Posts tagged “USDA”
Newly released documents show that government officials ignored repeated warnings from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) overseers concerning the feasibility of a south Georgia ethanol fuel plant, a debacle that eventually led to $75 million in lost taxpayer money – and not a single drop of usable ethanol produced.
Our brand new weekly newsletter — Energy Trends Insider — debuted this week. We had stories on the implications of the U.S. corn crop, the state of Cleantech investing, Patriot Coal’s bankruptcy, and the potential of pyrolysis oil.
Interested readers can find more information on the newsletter and subscribe at Energy Trends Insider. To give a flavor for the kind of content, I want to share the story on the situation with the U.S. corn crop and how that can potentially impact upon the domestic ethanol sector. This has been a story that we have been on top of for two weeks; had ETI debuted a week earlier this would have been our lead story which was well before the story received much mainstream attention. In fact, I have not seen any detailed analysis yet on the potential implications of this story — but ethanol futures have moved sharply higher in the past two weeks.
Potential Impacts of Poor Corn Crop on Ethanol Market
By: Robert Rapier
I have long felt that one of the biggest threats to the U.S. ethanol industry is a major drought/crop failure in the heart of corn country. This year we may be experiencing such an event. Recent reports indicate that what had been expected to be a record crop of corn has been downgraded such that only 40% of the corn crop is being classified as in good or excellent condition. This is down 48% versus last week and 69% versus a year ago.
Corn prices are naturally surging in response; current corn prices are 21% higher than they were a year ago. Because so much of the corn crop is devoted to meeting ethanol mandates, there is a potential supply conflict being set up between food producers and ethanol producers.
I have had family visiting me for the past two weeks, which has slowed my posting down a bit. I am trying to finish up the followup story to the essay on the MixAlco process, but it will probably be early next week before that one is ready. Until then, here is a 12-minute radio interview that I did this week for a Midwestern radio program called Farm Talk: RR Interview on the USDA Report and Future of Renewable Energy We covered the implications of the USDA report covered in the previous essay, the future of cellulosic ethanol (I mentioned POET in the interview), the proposed ethanol pipeline, and what characteristics I look for in a renewable energy project. I… Continue»
The EROEI of Ethanol Over the past decade, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published several papers in which they investigated the energy return of corn ethanol. The energy return on energy invested (EROEI) is simply the value of the energy outputs for a process divided by the energy inputs into the process. In simple terms, if a process required 1 BTU of energy to produce 2 BTUs of ethanol, the EROEI is 2. However, in reality it is somewhat more complex than that. The way the energy inputs and outputs are allocated can have a very big influence on the answer. Just by changing the nature of the allocation – as I will show below – you… Continue»
Here are five positive notes extracted from the USDA report on next generation biofuels.
The USDA has just issued a report detailing the outlook and challenges of next generation biofuels.
I know it has been a week since I put up something new. Some readers have also noticed that I haven’t been commenting much lately, and my e-mails are piling up. Things have just been really busy. I have a few guest posts that should be ready to go within a week or so, but I saw a topical story this morning that was worth commenting on:The unintended ripples from the biomass subsidy program The issue of incentives for biofuels increasing the demand for grains and thus helping drive up food prices is often called “Food versus Fuel.” There is also an incentive program (Biomass Crop Assistance Program) designed to encourage the use of biomass for heat, power, or biofuels…. Continue»
I was getting some traffic from Grist, and I tracked it back to this story by Tom Philpott: The USDA goes all lukewarm on cellulosic ethanol Now this is good stuff. The same outfit that has exaggerated corn ethanol is now downplaying expectations for cellulosic ethanol: For decades now, the USDA has been dumping cash into cellulosic ethanol research (most recently through a joint venture with the DOE). So the USDA’s analysts should know something about the prospects for mass production of cellulosic ethanol, hailed by its boosters as a panacea that can wean us not only from oil, but also from corn as an ethanol feedstock. So what’s the latest from USDA analysts on this miracle fuel? From a… Continue»
Surely you have heard the claim. Proponents of ethanol will claim that it takes less fossil fuels to produce a BTU of ethanol than to produce a BTU of gasoline. Here is the claim from a Minnesota Department of Agriculture site (1): A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Economic Research Service Report number 814 titled “Estimating The Net Energy Balance Of Corn Ethanol: An Update” was published in July of 2002. The Conclusion states in part: “Corn ethanol is energy efficient, as indicated by an energy ratio of 1.34; that is, for every Btu dedicated to producing ethanol, there is a 34-percent energy gain.” A similar study done in 1995 indicated only a 1.24 energy ratio. The concept of… Continue»
Introduction The pro-ethanol contingent is quick to point to certain studies published by the USDA to support the claim that the energy balance of grain-ethanol is positive. Many anti-ethanol advocates will point to studies by Professors Pimentel and Patzek (1) to support claims that the energy balance is negative. Say what you will about the Pimentel and Patzek studies, but they have one thing going for them that that USDA studies do not: They have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Why does this matter? Peer reviewed papers have been examined by reviewers familiar with the subject matter (but who are not colleagues of the authors) who are looking for deficiencies or gross errors. Peer review is no guarantee that errors… Continue»