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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I love it. Ethanol use "might" reduce greenhouse gasses by 10-15%. If
you believe those gasses matter, that is. Cellulose solution costs a
GREAT DEAL more than corn or oil, but lets do it anyway.
Sweden is doing it. What does a litre of fuel cost in Sweden? About
$6.00 a gallon. Welcome to the next recession. Why don't these
dreamers go the f--- back to their labs, do the science
and come back when it all makes sense??

Putting ethanol instead of gasoline in your tank saves oil and is
probably no worse for the environment than burning gasoline, according
to a new analysis by researchers at the University of California,
Berkeley. The researchers note, however, that new technologies now in
development promise to make ethanol a truly "green" fuel with
significantly less environmental impact than gasoline.

The analysis, appearing in this week's issue of Science, attempts to
settle the ongoing debate over whether ethanol is a good substitute for
gasoline and thus can help lessen the country's reliance on foreign oil
and support farmers in the bargain. The UC Berkeley study weighs these
arguments against other studies claiming that it takes more energy to
grow the corn to make ethanol than we get out of ethanol when we burn
it.

Dan Kammen and Alex Farrell of the Energy and Resources Group at UC
Berkeley, with their students Rich Plevin, Brian Turner and Andy Jones
along with Michael O'Hare, a professor in the Goldman School of Public
Policy, deconstructed six separate high-profile studies of ethanol.
They assessed the studies' assumptions and then reanalyzed each after
correcting errors, inconsistencies and outdated information regarding
the amount of energy used to grow corn and make ethanol, and the energy
output in the form of fuel and corn byproducts.

Once these changes were made in the six studies, each yielded the same
conclusion about energy: Producing ethanol from corn uses much less
petroleum than producing gasoline. However, the UC Berkeley researchers
point out that there is still great uncertainty about greenhouse gas
emissions and that other environmental effects like soil erosion are
not yet quantified.

The UC Berkeley team has made its model, the Energy and Resources Group
Biofuels Meta Model (EBAMM), available to the public on its Web site:
http://rael.berkeley.edu/~EBAMM

"It is better to use various inputs to grow corn and make ethanol and
use that in your cars than it is to use the gasoline and fossil fuels
directly," said Kammen, who is co-director of the Berkeley Institute of
the Environment and UC Berkeley's Class of 1935 Distinguished Chair of
Energy.

Despite the uncertainty, it appears that ethanol made from corn is a
little better - maybe 10 or 15 percent - than gasoline in terms of
greenhouse gas production, he said.

"The people who are saying ethanol is bad are just plain wrong," he
said. "But it isn't a huge victory - you wouldn't go out and rebuild
our economy around corn-based ethanol."

The transition would be worth it, the authors point out, if the ethanol
is produced not from corn but from woody, fibrous plants: cellulose.

"Ethanol can be, if it's made the right way with cellulosic technology,
a really good fuel for the United States," said Farrell, an assistant
professor of energy and resources. "At the moment, cellulosic
technology is just too expensive. If that changes - and the technology
is developing rapidly - then we might see cellulosic technology enter
the commercial market within five years."

Cellulosic technology refers to the use of bacteria to convert the
hard, fibrous content of plants - cellulose and lignin - into starches
that can be fermented by other bacteria to produce ethanol. Farrell
said that two good sources of fibrous plant material are switchgrass
and willow trees, though any material, from farm waste to specially
grown crops or trees, would work. One estimate is that there are a
billion tons of currently unused waste available for ethanol production
in the United States.

"There is a lot for potential for this technology to really help meet
national energy goals," he said. "However, there are still unknowns
associated with the long-term sustainability of ethanol as a fuel,
especially at the global scale. Making smart land use choices will be
key."

Farrell, Kammen and their colleagues will publish their study in the
Jan. 27 issue of Science. In addition, Kammen will discuss the report
on Jan. 26 at 11 a.m. EST at the 6th National Conference on Science,
Policy and the Environment, which is being held at the Ronald Reagan
Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. Farrell
also will discuss the study at a 4 p.m. seminar on Feb. 3 at UC
Berkeley's Institute of Transportation Studies.

In 2004, ethanol blended into gasoline comprised only 2 percent of all
fuel sold in the United States. But auto manufacturers are able to make
cars that run on 85 percent ethanol, and nearly 5 million such
"flex-fuel" vehicles are now on the road. Kammen noted that almost all
light trucks now sold have flex-fuel capability, though frequently
unadvertised. Converting a car into a flex-fuel vehicle able to burn
E85, as the 85/15 ethanol/gas mix is called, costs about $100. More
flex-fuel vehicles than diesel vehicles are on the road today in
California.

"Converting to fuel ethanol will not require a big change in the
economy. We are already ethanol-ready. If ethanol were available on the
supply side, the demand is there," Kammen said.

Californians may be voting this November on a state proposition
requiring that all new cars sold in California be flex-fuel ready.
Kammen said that once this happens, California is poised to move toward
the situation in Brazil, where many cars burn pure ethanol and ethanol
made from sugar cane supplies half the fuel needs for cars and trucks.

Knowledgeable venture capitalists already are putting money behind
ethanol and cellulosic technology, as witnessed by recent investments
by Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates and strong interest by Sun
Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla.

"The investment by Gates is an example of the excitement and
seriousness the venture capital community sees in cellulosic
technology, which they see as now ready to go prime time," he said.
"Our assessment in the paper is that it is a very strong winner and
that the effort needed to go the last 10 percent of the way to get
cellulosic on board is actually very small."

Kammen estimates that ethanol could replace 20 to 30 percent of fuel
usage in this country with little effort in just a few years. In the
long term, the United States may be able to match Sweden, which
recently committed to an oil-free future based on ethanol from forests
and solar energy. Kammen last year published a paper, also in Science,
arguing that even Africa could exploit its biomass to build a biofuel
industry that could meet energy needs for the poor and develop a
sustainable local fuel supply, a future much better than using fossil
fuels.

The goal of the UC Berkeley analysis was to understand how six studies
of fuel ethanol could come to such different conclusions about the
overall energy balance in its production and use. Farrell, Kammen and
their UC Berkeley colleagues dissected each study and recreated its
analysis in a spreadsheet where they could be compared side-by-side.
The team said it found numerous "errors, inconsistencies and omissions"
among the studies, such as not considering the value of co-products of
ethanol production - dried distillers grains, corn gluten feed and corn
oil - that boost the net energy gain from ethanol production. Other
studies overestimated the energy used by farm machinery.

On the other side, some studies ignored the use of crushed limestone on
corn fields, which can be a significant energy input because of the
need to pulverize the rock. Farrell noted that some numbers needed for
the analysis, such as the amount of limestone applied, are just not
known reliably. On the other hand, some of the studies used outdated
data when more recent numbers were available, making ethanol look
worse.

"The assumptions made by some of the authors were not based on the best
data, or were just a little bit too convenient, and had a strong impact
on the results," Kammen said.

Farrell, Kammen and their colleagues considered not only the energy
balance of corn ethanol production, but also the effect on the
environment through production of greenhouse gases. While corn ethanol
came out marginally better than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas
production, Farrell noted that corn production has other negative
environmental impacts associated with fertilizer, pesticide and
herbicide use. These need to be taken into account when considering the
balance between corn ethanol and gasoline, though emerging cellulosic
technologies using waste would push the equation more toward ethanol.

"Two things are going to push the commercialization of cellulosic
technology," Farrell said. "One is driving the cost down, which is
mainly research and development; the other is that environmental
concerns are increasingly entering into commercial calculations about
biofuels."

Source: University of California - Berkeley

This news is brought to you by PhysOrg.com
 
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
In article <[email protected]>, [email protected] wrote:

> The analysis, appearing in this week's issue of Science, attempts to
> settle the ongoing debate over whether ethanol is a good substitute for
> gasoline and thus can help lessen the country's reliance on foreign oil
> and support farmers in the bargain. The UC Berkeley study weighs these
> arguments against other studies claiming that it takes more energy to
> grow the corn to make ethanol than we get out of ethanol when we burn
> it.

<...>
> Once these changes were made in the six studies, each yielded the same
> conclusion about energy: Producing ethanol from corn uses much less
> petroleum than producing gasoline. However, the UC Berkeley researchers
> point out that there is still great uncertainty about greenhouse gas
> emissions and that other environmental effects like soil erosion are
> not yet quantified.


However the energy to produce ethanol does not have to come from oil.

A liquid chemical fuel is ideal for the current transportation
infastructure.

And don't forget the anti-knock benefits !
 
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