Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the Answer

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

Awareness,

Did you read the comments of the folks on your link? They are likely to be similar to what you will get here, except for the insults and language, IMO. I won't post them here, but let's just say they are not in favor of ethanol.

Rog

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

 Rog,

    No I didn't read them but I just went back and took a look and they are about what I would expect regarding this fuel.  A lot of people just repeat the myths regarding ethanol, there are plenty of arguments to the contrary and I'm honestly not sure who is right.  David Blume at Permaculture.com is certainly pro ethanol and is pretty convincing when you listen to him.  

 

Bob

  

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

Bob,

I'm a dyed in the wool permie from way back, and I know lots of other permies.....  some of whom I consider mad! Now I know, there will be lots of folk here on CM who think I'm mad too, but my first impression of Blume's website is that he WANTS TO SELL YOU STUFF!

That attitude alone, to my thinking, is not permaculture, which promotes SHARING the surplus, not buying it.  If I had a way of making sustainable etyhanol using permaculture methods, I would show you how to do it, for free.

Permaculture is PRECISELY about how to do things without fuels.  Tick me in the anti rthanol box...  the only ethanol I make is that which ends up in my home brew beer!

Mike

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

 Mike,

    I first heard David talk on a Coast to Coast AM radio interview.  He certainly got me excited about ethanol and interested in the possibilities of permaculture.  I went so far as to convert my truck to run on ethanol(which works great) and to purchase plans for a still from a different site(not David's).  I have not built the still yet but I may at some point.  I could be wrong about ethanol and I am interested in the opinions from this forum.  Below is a link to the Coast to Coast interview.

 

  

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

Bob,

...on a small scale system I've seen links around here that make it sound possible. A man who I hold in high regard in this forum is jrf29, who wrote on post #5 of this thread in clear and concise detail:-

http://www.peakprosperity.com/forum/ethanol/10709

... infact the whole thread has its uses and was probably overlooked by you as you're new here ... Welcome to CM.com by the way!!!

Chris Martenson's Crash Course videos numbered 17A through C have a very unrewarding picture of ethanol on the subject of EROEI within them. Here's a link to them if you need your memory refreshing a little for the larger scale issues ...

Chapter 17: PART A: Peak Oil

Chapter 17: PART B: Energy Budgeting

Chapter 17: PART C: Energy And The Economy

...and if you can cope with a dry but thorough read, have a look at The Hirsch Report in my signature below. That'll be of help in growing some grounded facts surrounding the subject ... 

Best,

Paul

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

 Paul,

  Thanks for the resource information, I found it helpful but it seems to be based on the myth(at least that's what David Blume calls it) of a low EROI.  Below is a quote from David's site regarding EROI:

 

 

Myth #1: It Takes More Energy to Produce Ethanol than You Get from It!

Most ethanol research over the past 25 years has been on the topic of energy returned on energy invested (EROEI). Public discussion has been dominated by the American Petroleum Institute’s aggressive distribution of the work of Cornell professor David Pimentel and his numerous, deeply flawed studies. Pimentel stands virtually alone in portraying alcohol as having a negative EROEI—producing less energy than is used in its production.

In fact, it’s oil that has a negative EROEI. Because oil is both the raw material and the energy source for production of gasoline, it comes out to about 20% negative. That’s just common sense; some of the oil is itself used up in the process of refining and delivering it (from the Persian Gulf, a distance of 11,000 miles in tanker travel).

The most exhaustive study on ethanol’s EROEI, by Isaias de Carvalho Macedo, shows an alcohol energy return of more than eight units of output for every unit of input—and this study accounts for everything right down to smelting the ore to make the steel for tractors.

But perhaps more important than EROEI is the energy return on fossil fuel input. Using this criterion, the energy returned from alcohol fuel per fossil energy input is much higher. In a system that supplies almost all of its energy from biomass, the ratio of return could be positive by hundreds to one.

http://www.permaculture.com/node/490

 

What it comes down to is what is the actual EROI regarding ethanol and what sources are to be referenced?

 

Thanks for the information,

 

Bob

 

 

 

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

Brazilian ethanol does have an EROEI of 8 to 1. But that is only because they are able to grow sugarcane with very little input, the tractors are run on ethanol and the fuel for the distillation process is the biomass waste from sugarcane. I seriously doubt it could be taken much higher than that, especially in a temperate climate.

Spencer

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

I'm not anti-ethanol or anti-biodiesel, but I don't think biofuels are the next big national fix-all either. If you can sustainably produce enough organic matter and thermal energy on your property to distill/process enough biofuel to fuel the combustion engines you might need, then you're coming out ahead regardless of the ERoEI. You've met your fuel needs without putting yourself in the hole. But this is small scale... I don't think it'll work out so well on a large scale because then you have to increase your EI by all the transportation and distribution of the inputs and outputs. I think the only hope for biofuels to work as a petro-fuel replacement is to have community-scale processing plants and pump stations... don't transport or distribute anything, keep the energy investment as low as possible. If you couple this with electric/hybrid/ultra-efficient commuting vehicles, local biofuel production might be enough to keep other necessary vehicles and machinery running.

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

+1 to what Spencer said.

Ethanol isn't a "product" of one thing, and therefore it's purity, potency and net energy vary greatly.

In addition to requiring oil to make (it doesn't really matter "how much" - eventually we'll face a situation where there is no more oil) it depletes our food stock in N. America. It might be a viable short term solution, but it's not the solution. I'm skeptical, mainly because a lot of folks in congress have a lot tied up in the Ethanol craze. Personally, I think it's a bust, but I've long since discarded any supporting data.

By the way - what was the question?

Mike, you're not mad. Just ornery ;)

Aaron

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...
Aaron Moyer wrote:

In addition to requiring oil to make (it doesn't really matter "how much" - eventually we'll face a situation where there is no more oil)

Clarification - it does not require oil to produce ethanol... blame that one on BATFE they require that gasoline be added so that people can't go drink themselves some moonshine.

Aaron Moyer wrote:

... it depletes our food stock in N. America.

Weeeeeellll - it might eventually deplete our food stock, but we overproduce so much corn (and other grain feedstocks) in this country that it would take a while. The whole ethanol causes food-scarcity hoopla is mostly MSM hype and market control. If we'd just get the animals out of CAFOs and back on pasture most of the year like they're supposed to be, we'd have more than enough grains for us and our cars

But I do agree, biofuels are A solution, not THE solution... one day we're all gonna get our heads wrapped around the concept that there is no one-size-fits-all single-shot silver-bullet solution.

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

Bob, anyone who can write nonsense like "In fact, it’s oil that has a negative EROEI." has zero credibility as far as I'm concerned.

Mike

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

In fact, Brazilian sugarcane is grown by slave labor, and when the soil's depleted, they move onto a new patch of (often) cleared rainforest.

Mike

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

"If we'd just get the animals out of CAFOs and back on pasture most of the year like they're supposed to be, we'd have more than enough grains for us and our cars" is nonsense.....  even if EVERY SINGLE acre of US farmland was covered in corn and turned into ethanol, there wouldn't be enough to fuel the US car fleet.

Mike

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

Well, my experience in the here and now is that ethanol sucks.  Oh, it works great in my truck (E10) but in the power equipment that we sell and service (chainsaws, trimmers, generators, etc), the E (alcohol) absorbs moisture from our admittedly-moist atmosphere and delivers it to the carburetor and causes major corrosion problems and failure to operate.  I don't think any equipment manufacturers allow over 10% blend in their product. But these companies are very innovative so they will adapt to new fuels I suppose.  Major problem for our customers, but keeps the service shop busy.....so if your Definitive Tool stash includes gas powered equipment- beware.  I like the idea of algae- based biodiesel- they all sound great at first, right?  Bottom line- I think One Person-One Car will become a fond memory.....Aloha, Steve

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

Well,

I guess I should pipe in here seeing how I am a devote WVO/Biodiesel follower and user. As a disclaimer, I think mass production of biofuel (biodiesel or ethanol) is not the saving grace I once thought it was.

Ethanol is taking a feed stock and "turning it into" something else. i.e. some biomass and fermenting into ethanol or transesterfication into biodiesel. I don't really care if it is 10X return on input (impossible), it still takes from one hand and puts it into another. It changes one form of energy into another.

Folks have listed several reasons why ethanol or biofuels have limitations. I could counter some claims, others I totally agree with. My biggest realization was these fuels only address the symptom and not the disease. The disease is OVER CONSUMPTION.

Over consumption of resources by inefficient use or out-right waste is what I mean. My best example is the use of a 3/4 ton Dodge diesel 4X4 pickup weighing over 5000 pounds running wvo being used as a commuter car. Use of a "waste" product as a motor fuel "good" hauling 5000 pounds of steel to work "bad". Granted part of the problem has been that in the U.S. fuel efficient diesel cars have been seen as not being "accepted" by the mainstream since the debacle created by GM stretching back to the '80s. In addition, the "greenies" here in Massachusetts got new fuel efficient diesel car sales outlawed (CARB rules) BUT I can buy a huge diesel pickup truck.

So, I can't go buy a brand new 50+mpg Jetta to commute to work, but, I can buy a 3/4 ton diesel pickup that at best achieves 18-20 mpg for the commute. In the aggregate, which pollutes more? Even the mindset of "personal" commuting to work is a misplaced paradigm. Americans love our freedom of "going where we want, whenever we want." I would ask, how many people when commuting to and from work, stop before or after to, "run an errand."

SO, you see, until the wasteful mindset is changed, we are doomed to "crash" and be forced to change.

FWIW - C.

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...
Damnthematrix wrote:

"If we'd just get the animals out of CAFOs and back on pasture most of the year like they're supposed to be, we'd have more than enough grains for us and our cars" is nonsense.....  even if EVERY SINGLE acre of US farmland was covered in corn and turned into ethanol, there wouldn't be enough to fuel the US car fleet.

Mike

Yes, Mike, I'm aware of this... that's why I stated that commuter vehicles (and commuting in general) need another solution. However, biofuels could be a viable solution for large transportation vehicles and other combustion-engine machinery that do not necessarily make good candidates for electric/hybrid conversion (but everything needs to be more efficient than it currently is).  

Apparently, my small attempt at tongue-in-cheek levity was lost in the aether.

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

I am going out on a limb to say that the end product efficiency of 1 mile traveled on algae based bio-diesel electric hybrid would blow the proverbial doors off any type of ethanol combustion. Diesel electric locomotives have been the most efficient form of land transportation (not including walking without the friction losses of dragging knuckles) for many years. The higher torque at lower RPM of diesel engines is much more congruous to generating electricity than gasoline or ethanol.

I have to concur with Mike, I'll take my ethanol single malted on the rocks, please.

Spencer

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

Spencer, your points are correct, however algae isn't quite ready for prime-time. I've personally experimented with it. I wish it were.

This isn't ready yet either, but if it is scalable within 3 years as the company claims, RENEWABLE GASOLINE would clearly sidestep all the scaling issues as the infrastructure is already in place. Even if this was ready today, it still wouldn't address the other elephants in the room, but it could help to ease the blow.

Sunlight + CO2 + Sapphire = renewable gasoline. This is not ethanol or biodiesel, but gasoline.

Personally I am not holding my breath, but it is an interesting concept nonetheless.

Rog

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

I just have to reiterate something because I see the same thing over and over in every single thread about alternate fuels and energy, and I'm really really getting frustrated.

There is no one-size-fits-all, mass-produced, one-shot-wonder, silver-bullet solution to coming energy problem.

The first hurdle to conquer is waste and inefficiency. The rest of the steps all have their pros and cons.

Going full electric isn't THE answer, because you still need to generate the electricty somehow. On a large industrial scale, this traditionally means burning some sort of fossil fuel. So, if we want to stay large scale, we have to look at alternative things to burn -- like waste biomass or methane tapped from anaerobic digestion in landfills or whatever. You could cover every acre of available land in solar panels and wind turbines and still not generate enough electricity for our bloated power needs (and then we wouldn't have anywhere to grow food either). We could dam up all our rivers for hydro and still not generate enough electricity for our bloated power needs (and then we'd screw up the aquatic ecosystems). And, of course, let's not forget about batteries -- that's a big weak link. The problem with going full-electric is SCALE and WASTE.

Going full biofuel isn't THE answer, because you are taking potential food energy and turning it into another form of energy. However, it does have merits in that you can use non-edible crop/crop waste and waste/used seed oils... you might not get the best quality results, but it will do the job (my motorcycle ran just fine on 80 proof whiskey, it didn't need 180 proof moonshine). You also have to look at the thermal energy required for processing. Best if you can get that from burning waste biomass, wood, or simply rely on solar thermal... take electricity completely out of this equation unless you have an abundance of RE at your disposal. The biggest benefit of biofuel is that plants make the necessary carbohydrates and oils on their own from sunlight, CO2 & water... we really don't have to do anything except plant, harvest and process (i.e. ferment & distill or press & transestrificate). Again, the problem with going full-biofuel is SCALE and WASTE.

So, the second thing we need to look at is why scale is such a problem. Large scale almost always entails added costs of transportation and distribution because it is requires some form of central location. Whatever savings you may incur doing things in mass/bulk, you ultimately lose in distribution (both in and out). You create solar electricity in Nevada and then transport it (over miles and miles of grid) to Michigan. You generate (corn) ethanol in Nebraska and then have to transport it via pipeline or tanker trunk to the pumping station in South Carolina. It makes much more sense to use whatever power/fuel source is available (in surplus) locally for local processing and local use.  So, let Michigan generate it's own wind power, because that makes more sense for that region. Let South Carolina make it's own (soybean) biodiesel because that makes more sense for that region.

See where I'm going with this. On an individual, city, and state basis the needs of the population and the available resources are different. We need to take this into account when designing any kind of replacement system once the fossil fuels are gone. Some level of standardization and uniformity needs to be in place, but only enough to ensure that the same equipment will work regardless of it's end destination. You might see a lot of electric stuff in a place that has the right conditions to produce ample surplus of reliable RE; and see a lot of ethanol in a place that has the right conditions to produce ample surplus of grain; and see a lot of biodiesel in a place that has the right conditions to produce ample surplus of oil seed; and see a lot of biogas in a place that has the right conditions to produce ample surplus through anaerobic digestion. Each of these locations will probably have a little of all the forms, but one will dominate because it's appropriate to that area.

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Re: Bob----Why NOT Ethanol--???

Wow - -

Just watched "Alcohol Can Be A Gas" DVD from the library. Wow. Wow. Wow. . .

The propoganda machines have been running on high and the population has been sucking it all in regarding ethanol taking more gas to make than energy it produces. IF David Blume is correct (and at first glance - the US CAN duplicate Brazil's alcohol program), then we can be producing our own fuel for $.50 - $.75 a gal.

Does Blume sell stuff on his website? I would. and I'm buying his info now. One more thing - IF I can, produce on 1 acre of land, enough material to power up my truck, tractor, farm generator for electricity and maybe make a little extra to sell - Blume wins.

Blume's site: permaculture.com

End the Game!

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

 

 Doh!

 Just connected another few dots..

 Suddenly understood the timing of "Prohibition" ... realised it was around the time Standard Oil was dominant..

 googled alcohol + rockefeller..

 

 "But the most fascinating aspect of the connection between alcohol and fuel use concerns a little known (or discussed) aspect of American history. To understand this relationship, one must examine some contextual information of the early Twentieth Century. Most people are not aware that Henry Ford's Model T came in a variation that allowed the driver to switch the carburetor to run the engine on farm-made ethyl acohol. This allowed the operator to stop at local farms (equipped with stills) to refuel his/her car during long trips through the backcountry. After all- the gas station wasn't exactly as ubiquitous in those days, as it is now. The Standard Oil Company and its industrialist-founder John D. Rockefeller wasn't too happy with this arrangement. After all, Rockefeller's company had a virtual monoploly on gasoline at this time in our nation's development."

 

  quoted from http://dgrim.blogspot.com/2007/06/great-scheme-alcohol-based-fuels-ford.html

 Now if you combine a solar still with cellulosic ethanol, reducing the external inputs to almost zero, the EROI looks even better..

 It's also sustainable since you're only removing the elements C,H and O.. no mineral content in the ethanol.. no soil depletion.

 Small fixed costs.. materials for the fermenter, solar still and a bit of human labour...

 My peak oil gloom has lifted considerably !

 

 

 

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

 

 fascinating page..  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_alcohol_fuel

 a few choice quotes...

 ethyl alcohol is "the fuel of the future" which “is going to come from fruit like that sumach out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust -- almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There's enough alcohol in one year's yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years." - Henry Ford 1925

 It is a matter of absolute necessity to find an alternative fuel. Fortunately, such a fuel is in sight in the form of alcohol; this is a vegetable product whose consumption involves no drain on the world’s storage and which, in tropical countries at all events, can ultimately be produced in quantities sufficient to meet the world’s demand, at all events at the present rate of consumption. By the use of a fuel derived from vegetation, mankind is adapting the sun’s heat to the development of motive power, as it becomes available from day to day; by using mineral fuels, he is consuming a legacy – and a limited legacy at that – of heat stored away many thousands of years ago. In the one case he is, as it were, living within his income, in the other he is squandering his capital. It is perfectly well known that alcohol is an excellent fuel, and there is little doubt but that sufficient supplies could be produced within the tropical regions of the British empire… - Harry Ricardo.. 1923

 “The Standard Oil Company has, largely by unfair or unlawful methods, crushed out home competition... It is highly desirable that an element of competition should be introduced by the passage of some such law as that which has already passed in the House, putting alcohol used in the arts and manufacturers upon the [tax] free list." - Roosevelt 1906

 It looks like encouraging oil dependence has been a deliberate policy for a century..  -  to centralise power I assume..

 

 

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All the uses for Ethanol . . . head is swimming

I' m with you on this one - Since seeing David Blume's DVD "Alcohol is a Gas", (got it from the library and saw it last night!!) - I'm in. Not only am I not loosing animal feed, I'm feeding a better food to my animals from the residual AND if I put a corn mash on the land - it keeps weeds down PLUS inproves my heavy clay soil. . . WHERE (sorry for shouting) is this a bad thing?

Still, I understand the need to reduce my use is the most important issue I can first address and even if production was 20 times more ethanol - it would only fill 3% - 5% of present gas use need. (Un-supported numbers - just a quick guess until I get the materials I just ordered I'm guessing at the numbers - but the important thing to me - it fills MY NEEDs). Increasing ethanol production more than 80Xs is where people start thinking it would cut into food production (?). . .when only >10% of corn produced is for food?

I will use it for: electric generator and transportation as well as feed the Farmall H for crop production. I might have some left (our first rough est) for cooking fuel and maybe to heat the food dryer and keep the early chicks warm. It works well with pasturizing our milk for cheese making too. . . I can't see using it to convert the lawn mower so I'm glad we planted nomow grass but the more I think of it - the more uses I see for it's use around here.  . .  and it is so clean.

I'm going back to my spring planting plans now to make a few small adjustments and will keep posting our progress. Since seeing Crude Impact several years ago, few things have given us the hope David Blume's information has - if he is selling stuff on his website - Power To Him.

Doing it now -

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Re: All the uses for Ethanol . . . head is swimming

 

EndGamePlayer

I'm with you on ethanol. I recently ordered and received Alcohol Can be a Gas (the book). I've only had time to give a marginal perusal but it looks very promising. As for my own preparations, I think the ability to grow vegetable matter and convert it to ethanol to power not only my home generator but vehicles as well is a winner. It is a better solution for home power generation than photovoltaic IMHO. The criticism that ethanol production will replace food production falls in the face of the fact that corn is not even the best crop to produce ethanol, nor is sugar cane for that matter. For example, cattails grown in sewer effluent is far more energy productive that corn. Who'da thunk that!! The author shows that cattails grown in drainage ditches along the side of roadways has the potential to produce substantial amounts of fuel as well as reduce highway crew maintenance costs. Double win; how can that be a bad thing? Another example is growing fodder beets. The foliage is a livestock feed, the actual beet a fuel source. The long list of agricultural fuel sources is impressive! I'm anxious to delve into the material and get goin' on building my still which will also produce a little moonshine (for medicinal purposes only of course!Wink).

Maybe ethanol isn't the Holy Grail for energy altenatives but it sure seems like it would work for me to reduce my farm energy costs and would be priceless in a SHTF event. I'll let you know, hopefully sooner rather than later!

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Re: All the uses for Ethanol . . . head is swimming

Down the rabbit hole I go for Plan A (A is for Alcohol for ethanol).

I'll wait for the book and in the meantime, be on the look-out to scavange up some cattails. They'll do double duty when they filter the chemicals from the farm fields around us.

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

It looks like encouraging oil dependence has been a deliberate policy for a century..  -  to centralise power I assume..

Plato1965,

Yes, oil dependence and the building of all that infrastructure (highways and pipelines and such) and the waging of a few wars has been deliberate policy for 100 years.  But I don't think the "government" necessarily wanted to centralise power.  It was the greedy corporate thugs that wanted to, by any means necessary including using the government, run all competition out of business and create for themselves a monopoly of sorts.  So called "free markets" are a myth.

I agree with several people on this thread who advocate diversity of fuel sources derived from locally sustainable resources.  The old saying "don't put all of your eggs in one basket" is wise.  When we rely too heavily on one option (food source, fuel source, income source, etc.), we put ourselves at risk should that one option fail. 

Has anybody read Joel Salatin's book Everything I Want to do is Illegal?

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

Yes the net energy numbers are brought to you by the same folks that tell you there is plentiful oil.  They base their numbers on expensive corn and natural gas for distillation.  When other feedstocks and solar distilation is used the numbers get much better.  the bottom line is that an individual can make their own fuel.  You don't need a huge factory.

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Re: Why Ethanol--Not Electric Cars and Hybrids--Is the ...

the bottom line is that an individual can make their own fuel.  You don't need a huge factory.

docmims,

You hit the nail on the head.  In the probable near future, small scale, local and individual solutions will work best.  At some point "economies of scale" become costly and inefficient.  Think small and think diverse.  An individual can most certainly make his/her own liquid fuel using what biomass is most readily locally available more cost effectively than large factories distilling corn with natural gas.  In fact, many individuals already make their own fuels.

I envision people using combinations of solar, wind, geothermal, bio-diesel, etc and generating their energy needs on small, neighborhood scales. 

Another thing though, we cannot continue to grow consumption (or even maintain current levels of consumption).  An individual can relatively cheaply make enough ethanol/bio-diesel to operate a truck or tractor.  It becomes more difficult if they wish to maintain three cars and a 40 mile each way commute. 

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