Monday, July 24, 2006

E85: The Future or an obstacle to It?

Hello all...what do you think of how E85 is being presented in the US? Seems to me that there are more fundamental issues around that what the fuel is, such as why so much is being wasted. Bellow is a conversation I have been having with someone over at the centre for American progress...Note the person with the hummer run on E85 on their website (I kid you not!). Opinions welcome.

The Initial Email

I thought you might be interested in a cross-country Road Trip my organization is sponsoring: www.KickTheOilHabit.org/RoadTrip

The goal is to get from DC to LA in a FlexFuel car, only stopping at stations with E85 pumps. Given that there are only about 750 stations that offer E85 out of the 170,000 gas stations in the U.S., itÂ’s a pretty significant challenge. TheyÂ’ve come pretty close to running out of gas a few times.

Furthermore, the Kick The Oil Habit campaign calls on the 6 major oil companies (ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, Valero, and ConocoPhillips) to double the number of E85 pumps over the next year and provide E85 at half of all gas stations within a decade. Thus, the Road Trip not only highlights and encourages the usage of E85, but it targets the major oil companies and looks at their ability to influence the oil industry.

Anyway, I hope youÂ’ll take a look. The URL is http://www.KickTheOilHabit.org/RoadTrip

My First Response

Hi Laura,
Thanks for the emaiI, i will take a look. In return, would you please spend a moment and look at this article by Lester Brown? You probably know who Lester is, but if you don't let me just say he is one hell of an influential sutainability/agriculture academic. He is worth taking seriously.

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/Lesterter_brown_ethanol.php

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

Laura's First Reply

Hi Calvin! Thanks for getting back in touch with me and for sending me the blog post pertaining to Lester Brown. I have a quick response to some of the points mentioned in the blog post:

(1) The ultimate goal of the Kick the Oil Habit campaign is to end the United States' dependence on oil, so simply improving the fuel efficiency of cars and investing in public transportation doesn't address that. Furthermore, ending U.S. dependence on oil is a major aspect of the campaign as this dependence has political, economic, and environmental effects.

(2) Secondly, Ethanol can be made from a variety of sources - not just food. Corn and Grains are common sources, but so are Switchgrass and Biowastes. Furthermore, Ethanol can be made from Sugarcane. Brazil used sugarcane and has almost completely stopped importing foreign oil. Also, while we recognize that there are problems with Ethanol, and we by no means think that it is a perfect solution, we also acknowledge that farming is a dying industry. By using Ethanol, we provide the opportunity to potentially revitalize the farming industry, helping to create new jobs and increase food production.

(3) Lastly, although we are specifically focusing on Ethanol with the Kick The Oil Habit campaign and the Road Trip, we greatly support all forms of alternative energy and commeeveryone'snes efforts for seeking better, for environmentally sound resources. In addition, all forms of
alternative energy help wane the United States' dependence on oil, and that is the ultimate goal of the campaign. However, we are calling for an increase in the use of ethanol because we believe it is an immediate step that we can take in the right direction. It is something that will
have a effect now, rather than ten or twenty years down the road, after the technology has been developed, tested, and then marketed to the general public. Ethanol can be used today! We just have to increase the availability of it to all Americans.

My Second Response

1) The ultimate goal of the Kick the Oil Habit campaign is to end the United States' dependence on oil, so simply improving the fuel efficiency of cars and investing in public transportation doesn't address that. Furthermore, ending U.S. dependence on oil is a major
aspect of the campaign as this dependence has political, economic, and environmental effects.

Why have the goal of reducing dependence on oil? To: A. reduce climate change B. increase energy security C. reduce pollution D. strengthen the economy.
defensence of Efficiency: The Cheapest Way to Power your Economy is to Save Energy not Find Alternative Sources.

Which of these do fuel efficiency address? A. Yup B. If you used 20% less fuel you could cut that out of your requirements furthe th middle east--how much do yu get from there, its a start anyway. C. Yup D. the economies transport sector suddenly costs 20% less...its like low oil prices.


(2) Secondly, Ethanol can be made from a variety of sources - not just food. Corn and Grains are common sources, but so are Switchgrass and Biowastes. Furthermore, Ethanol can be made from Sugarcane. Brazil used sugarcane and has almost completely stopped importing foreign oil. Also, while we recognize that there are problems with Ethanol, and we by no means think that it is a perfect solution, we also acknowledge that farming is a dying industry. By using Ethanol, we provide the opportunity to potentially revitalize the farming industry, helping to create new jobs and increase food production.

Attack on Ethanol/Biodesil: From waste materials they are great baren'tent there better ways?

Why convert biomass to biofuels when conversion is so inefficient? Surely burning the fuel in CHP plants then using the electricity to power cars is the way to go...in terms of area of crop per mile of travel this is far superior. The point about farming is always of amusement to non-us observers...the great bastion of free trade and its subsidies. But sure, go ahead use biomass as a fuel, but use it wisely for electricity and heat, take efficiency seriously, very seriously. Don't try and run a fleet of SUV's on any sort of biofuel, it will be bad for your nation and bad for other nations supplying the biofuel. A straight swap to liquid-biofuels for the current us fleet would not work, it is a dangerous distraction.



(3) Lastly, although we are specifically focusing on Ethanol with theKick The Oil Habit campaign and the Road Trip, we greatly support all forms of alternative energy and commeeveryone'snes efforts for seeking better, for environmentally sound resources. In addition, all forms of
alternative energy help wane the United States' dependence on oil, and that is the ultimate goal of the campaign. However, we are calling for an increase in the use of ethanol because we believe it is an immediate step that we can take in the right direction. It is something that will have a effect now, rather than ten or twenty years down the road, after the technology has been developed, tested, and then marketed to the general public. Ethanol can be used today! We just have to increase the availability of it to all Americans.

Your goal of reducing Americas dependence on oil is a worthy onI, i`m very gald there are people working on this! In the UK we have diesel cars that to 60mpg...not hybrids, not expensive, not impractical. If the US could move its MPG from where it is now (20mpg guess) to 60mpg and save money in the process! As the US is world renowned for its technoloIy i firmly believe that with new materials and a little time that US car manufacturers could have this figure>80mpg at the same cost or less, then go for biodesil from waste sources, and electric hybrids, once you need less energy overall!



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2 Comments:

At 3:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BioFuels are not a viable future energy resource. They compete directly with humans for food. As human populations continue to grow, so does the demand for food. The crux of this dilemma is that over pumping of aquifirs have temporarly allowed food production to increase. Once these aquifirs are depleted, food production will drop. Aquifirs that are rechargable (from rain, etc.) may be reusable, but fossil aquifirs, such as the Ogalla in the United States are not. Much of the US agriculture that depends on pumping/irrigation is not sustainable. The end result: there may not be enough sustainable water resources to produce food, forget about biofuels.

 
At 5:10 AM, Blogger ben said...

Not to be a blog whore, but I just posted the transcript of my conversation with Tad Patzek about the sustainability of ethanol

...it's not sustainable. I got that same email from Laura...

What the pro ethanol side will argue is that we have to use everything. I think they're only partially correct. We have to use everything that is sustainable, which actually doesn't work out to be too much.

They'll usually also throw in the ethanol from algae thing. I don't know too much about this, other than algae also requires nutrients and that the process is limited to shallow, large bodies of water. If it's an energy positive process, I seriously doubt it could contribute 5% of what we use. Better than nothing I guess but how much ethanol is made from algae today? 0 gallons/year (at least in the US).

 

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