Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why Ethanol isn't the Answer

Sorry, you may have expected a post like this from Larry, and not from me. But since I know most of my friends don't read Theoildrum.com, and as a matter of fact, I don't read it often (too much jibber jabber between the good bits of data, to be honest)

Click the title of this post and it will take you to the article. Well written, not full of industry jargon, or too much mumbo-jumbo. If Rolling Stone gets it... can't we all get it?

I did like this article. From Rolling Stone no less. People think Larry is nuts. He's not. The data is all here. Ethanol isn't the answer. It takes almost as much energy to CREATE it as you get by burning it. By wiping out the US farmland used for food production just to create corn for ethanol, you only replace 12% of the gas consumption. Ethanol isn't the answer, it won't save us. I'd much prefer to eat food, and ride my bike to work, then fill my SUV with ethanol and go hungry. Ethanol won't save us, we have to save ourselves. If not, we'll all be forced to any way. Oil is going away. There is a LOT of data supporting the fact that we are at peak production, if not past it. that means 50% of the available oil on good Mother Earth has already been USED. We don't get any more, unless we wait a billion years. We are going to have to learn to live without it.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Let's start with reduce - what are you doing to reduce your usage of fossil fuels? Do you walk places that are close? Do you ride a bike to work, or use public transportation? Do you carpool, or walk to a park on the weekend, instead of drive someplace? Are you considering changing your water heater to a solar water heater? Do you support wind energy in your area?
Reuse - do you throw things away or reuse what you can? Do you wash out and reuse ziplock type bags? Do you take last week's paper grocery bags back to the store and use them again? Do you buy bottled water over and over, instead of using a filter at home and a good Nalgene bottle?
Recycle - don't toss stuff in a landfill that can be reclaimed. Compost food scraps, recycle metals, glass, plastics and papers. Sure, a lot of that stuff is DOWNcycled, or down graded for future use, but wouldn't you rather your 2-litre pop bottle became a "fleece" jacket, or became the foam in a car seat, instead of sitting in a trash heap, just sitting... Baby steps, it only takes baby steps. Be conscious of energy you use. Everything you throw away used energy to make it... must you throw it away? Do you need to DRIVe every where you go? Do you need to leave the light on in the house when you aren't home? Think about your energy usage, it's easy to make small changes... And if we all make change - we can make CHANGE together. Ethanol won't save us. We have to save ourselves.

Larry here:

LOL!!!! I DID NOT put my wife up to this. In fact, I didn't even point out the Rolling Stone's article. I knew about it because I know the guy who wrote it. Robert Rapier is possibly one of the smartest guys I know involved in the whole peak oil field. He has spent a lot of time and effort proving that just because you made 1,000,000,000 in software (Vhind Kholsa) you can't repeal the 2nd law of thermodynamics. ( You can however, use the 1st law of politics: He who has the gold can write laws that makes him more gold) Robert has a really good blog you can go read yourself: http://i-r-squared.blogspot.com/
Somehow in writing this, I managed to remove the post from the blog, luckily I had the entire text in the clipboard. What it did do, is nuke someone's comment where they ask about Biodeisel. Here is the skinny on biodeisel:

1) Biodeisel from cooking oil: HUGE winner for the guy getting the used cooking oil for free. It only works however because you are getting a big fat energy input for free. As gas prices skyrocket, cooking oil will become hugely expensive (because Corn prices will go through the roof). Cooking oil will no longer be a "give away". So this form of biodeisel is simply a knock on effect of cheap energy. When cheap energy goes away, so does this. Even so, I am all for this use. Better to use it than throw it away!

2) Biodeisel from soybeans: This is winner for the farmer. It is more effecient to grow some soybeans (in soybean land like Iowa, Colorado, and Minnisota) than it is to keep enough land in pasture to feed horses. This is mainly because the tractor only "eats" while you are running it. I think this is a great idea on the downslope of the energy curve since lots of farmers have deisel tractors. Biodeseil from soybeans is something like 4:1 energyout:energyin, so thats not too bad. It won't save our suburban driving lifestyle, but it may keep the tractors running.

The long term solution is something I am looking into for our farm. Electric tractors! Weeeee!!!!! Nice, quiet, HUGE torque. I want to find a busted up Ford 8N with an engine that doesn't work that someone would be happy for me to just take away and convert it to electric one winter.