what “small” means – I don’t think 15% of US consumption is small.    For the commercial buildings, according to the EIA 10% of the lighting is incandescent – if you look in almost any retail space, it is almost all incandescent/halogen.

    For residential, yes, my lighting use is well below 8.8%, but that is the American average, so don;t blame me – clearly there are lots of people that don’t know how to turn off lights.

    Of course, you can do other regulations to control how people live, like GWB’s decision to extend the daylight saving season.

    bull doze those condos for rich people.    Think how much oil you will save if they stay home.

    Talk about liberalism!  This from the guy who travels from the east coast to the west coast to get to his boat.

    I do not want regulations to control how people live, I’ll leave that to China, N. Korea etc.  I  just think that the things people use should be resource efficient, not wasteful – nothing wrong with that.

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  139. By Kit P on November 2, 2010 at 10:56 am

    “Talk about
    liberalism!”

     

    Sorry Paul you
    missed the sarcasm.

     

    “I do not want
    regulations to control how people live, I’ll leave that to China, N.
    Korea etc.  I  just think that the things people use should
    be resource efficient, not wasteful – nothing wrong with that.”

     

    It sounds like you
    want to decide what kind of lighting I can buy while promoting
    wasterful ski resorts. I do see something wrong with that. The
    problem Paul is you are very bad at figuring out how to save energy.
    Along with your liberal pals.

     

    It is a fine line
    that you do not understand. I have no problem with the government
    promoting CFL and bulk buying and distributing them to those who want
    to use them. Forcing them onto people is just a waste of resources.
    For example, when I replaced HVAC the contractor was required to
    replace the light in the crawl space with a CFL by code. That CFL
    will be on less than 30 minutes a year.

     

    So on one hand I am
    in favor of codes and regulations to protect the public and the
    environment but on the other the burden of trivial regulations drives
    up costs and dilutes important regulations.

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  140. By paul-n on November 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    So on one hand I am
    in favor of codes and regulations to protect the public and the
    environment but on the other the burden of trivial regulations drives
    up costs and dilutes important regulations.

    Well, at least we can agree on that.  

    My position is that you should have the simplest, and most objective regulations to achieve the purpose.  When it comes to lighting, a simple standard that lights have to produce X lumens per watt will suffice, with say a different rating for lights under 300 lumens (which are unlikely to be used for area lighting) and possibly a different standard for over 2000 lumens, which are only used for area lighting. We already have similar fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, and water efficiency standards for plumbing fixtures, and energy use standards for appliances.  doing the same for lighting is not a big deal, IMO

    I think it is much simpler to set, and enforce, standards that the mfrs have to meet, than to have different rules for what gets put in your crawl space and your lounge room.

    When you buy a new car, it has to meet the fuel efficiency guidelines regardless of whether you drive it 100 miles a year, or every day.  The manufacturer can decide how to meet the efficiency rules.  They did not ban carburettors, but they are less efficient and it is very hard (though not impossible) to meet the standards with a carburettor engine.

     

    At some point, governments make the decision to implement standard X across the board.  It has happened with unleaded fuel, high efficiency toilets, phasing out analog cellphones, particulate emissions form woodstoves, energy efficiency of heating appliances, etc etc.  Of course, there are always cases where the standard will deliver little benefit, or even negative benefit, like the crawl space. And to try to have a perfect standard that will address/allow for all these cases ends up resembling tax law.  

    You can have simple, broad, easy to live with standards, but not if you want an exemption for your crawl space you can;t have it both ways.  Of course, there is always the option of no standards at all, but since when have governments ever gone that route?

     

     

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  141. By Duracomm on November 6, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Paul N said,

    At some point, governments make the decision to implement standard X across the board.

    Many of the “standards” you mention are not “standards” at all. They are profit enhancing regulation strongly supported by rent seeking corporations.

    These “standards” have mostly served to break appliances that have worked for decades while allowing rent seeking companies to sell more expensive, less functional products.

    A good example of this is the efficiency standards for washing machines.

    Cost efficient, effective washing machines were outlawed by the bootlegger baptist coalition of rent seeking corporations and green activists.

    Green Isn’t Clean In the Laundry Room

    But if these efficient appliances are such a great deal, why do people have to be forced to buy them?

    Thanks to new federal standards, washing machines are using less energy — but as a result they cost more and clean less, as Consumer Reports concludes in its new issue:

    Not so long ago, you could count on most washers to get your clothes very clean. Not anymore. Our latest tests found huge performance differences among machines.

    Some left our stain-soaked swatches nearly as dirty as they were before washing. For best results, you’ll have to spend $900 or more.

    Mr. Kazman forecast dirtier clothes and pointed out the dubious assumptions in the cost calculations, but he was no match for the coalition of environmentalists and manufacturers eager to mandate expensive new machines.

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  142. By Duracomm on November 6, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    This prescient article from 1999 points out a simple thing, Incandescent light bulbs are not the problem.

    Dig more coal — the PCs are coming

    Southern California Edison, meet Amazon.com. Somewhere in America, a lump of coal is burned every time a book is ordered on-line.

    The current fuel-economy rating: about a pound of coal to create, package, store and move 2 megabytes of data. The digital age, it turns out, is very energy-intensive. The Internet may someday save us bricks, mortar and catalog paper, but it is burning up an awful lot of fossil fuel in the process.

    About half of the trillion-dollar infrastructure of today’s electric power grid exists to serve just two century-old technologies — the lightbulb and the electric motor. Not long ago, that meant little prospect for growth in the power industry.

    We have about as many motors and bulbs as we need. “The long-run supply curve for electricity is as flat as the Kansas horizon,” declared green guru Amory Lovins in 1984.

    Overall, total electric consumption continues to grow about 3% a year — and more than half of that growth is attributable to the rise of the microprocessor.

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  143. By Kit P on November 6, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Paul, I do not think
    you understand the purpose of regulations, codes, and standards. The
    purpose is safety! Not to trivialize safety with every stupid idea a
    liberal politician might have.

     

    I little history is
    in order. New technology is not regulated by codes and standards.
    Pressure vessels existed before the ASME boiler and pressure vessel
    code. Commercial nuclear power plants existed before 10CFR50. At
    one time, I had a xerox copy of the ‘general design criteria’ from
    the 60s complete with coffee cup stains and hand written typo
    corrections. Reads almost word for word for the present 10CFR50
    Appendix B.

     

    Many years ago I was
    arguing with another mechanical engineer about the correct
    electrical. We went over to where the EE worked to fine one who
    would settle the dispute. We were both wrong, there were no IEEE
    codes for that plant. If you needed a motor that worked in an
    explosive atmosphere the purchase spec referenced a standard for
    motors in coal mines. There is a huge cost difference for the same
    components used in commercial industry and those with a nuke
    pedigree.

     

    So good engineering
    practices become regulations, codes, and standards with time.

     

    “We already have
    similar fuel efficiency standards for …”

     

    Does not mean it is
    a good idea. I think having a code relief valve on a hot water
    heater is a very good thing. If you would like to compare benefit of
    not killing people in their homes to the cost of a relief valve you
    will see that it is a bargain. The cost of all that paper work to
    make the government happy for how water heater efficiencies is a big
    waste.

     

    So what did
    California Title 24 accomplish. Indoor air pollution is now worse
    than outside air in LA.

     

    If you can show a
    compelling reason like safety or a low cost/benefit ratio, then fine
    make a standard or even require it by code.

     

    For example, relief
    valves on hot water heaters, smoke detectors, and low flow shower
    nozzles are all required by law but cost very little.

     

    However, CFL is an
    example of something that should not be regulated. They have a low
    cost benefit ratio. Turn of the light when you are not using it. It
    does not matter how efficient it is when off but condensate bulbs are
    a lot cheaper in the off mode.

     

    “For best results,
    you’ll have to spend $900 or more.”

     

    We have one of those
    washing machines, my wife loves it. Very quite and this one has
    lasted 4 years. We had a ‘inefficient’ washer for 25 years. A little
    epoxy here and there maybe. A vowed to get a new ‘efficient’ washer
    next time it needed to be fixed. That one broke a year and 5 days
    after we bought it. Cheap plastic part. I bought two. At the 5
    year point the high speed transmission blew up. Replaced with one
    that had been sitting in a barn for 20 years.

     

    However, young
    people just starting out may not be able to afford one. How much
    energy might be wasted driving to the laundramat?

     

    I hate to beat a
    dead horse but if you are worried about fuel, build more nukes.

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  144. By John Q. Galt on November 12, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Soybeans reduce the food supply.

    Soybeans only yield a fraction of the amount of feed per acre. 10-20 bushels per acre on the margin. Why is this done? Because soybeans, or rather it’s processed form soybean meal, has a high protein ratio which when mixed with the most productive grain ever known to man, maize, creates a balanced feed.

    Ethanol changes this. Maize is grown instead of the soybeans and is processed to create a high protein and high energy feed. It’s a technical protein replacement. The unbalanced carbohydrate is snipped off, rather than never being produced in the first place by growing low-yielding, low-carbohydrate soybeans. Without a market to send the excess carbs to they are just dead weight.

    What happens when you put DDGS on the market and this feed is fed to livestock? Is this DDGS just added to the corn, soybeans and other feeds already fed or does it displace something else which is then never grown? Who are the people claiming that corn-for-ethanol causes Iowa’s rainforests to be cut down to replace the corn-for-feed?

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