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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What happens when politicians are former scientists, engineers, and economists?

They actually get it! China is considering a ban on all corn and food based fuel production. The politicians in China realize the consequences of food inflation due to increased demand in the corn when used for fuel. Amazing isn't it?

Message to our government - swapping Petro based fuels for Ethanol is not the answer!!!

While we're on the subject of ethanol, for those of you with access to The Wall Street Journal, Matt Vella has an excellent story on his road trip around the US driving an E85 FlexFuel Chevy Suburban. Mr. Vella points out that while there are environmental benefits to driving with E85 fuel, because of lower fuel efficiency of ethanol a gasoline only Toyota Prius would achieve great efficiency and less green house emissions. Here are some of the highlights:

"My excitement at having a full tank of E85 was quickly dulled by the lack of perceptible performance difference between the renewable fuel and regular gas. The driving experience was, in fact, indistinguishable. No electrical whine of a hybrid motor. No gurgling growl of a diesel. Nothing to let me know I was driving greener.

Reduced fuel economy was noticeable. A Suburban gets between 14 and 20 miles per gallon, whereas on E85 the same vehicle earns just 10 to 15 miles per gallon.

Pros: E85 is a renewable energy source; growing feedstock – usually corn -- recycles carbon; fewer emissions; gas engines require no modifications to run E10, a blend of gas with 10% ethanol, and minor changes to burn E85; cost premium of an E85 capable vehicle is just a small fraction of diesel or hybrid technology; flex-fuel vehicles can run on either gas or ethanol.

Cons: E85's low-energy content drops flex-fuel vehicles' fuel economy by about 30%; limited availability; looming concerns over water used to grow crops, soaring corn prices.



Nathan Schock said...

I too thought the article from Vella was quite interesting, but for different reasons. As you pointed out, the vehicle had a reduced fuel economy, but the annual fuel cost for driving the same distance was $260 less for the E85 Suburban. It also used much less petrol (obviously) and emitted 2.2 tons fewer GHGs. That sounds good to me.

Schultz said...


The differences in E85 emissions versus Gasoline, in my opinion at least, are not big enough to justify the damaging effects switching the majority of our automobiles over to E85 would have on the food supply. Sure, you and I wouldn't have a problem with the spike in food prices but how about the poor living in Latin America and particularly Mexico who live off of corn and its byproducts, namely tortillas.

Ethanol is not the answer for the long term, that is my point with the Chinese - they seem to get that.


Nathan Schock said...

Despite what we may read in the press, it's far too early to assume that biofuels will have "damaging effects" on the food supply. A joint USDA/DOE study said that this country could produce 60 billion gallons of ethanol from grain and biomass by 2030 without harming food, feed or fiber production. We're currently at 6 billion gallons.

Schultz said...

Nathan - a bushel of corn on the Chicago Board of Trade has gone up from $1.86 at the end of 2005 to around around $4 today.

I'm not just reading into the media hype and I'm not totally anti-ethanol, but I am against corn based ethanol.

If we can eliminate tariffs on imported sugar I say E85 would be a much more viable replacement for gasoline. Since Brazil produces enough sugar to supply the majority of our demand for ethanol, sugarcane ethanol production is more efficient than corn, eliminating the tariff and importing sugar would be the way to go. Of course, I'm not running for President or congress in the corn belt, so it's easy for me to say go ahead and eliminate the subsidies.